• Chuck Bronson

Crypto-amnesia | Accidental joke theft.

Crypto-amnesia; occurs when a forgotten memory returns without it being recognized as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original.

For example, lets say you're a comedian. You're at a show, and you see a comic perform a hilarious bit. You enjoy it, you laugh and you have a great time. Later on down the road, maybe months or years later while you are in your writing room, you remember that hilarious bit you heard but you don’t recognize it as a memory. You think it is a brand new thing that you just thought up. You remembered the bit, but you didn’t remember that you've already heard it before. So you write it down because its funny. Congratulations you just became a joke thief.

This is actually a problem that I have. As much as I hate to admit it, Ive stolen material. I didn't mean to do it, but I did. More than once. Actually, crypto amnesia is one of my biggest obstacles in comedy. It’s the only thing that makes me think about quitting. Ive been on both ends of this, Ive stolen and I've been stolen from. I know full and well how hard and how much time it is to make a good bit then to have someone steal your work, and your laughs is so damn infuriating even on accident. If I can’t do comedy fairly, I shouldn't do it all.

It takes my wind out of me, when I realize I've done it. Ive done it more than once. Ive stolen bits, I've stolen tweets, and I'm sure other things as well. Never on purpose, (in my defense) but it still happened. It depresses me and I have to take time away and reevaluate myself. I ask myself why and how and what I can do to correct this.

Do I have a faulty memory bank? Is my brain on the fritz? Or am I just lazy, and writing down the first thought that popped into my head? It doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, I wasn't pushing myself enough. I allowed myself to think “this bit is good enough” then I put my pen down and watched cartoons or something.

If I push myself to write material that is so personal and unique that its hard to imagine another comic even being able to pull it off I can protect myself from crypto amnesia in two ways. People can’t really steal personal material like they can steal an observation or impression. Second, I can’t be stealing if all my material is about me.

Also putting too much pressure on myself to constantly have new bits can be a recipe for disaster. There are only so many funny experiences you have, if you exhaust them all before new ones can replace them you're going to have lulls in your writing. Its normal. I used to force myself to write in this situation and I think that has created problems. Now a days I take it slower. If I don’t have new stuff, I refine old stuff. I also take more time away from comedy just to experience the world around me. Which in turn gives me more to work with when its time to write.


As an extremely unsuccessful comedian, I think the only real damage I have done is to my own career and reputation. I can live with only hurting myself, but that doest make it okay. Even on accident, stealing is wrong. It’s immoral, it’s dishonest, and its a sin to my favorite art form; stand up comedy.

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