In the sketch, titled “Birthday Clown,” C.K. takes on the role of a seemingly lonely man named Ernest, who hires a clown to perform just for him. Though the premise was equal parts funny and eerie, many immediately accused the skit of ripping off Tig Notaro’s short film Clown Service.
Just like “Birthday Clown,” Notaro’s project features a depressed protagonist who orders a clown to perform at her home. The endings take completely different turns, but the concept is pretty much identical, as you can see in the videos below.
In light of all the plagiarism accusations, Notaro has come forth to address the matter. And it turns out, she agrees the skit was a rip off.
“It has been impossible for me to ignore the cacophony of voices reaching out personally and publicly about the potential plagiarizing of my film Clown Service,” she wrote in a statement provided to the Huffington Post. “[…] While I don’t know how all this actually happened, I did find it extremely disappointing. […] First off, I have recently learned that a writer/director who was fully aware of Clown Service when I was making it, actually worked on Louis C.K.’s clown sketch that is in question. Secondly, Louis C.K. and I have not communicated in any way for nearly a year and a half. And finally, I never gave anyone permission to use anything from my film. I hesitated to even address any of this, but I think it is only right to defend my work and ideas and moving forward, I plan to continue screening Clown Service with the joy and pride I always have.”
Though Notaro claims she hasn’t communicated with C.K. for quite some time, the two comedians have had a professional relationship. Several years ago, C.K. sold Notaro’s 2012 Largo standup show on his website. He also serves as an executive producer on Notaro’s Amazon original show One Mississippi, which is heading into its second season.
Representatives for C.K. were not immediately available for comment.