That above is the Facebook conversation I had in January with Jordan Imiola. I don’t know how much clearer I could have made myself. The fact that he never wrote back raised some alarms so I made a note to check on his website later to make sure he wasn’t lifting my stories.
I checked today for the first time since that exchange and found this and this Indiegogo campaign. I watched the video of the cast reading and noticed that one of the stories sounded very familiar. So, I went to Jordan’s website and downloaded a copy of the pilot episode of his sitcom, “Get Educated.” Following are a few scenes from his pilot script, each followed by links to my own posts (which are older than his script).
You Suck, Sir: AGING
You Suck, Sir: STICKY SITUATION
You Suck, Sir: CELL PHONES
You Suck, Sir: THE CHILDREN
You Suck, Sir: YOUNG LOVE
As a stand-up comedian, I occasionally see this kind of thing, but thanks to pros like Patton Oswalt and Louie C.K. calling out and shaming joke thieves, this kind of behaviour is now rare. But the world of entertainment is built on desperation and ambition, so it’s still common for someone with a dearth of ideas to steal other people’s. In the worlds of stand-up comedy and publishing, these people are known by one term: hacks.
Jordan Imiola, you’re a hack. If you were a young person or student, I would quietly admonish you and usher you toward a stronger set of ethics. But you’re a grown man, so I’m calling you out for trying to profit off my stories.
Because these aren’t just stories. It’d be one thing if I created these episodes out of thin air and crafted them as I do with my stand-up comedy routines. I’d be upset, but I wouldn’t take it that personally because I’m not writing serious literature here. I’d probably be flattered that you thought to steal from me before sending you a strongly worded email. But this isn’t fiction you took from me—these are pieces of my life. These are my personal experiences with people whom I cherish—my students. I often wrote these down in my journals at the conclusions of long, difficult days when the only light in my career was these young people who carried my hopes with them. These posts represent the best of my experiences in the profession that I love.
And that’s why I feel violated. How do you sit there in that Indiegogo video smiling, taking credit for all the writing when you know I politely turned down your request to use my material? I know it’s 2014, but damn it, I still want to trust the community that I share these stories with. I love getting messages from readers telling me how the posts moved or connected with them, made them laugh or even “LOL,” and how some of them have been inspired to become teachers. You Suck, Sir is about sharing, trust, sacrifice, caring, and community and you stripped it of its spirit by reducing it to a few laughs in your sitcom pilot.
So you, Jordan Imiola, suck.