Heard the one about the comedian who stole an entire act? Well, Jim Tavaré knows the joke and doesn't think it's funny. Instead he has taken to Twitter to cry foul.
Tavaré accused fellow comic Sid Bowfin of not just stealing his jokes, but also his image, material and even website design. He said he has "stood by time and time again watching pale copies come and go – it's now time to speak out".
The Twitter campaign, which began on Wednesday, reached hundreds of thousands of users, after Tavaré drew it to the attention of other comics including Matt Lucas and Al Murray. Bowfin – real name Adrian Garratt – insists the similarities are a coincidence and wishes they could have sorted it out on the phone. "I am absolutely against plagiarism. I never steal anybody else's material," he said.
The main accusations are that both men are bald and perform in tails with a stringed musical instrument – Tavaré usually a double bass and Garratt a violin. Tavaré also accuses Garratt of copying a sketch involving a broken microphone.
Tavaré believes that Garratt shaved his head only after he left for America. In an article for the Chortle website, Tavaré said: "I have had plenty of jokes stolen over the years. [But] what happens when someone decides to copy your entire stage image and the whole premise behind your act, then pass it off as their own creation?"
But Garratt insists he had "never seen" the Tavaré sketch where he has technical problems with a microphone, and says he has been bald since shaving his head in 2001, though he sometimes wears a wig. As for the use of tails, Garratt blames his upbringing: "We have the same image because I grew up as a classical musician and every gig you would turn up in tails, even when I was a street performer."
Garratt says he "understands Jim's predicament" but feels what he has done is unfair. "We could have had a chat to sort it out, which was originally what I was going to do, until I realised he was so instrumental in fuelling it," he said.
He now wants Tavaré to apologise for what he sees as a mistake. If not, he has not ruled out taking legal action "if [Tavaré] responds to this in a sort of escalation of his current course of action".