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But Did Barnicle Steal Stolen Jokes?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

But Did Barnicle Steal Stolen Jokes?

Article excerpt

DID MIKE BARNICLE steal a stolen joke? At least one of the jokes the Boston Globe columnist was accused of lifting from comedian George Carlin's 1997 book Brain Droppings has been used by so many comics over the year that its provenance is murky, to say the least.

In Brain Droppings, Carlin tells it like this: "If cockpit voice recorders are so indestructible, why don't they just build an airplane that's just one big cockpit voice recorder?"

Barnicle wrote it this way: "How come planes aren't made with the same indestructible material used to assemble those black boxes that always survive crashes?"

Brain Droppings, a Hyperion book, is described on its dust cover as "all new, cutting-edge opinion" from Carlin. But the black box joke clearly has been around for a long time -- and it's not clear Carlin said it first.

"Lots of comics have used that particular joke over the years," said Allan Johnson, entertainment writer for the Chicago Tribune. …

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