Columbia University Valedictorian Plagiarizes YouTube Speech

Brian Corman, valedictorian at Columbia University, has claimed his fifteen minutes of fame right out of college and it has nothing to do with his brains, perfect grades or popularity. Corman is the current talk of the web because he plagiarized part of his graduation speech from a YouTube video. That’s right – this Columbia brainiac copied one of comedian Patton Oswalt’s routines nearly verbatim from a 2006 YouTube clip.

This is not the first time Patton Oswalt has been plagiarized. Less than a month ago, a comedian named Nick Madson posted a clip of himself performing chunks of Oswalt’s act to YouTube. Oswalt was short of impressed and posted about it on his personal blog:

“I’m really hurt. It feels unpleasant. I worked very hard on those jokes – honed them night after night, kept challenging myself to make them funnier. Plus, I have a constant gallery of friends and colleagues in my head – Louie CK and Dave Attell among them – against whose work I compare my writing, and ask myself, sometimes harshly, if I’ve truly gotten my stuff to their level.

“And I was also under the delusion that I’d developed enough of a voice – enough of a unique, personal voice – that my stuff would be hard to steal. And yet here’s Nick Madson – who, it turns out, is a stage actor – reciting huge chunks of my material and collecting a paycheck for doing it. I don’t think he does it particularly well – you’d think an actor would be able to fake subjective experience – but he’s at the minimum, trained-monkey competence to get laughs.”

Corman’s Columbia University speech was yet another blow to Corman. When he discovered the speech on Tuesday he tweeted a sarcastic congratulatory message to Corman. Later in the day, it seems that Corman apologized to Oswalt. Again, Oswalt responded to the incident on his blog:

“Brian Corman apologized to me. Flat-out admitted his thievery, his stupidity. Owned it all. Good man. Still makes me wonder what he might have done to become valedictorian – I mean, if he’s willing to steal material for something as inconsequential as a speech, how rubbery did his boundaries become when his GPA and future career were on the line? Oh well.”

Columbia University responded to the incident, saying that, “as an institution of higher learning that upholds the highest standards of respect for the works of others, we are deeply distressed that this has occurred.” What do you think about this incident? How do you think potential employers will react to new graduate Brian Corman now that his name, and transgression are out in the open?



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