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Jay Leno accused of lifting joke from Fox News program

Some say that Jay Leno hit bottom during his failed primetime show and the subsequent Conan O’Brien imbroglio. Which is really saying something for someone who used to crack skulls with Pat Morita. But now, he’s being accused of stealing jokes. From Fox News.

On Saturday night’s Red Eye, a wee-hours Fox News show hosted by Greg Gutfeld, ombudsman Andy Levy pointed out that Leno had made a joke on Thursday night that used virtually the same set-up and punchline as one Levy said on the air earlier in the week. Both bits were pegged to the news in California that a court ruling would require the state to free thousands of inmates from its prisons, leading both joke tellers to mention how this was great news for the Oakland Raiders! Hey, now!

“Wow, Andy, I can’t believe you traveled to the future, stole that joke from Jay, then traveled back to tell it on Red Eye,” Gutfeld said. Levy, more amused than bitter, countered with, “I’m actually now getting word that Carlos Mencia came up with this joke next Tuesday.”

Obviously, recycling someone else’s jokes is a no-no, especially when you’re the host of The Tonight Show. It’s very possible, though, that no comic malfeasance was intended – Leno’s been mocking the Raiders and their fans for years – and that the similarities between the jokes was just a coincidence. (A call to The Tonight Show was not immediately returned.) But therein lies another problem for Leno and his writers, no disrespect to Red Eye’s convivial ombudsman. I’m not sure this is a case of great comic minds thinking alike.

Does Leno owe Levy an apology? Or was this just a harmless coincidence? If it was, who told the joke better?

Originally posted May 31 2011 — 3:25 PM EDT

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