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May. 25 2010 - 11:07 am | 11,419 views | 1 recommendation | 5 comments

Columbia valedictorian apes Patton Oswalt’s ‘physics for poets’ joke

Update 3: Columbia sends me an updated statement that is a little more muscular than the first one:

It has come to our attention that a portion of our Valedictorian’s remarks at this year’s School of General Studies Class Day was taken from a comedy routine by Patton Oswalt.  As an institution of higher learning that places a core value on respect for the works of others, we were surprised and disappointed to have learned of this matter today. Columbia University and the School of General Studies do not condone or permit the use of someone else’s work without proper citation. The student speaker has appropriately issued an apology to his classmates and to Mr. Oswalt for failing to provide such attribution.

Peter J. Awn

Dean

Columbia University School of General Studies

I still say Oswalt would be a great future graduation speaker for Columbia. Do It.

Update 2: Columbia restores video, notes apology issued to Patton Oswalt by Brian Corman:

It has come to our attention that a portion of our Valedictorian’s address at this year’s Columbia University School of General Studies Class Day was taken from a comedy routine by Patton Oswalt. Until today we were unaware of this conflict, and as an institution of higher learning that upholds the highest standards of respect for the works of others, we are deeply distressed that this has occurred. Columbia University and the School of General Studies do not condone the use of someone else’s work without proper attribution. Mr. Corman has issued an apology to Patton Oswalt. — School of General Studies, May 25, 2010.

I’m with Johnny Internets – not good enough. If Columbia is really sorry it let this happen, it should invite Patton Oswalt to speak at the Winter 2010 or Spring 2011 commencement and remind students the importance of being honest and having academic integrity. This kind of nonsense happens all too often in the Ivy League.

Update: Columbia’s YouTube channel has converted the video with Corman’s speech to private, as noted by Oswalt.

Brian Corman is a 2010 graduate of Columbia University’s School of General Studies. SGS is a program that welcomes students from all walks of life to the university to seek a bachelor’s degree beyond the boundaries of the usual ‘enter at 18, leave at 21′ format of college – great for people who for one reason or another didn’t attend university at that age, but have the smarts for a place like Columbia. Corman was this year’s SGS valedictory speaker, on May 17.

And now he’s been busted by Patton Oswalt – who you might know as the voice of Remy the rat in the Pixar film ‘Ratatouille’ or from his role as a controversy-stirring talk show host in Syfy Network’s ‘Caprica’ – for copying one of his jokes. Oswalt just took note of Corman’s ‘great speech’ and congratulated him in a tweet.

Here’s what happened. Corman’s speech included a lengthy joke about a class called ‘physics for poets.’ It starts right around the 38-minute mark.

But Corman’s tale is actually Oswalt’s joke, from his stand-up routine. Here’s Oswalt’s telling, in 2006:

And part two:

Yikes. That’s pretty sleazy to appropriate someone’s joke in your valedictory speech, but even worse if you’re saying it’s something you yourself experienced. And here’s the irony: the lead-in to this joke is Corman confirming that General Studies students act a little too much like they’ve got something to prove. I think the valedictorian doth protest too much.

For some more background, here’s a story about Patton Oswalt busting another stand-up comedian for plagiarizing jokes as blogged by our Bill Barol.


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  1. collapse expand

    Glad you brought Columbia up, because Obama went there….and by the way his senior thesis dissertation on nuclear disarmenent has disappeared from the Columbia archives….in fact all of Obama’s paper trail as almost vanished from history

    continuingcounterreformation.blogspot.com/2009/07/obama-columbia-university-zbigniew.html

  2. collapse expand

    They should invite Brian Corman to speak about the importance of honesty and integrity, not Patton Oswald.

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