May 25, 2010 -- If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what about plagiarism? Comedian Patton Oswalt might have something to say about that -- he has apparently busted two plagiarists in the last few weeks, the latest a Columbia University valedictorian.
In a tweet this afternoon, Oswalt offered less-than-heartfelt congratulations to graduating Columbia student Brian Corman and linked to a video of Corman's "great speech," which seemed closely to mirror 2006 material from Oswalt's stand-up act.
Oswalt, a writer/actor best known for his roles in the sitcom "King of Queens" and the 2007 film "Ratatouille", tweeted, "Congrats to Columbia University valedictorian Brian Corman! Great speech," and linked to video of Corman's May 16 valedictory speech at Columbia's School of General Studies Class Day.
An hour later, the video became unavailable on YouTube, marked "private" to restrict it to certain users.
In his commencement speech, Corman told an anecdote about taking a physics class with "Star Trek" aficionados that bore more than a passing resemblance to Patton's "physics for poets" joke, seen here in 2006.
Corman did not immediately respond to an e-mail sent to his account.
The video was restored to YouTube a few hours after Oswalt's claim started to gain attention on Twitter. The Columbia University School of General Studies press office released this statement:
"It has come to our attention that a portion of our Valedictorian's remarks at this year's School of General Studies Class Day was taken from a comedy routine by Patton Oswalt. As an institution of higher learning that places a core value on respect for the works of others, we were surprised and disappointed to have learned of this matter today. Columbia University and the School of General Studies do not condone or permit the use of someone else's work without proper citation. The student speaker has appropriately issued an apology to his classmates and to Mr. Oswalt for failing to provide such attribution."
Oswalt ackowledged the apology in a blog post entitled, "Sloppy and Desperate," in which he noted that Columbia initially misspelled his name in its statement.
"Brian Corman apologized to me. Flat-out admitted his thievery, his stupidity. Owned it all. Good man," Oswalt blogged. "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?"
Just a few weeks ago, Oswalt blasted another comedian, Nick Madsen, claiming he performed large parts of his act -- including the "physics for poets" bit -- without attribution. Madsen could not be reached for comment.