Did SNL plagiarize The Onion?

In the Nov 24 - Dec 1 issue of The Onion, the headline story was “Russian Television Scores Hit With New Game Show ‘Who Wants To Eat A Meal’?”. It was a funny take on the ‘Who wants to be a millionaire show?’:

Then I watched Saturday Night Live on Dec 4, and one of their first skits was “Who Wants to Eat a Meal?”. It was a very similar take on the ‘Who wants to be a millionaire show?’. Contestants from poor places around the world (India, Kosovo, …) competed for food.

What gives? Did SNL rip-off material from The Onion? Have they done this before? Isn’t the Onion copyrighted so copying ideas like that is illegal?

Well, its is almost impossible to copyright an idea. You can copyright a title in some cases, and obviously you can copyright the specific content but thats about it. I would guess that an SNL writer did rip it off but that the producers were not aware of it. If confronted they would probably fire the writer and settle for a small amount of cash.

I could see them both coming up with this one independently. The show is getting a lot of press, so it’s made fun of a lot. I made a “Is that your final answer?” joke attempt myself not more than a couple hours ago.

The “meal” joke doesn’t seem all that unique.

A week before the Onion came out with that, one of the jokes in Conan O’Brien’s monologue was the Russian game show “Who wants a roll of toilet paper?” So the Onion was ripping HIM off!

If you watch more than one of the four late night talk shows, as I’m afraid I often do, you will soon notice that quite frequently one will do exactly the same joke as another did the night before. It seems to be accepted practice there.

Some cases are, I’m sure, coincidence. (Some news story jokes write themselves.) But even then, they could avoid repeating each other if they cared to.

[rant on SNL]Amazing how bad something called “comedy” can be.[/rant]
I remember I saw on the back cover of a Cracked Magaziine (that I was using for toilet paper, lousy rag) a parody ad for a 32-blade disposable razor.
An hour later I watched Mad TV do the exact same sketch.
“First blade trims the whisker
Second blade pulls the remaining stubble out
Third blade cuts below skin
Fourth blade pulls out root
Fifth blade removes skin deep enough to prevent follicles from growing back…”

JMcC, San Francisco, JJM’s page from the Bay
If I were a baseball player, and I got beaned by a fastball, I wouldn’t want medical attention. I’d want my limp, lifeless body flung to 1st, cause, dammit, I earned it!