If you’ve been online at all this week, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered a headline like this:
Watch This 89-Year-Old Man Crush His First Standup Set (Time)
89-Year-Old Man Tries Stand-up for the First Time, Crushes It (Vulture)
An 89-Year-Old Man Tried Stand-Up Comedy For The First Time And Smashed It (BuzzFeed)
89-Year-Old Man Makes Stand-up Debut, Works Surprisingly Blue (The AV Club)
Watch 89-Year-Old Chuck Esterly Nail His Standup Debut (Splitsider)
89-Year-Old’s Stand-Up Comedy Debut Is Hysterical (Huffington Post)
All of these headlines refer to this video from October, which shows an elderly man named Chuck Esterly performing at Cincinnati’s Go Bananas Comedy Club earlier this year. The video seems to have gone viral after it was up-voted thousands of times on Reddit, and many of these posts have themselves gone viral, topping the Most Read list on Vulture and elsewhere, and leading sites like the comedy blog Splitsider to call Esterly “standup’s newest overnight star.” USA Today even called his performance “5 of the Funniest Minutes You’ll Ever Hear.”
Amid all this praise, there’s one fact that not one of these sites has noted: Nearly every single one of Esterly’s jokes is stolen. In fact, some sites, like Splitsider, have even praised Esterly for sharing his “life experiences with the rest of us.”
At first I thought just one or two sounded familiar, but when I started typing them systematically into Google, I found that nearly every joke had appeared elsewhere before—many of them verbatim. Here is a partial list of Esterly’s jokes as he has told them, and as they’ve been told before.
I got scammed on eBay. I paid $150 for a penis enlarger, and they sent me a magnifying glass.
This one has been going around since at least 2011, and became a major hoax when it was picked up by the media last year, making headlines on sites like the Daily Mail and the Metro.
I just spent $50 on EBay for a penis enlarger. Those bastards sent a magnifying glass.— Not Will Ferrell (@itsWillyFerrell) September 3, 2013
I called my family together a few months ago, sat him down, and I said, “In no way do I want to live in a vegetative state, kept alive by a machine, and fed liquid from a bottle. If that happens, pull the plug.”
They got up, pulled the plug on my computer, and threw away my wine.
Last night, my friend came to visit and we were talking and I said to her, “I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug.’
She got up, unplugged my computer, and threw out my wine.
I know what my last words are going to be. Picture everyone gathered around the hospital bed. And with my last breath, I croak out, “I hid a million dollars, under the …”
I want my last words on earth to be "I hid a million dollars in the..." #suckers— 9GAG (@9GAG) July 7, 2012
when I Die I want my last words to be, 'I hid a million dollars under the...' Anonymous— Timothy Lee (@IAMTimLee) June 23, 2012
I cook with wine a little bit. Sometimes I even add it to the food.
As the lexicographer Barry Popik has pointed out before, this one-liner has been around since at least 1996, and is often attributed to W.C. Fields and Julia Child:
I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.
People wonder what old folks do with their time. Actually, I have a chemical engineering background, so I spend a lot of time converting beer, wine, and liquor into urine.
I’ve often been asked, “What do you old folks do now that you’re retired?” Well…I’m fortunate to have a chemical engineering background and one of the things I enjoy most is converting beer, wine and vodka into urine. I do it every day and I really enjoy it.
I stopped calling the bathroom “the John.” And I renamed it “the Jim.” Because I feel much better saying “I went to the Jim this morning.”
Instead of the John, I want to start calling it the Jim. That way, I can say that I went to the Jim every morning.
I stopped calling the bathroom "the John" & renamed it "the Jim". I feel so much better saying "I went to the Jim this morning".— Deon Gouws (@DeonGouws_Credo) July 16, 2015
Esterly says he uses a hair dryer to slow speeding cars.
The old joke:
People have been claiming to do this gag for years. Here’s a Telegraph article from 2000, headlined “Drivers deterred by hairdryer ‘speed trap.’ ”
I’ve changed my car horn to sound like gun shots. People get out of the way …
The old joke:
I changed my car horn to sound like gun shots. People get out of my way a lot faster now.— Bill Murray (@BiIIMurray) February 6, 2014
Donkeys kill more people annually than airplane crashes. So watch your ass.
DONKEYS KILL MORE PEOPLE ANNUALLY THAN PLANE CRASHES OR SHARK ATTACKS. SO WATCH YOUR ASS.
Of course, Esterly couldn’t have known that he would go viral, racking up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, and garnering praise around the web. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with trading old jokes among family and friends, and Esterly’s delivery is legitimately charming. But before we rush to call this guy “standup’s newest overnight star” and praise his set as “5 of the Funniest Minutes You’ll Ever Hear,” and make him into the next The Fat Jew, we should note that all his best jokes are stolen from sources like BrainyQuotes.com.