Joe Rogan Criticizes Robin Williams

Joe Rogan discusses Robin Williams' alleged joke theft controversy

by Zain ul Abedin
Joe Rogan Criticizes Robin Williams
© Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

In a recent episode of his podcast, commentator and podcaster Joe Rogan made startling accusations against the late comedian Robin Williams. Rogan claimed that Williams frequently plagiarized jokes from lesser-known comedians, a practice that has long been rumoured within the comedy community.

Williams, who tragically died by suicide at the age of 63 in 2014 after being diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, has been celebrated as one of America’s most extraordinary comedic talents. Despite his revered status, Rogan's comments cast a shadow on Williams' legacy.

Rogan, who also has a background in stand-up comedy, discussed these claims during a conversation with fellow comedian Harland Williams on "The Joe Rogan Experience." As the two discussed the issue of comedians stealing jokes, Harland Williams mentioned that he had heard rumors about Robin Williams being involved in such practices.

Rogan confirmed these stories, suggesting that Williams' manic style and constant need for new material drove him to use other comedians' jokes. "Yeah, I heard a lot of stories that he was that guy," Rogan said. He elaborated that Williams primarily focused on performing well, sometimes leading him to borrow material from others.

"Killing, I think, was more important - and filling that hole inside of him was more important than anything. So he would just do other people's stuff if he didn't have anything to say."

Kinison's Confrontation with Williams

Harland Williams then asked if Robin Williams had ever been confronted about these allegations.

Rogan responded that comedian Sam Kinison, who died in 1992, had once gotten angry with Williams for this reason. "He stole from everybody; stole from a lot of people," Rogan stated. He added that many comedians from that era had stories of Robin Williams using their material on talk shows or at comedy clubs.

Harland Williams suggested that perhaps Williams’ spontaneous nature led him to use others' jokes inadvertently. However, Rogan dismissed this notion, stating, "That's not real. There's no way. I think he wanted to kill more than he wanted to be ethical." Rogan's remarks are not without precedent.

Journalist Dave Itzkoff’s biography "Robin" recounts an incident at West Hollywood's Comedy Store in 1979, where an unnamed performer allegedly confronted Williams and demanded $300 for jokes he claimed Williams had taken.

On his podcast, Rogan emphasized that famous comedians using others' jokes is not uncommon but often leads to a decline in their creativity once they are exposed. "The thing about those people, they always get caught," Rogan said.

He explained that genuine comedians continue to produce new material, while those who steal jokes experience a significant drop in quality after their initial success. Rogan concluded by comparing joke thieves to parasites and vampires, noting that their creativity fades over time, leaving them unable to maintain their early success.

"With every thief, you see a couple early big specials, or something. And then you see massive drop-off and terrible performances after that," Rogan said.