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October 13, 2015

Aaron Sorkin meet Jay Mohr

by Richard Keller, posted Feb 19th 2007 10:01AM

Did Aaron Sorking take one of Jay Mohr's memories for Studio 60?Something isn't right in Sorkinland. In last Monday's episode, Matt Albie and Andy Mackinaw are feeling nostalgic. In a scene early in the show Andy asks Matt if he remembers his first office . . . the one that was so small that you could write on both walls if you reached your arms out with pencils in your hands. Matt mentioned that was his second office, and that his first was actually the floor in the middle of the hallway.

Now, the reason methinks something is afoot is because I just finished reading Gasping For Airtime, the excellent Jay Mohr autobiography that chronicles his two year stint on Saturday Night Live in the mid-1990's. In this book he talks about the dressing room that he had during his second season on the show. . . the one that was so small that he could take a pencil in each hand, stretch his arms out, and write on the walls. He also mentioned a conversation he had with SNL alum Mike Myers about his first office. It turns out that it was on the floor in the middle of the hallway.


Now, if Jay Mohr is consulting on Studio 60, then no harm, no foul. However, if the only way he's involved with the program is by watching it on television like the rest of us then the writers over at the show may have some explaining to do. Maybe I'm wrong, but this certainly sounds like stealing. If not material, per se, then certainly intellectual property. If I were Jay I would certainly be miffed that one of the memories he wrote about in his autobiography was ripped off and modified for broadcast.

Didn't the producers over at Studio 60 think that someone would catch this, particularly someone who writes a post about it on a fairly popular TV website? Maybe this is why the show is struggling so much lately. You don't succeed by stealing ideas from others; that just pisses people off. Maybe I'm way off base here in my opinions. What do you guys think?

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Mark McKinney is a writer on "Studio 60".

Mark McKinney was on Saturday Night Live at the same time that Jay Mohr was on Saturday Night Live.

February 20 2007 at 3:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Peter Lynn

I thought it was fairly obvious that Sorkin was patterning much of the show after real-life incidents. After all, the story about the ex-writer filing a sexual harassment lawsuit over salty talk in the writers' room seems pretty obviously based on the similar real-world case involving a writer's assistant on "Friends" a couple of years ago.

February 19 2007 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh, come on; I have never heard the phrase "so small that he could take a pencil in each hand, stretch his arms out, and write on the walls" or "office in the middle of the floor" used before; they're hardly idioms. I can see the latter being, maybe, just being an anecdote, but the first one is a turn of phrase to describe what others would just say was a tiny office, an office you couldn't lie down in, etc. That's what I meant by phrases being stolen.

February 19 2007 at 4:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mohr should be thanking Aaron Sorkin, because now he's at least getting a tiny bit of press. :)

February 19 2007 at 3:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sorkin is already ripping off Kristin Chenowith's whole life; why not take stories from others, too?

February 19 2007 at 3:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

IIRC the government shutdown in TWW was written/aired *after* Sorkin left the show.

As for this quote thing....come on!

Call it research or whatever but one will hardly convince me that before Mohr, no one - in and out of the entertainment business in the world- has been, seen, heard about, said the same story using the same words about working on the floor or ridiculously small offices.

Come on!!

Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to copyright that and sue people using it without written authorization because it is that freaking unique.


February 19 2007 at 3:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Which phrases were used? I don't see any direct quote in the post, and I'm pretty sure "write on the walls" and "in the middle of the floor" (if those are direct quotes from both works) isn't copyrightable language; they're plain english.

I'm sure the West Wing episode on the government shutdown over the budget dispute used the phrases "government shutdown" and "budget dispute" which would be how any Clinton staffer would describe the situation in writing.

February 19 2007 at 2:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That story about a stand-up comedian's sketch being stolen by an "SNL" writer also appeared, with a few changes, as a plot on "Studio 60." Now, that's stealing with irony!

February 19 2007 at 2:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would also hazard a guess that it's a scenario that might have happened to a lot of other people (or at least one) at SNL over the years.

February 19 2007 at 2:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd think that there's a difference between incorporating "facts about another late-night sketch show " and stealing the phrases used to describe those facts. The fact: comedy writers on late night sketch shows have tiny/crappy offices. The phrases: well, mentioned above. Sure, a lot of the West Wing used events from the Clinton administration as inspiration (one of the most obvious was the episode where government shut down due to arugments over the budget), although Sorkin tended to "fix" the events the way he probably wished Clinton had. But to my knowledge, he did not use phrases from the memoirs of the members of the Clinton administration to do so.

February 19 2007 at 1:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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