I ran across this controversy last year – someone posted audio/video of comedians Bill Hicks and Denis Leary, pointing out that many of Leary’s jokes resemble Hicks’ routine. Hicks is more the ‘comedian’s comedian’ – meaning ‘dead’ or ‘unknown’. Hicks is unfortunately dead of cancer, and was just starting to get major recognition. Denis Leary hit the big time in the early/mid-90s with his “No Cure for Cancer” concert (and book!). The video below is one example of several videos posted on Youtube. Admittedly, I was a big fan of Leary’s when I first heard his album, but then his routine got old to me. I don’t know enough about Hicks – not sure if he’s as great as everyone claims, but from what I’ve seen, he’s definitely ahead of and maybe more authentic than the ‘sorta angry/annoyed’ comics like Lewis Black, David Cross, etc. If you do comedy about general topics (airplane food, corporations, politicians, smoking), you will run into other comedians cover the same subject matter. How they cover it, how they present it, what examples they use, determies if it’s stealing. One way to avoid this? Write more personal jokes. Duh.