This article is from the Stand-up Comedy FAQ, by Steven Rosenthal and Steve Silberberg (email@example.com) with numerous contributions by others.
A. In the case of stolen material, very few comedians maliciously hack
others (some do though!). Most comedians have an uncanny ability to
unconsciously store and catalog almost every bit they've ever heard. Often,
they'll write a bit, forgetting that they heard something similar 4 years
Sometimes, comics will write the same joke independently of each other. You
can usually both continue doing the bit. However, if this happens and the
other comic does the bit on TV, you're screwed and should abandon it.
Comics who use stock premises do it because it's easy. Furthermore, you can
connect with more audience members when pontificating about themes common
to everyone. If you really want to do comedy about stock premises, ask
yourself, "What can I bring to this topic that thousands of comics haven't