Too Naive!: The Saturday Night Live Plagiarism Case

A week ago, Saturday Night Live, a comedy sketch show that’s aired for forty years, was accused of plagiarizing one of the week’s sketches. The admittedly hilarious skit depicted a team asked to draw Muhammad during a kind of Pictionary contest. It was very popular and elicited a lot of laughs. However, within two days of the show’s airing, news outlets were crying plagiarism–in fact, that’s the second time this year SNL has seemingly committed plagiarism.

Here is the SNL skit:

Interestingly, a Canadian comedy show, 22 Minutes, aired a similar sketch this past January. The sketch has been available on Youtube since January 15, 2015. Here’s the video:

Looks pretty similar right?

This past week, I showed both videos to my students asking them why it appears SNL plagiarized. After doing so, I gave them this CNN article ( which argues that SNL did not intentionally plagiarize. Instead, the writer argues, it’s just coincidental. I asked my students to argue against the article. They were easily able to destroy the writer’s arguments citing his ridiculous naivety.

I agreed. Try it out on your students.

In the end, I see the article as assuming that no one will plagiarize because no one wants to get caught, therefore, it has to be a simple error or mere coincidence. The writer fails to recognize, even though he does point out that it exists, the super-competitive environment an SNL writer inhabits. This alone creates the temptation to cheat. That temptation sometimes outweighs the fear of getting caught. It’s the same thing for students. It’s not just bad students who plagiarize, good ones do too. When the desire to succeed at all costs outweighs the fear of getting in trouble for cheating, THEY CHEAT. It’s our job to create a learning environment that does not push success at all costs and utilizes originality and creativity as requirements to complete assessments. The students picked up on this. It’s a pity that CNN is so naive to think that good, talented writers are above the temptation to cheat.

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