Friday, December 07, 2007

Poking Fun at Poking Fun at Jesus

In 2000, Art Metrano brought suit in state court against Fox over a pitch idea. Defendant removed the suit to state court, asserting the claims were preempted by the Copyright Act, Metrano v. Fox, 2000 WL 97664 (C.D. Cal. April 24, 2000).

On December 5th, Metrano has brought another suit alleging copyright and trademark infringement against Fox, this time over Family Guy Here is a link to the complaint, courtesy of TMZ, which has very helpful side by side videos, at tmz.com. You have to scroll down to the December 6th entry but it is worth the effort. In the complaint, Metrano alleges rights in a comedy routine called the "The Amazing Metrano," and of course alleges registration with the Copyright Office. I didn't find a registration in the online search, but since the routine was developed in 1969, perhaps it was registered before 1978, in whch case it wouldn't be on line.

Wikipedia has this entry on Metrano:

September 22, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American actor, best known for his role as Capt. Mauser in Police Academy 2 and Police Academy 3. He left the series due to a serious fall at home on September 17, 1989, that seriously injured his spinal cord and left him disabled.

In the early 1970s, he frequently appeared on The Tonight Show as a "magician" performing absurd tricks (such as making his fingers "jump" from one hand to another) while constantly humming an inane theme song (named Fine and Dandy). This was referenced in Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, when a character who had visited Jesus Christ in the past claims that "[Jesus'] abilities may have been exaggerated." The scene then cuts to Jesus performing Metrano's act, theme song and all.

Currently, he tours with his one-man show, "Jews Don't Belong On Ladders...An Accidental Comedy", which has raised more than $175,000 for Project Support for Spinal Cord Injury to help buy crutches, wheelchairs and supplies in lieu of medical research and long term solutions.

Attorney Paul Hittleman is now representing Art Metrano in his lawsuit against 20th Century Fox for using his comedy "magic act" in the aforementioned Family Guy Movie.

On YouTube.com, you can find young boys and girls aged nine through the college years mimicking Metrano's "magic act" and calling it the "Jesus Dance." His popularity has grown, but none of the young imitators know the truth of who originated this funny classic comedy routine due to the lack of his own YouTube channel and/or Internet presence

You can also learn more about Metrano on his website, www.artmetrano.com

4 comments:

vincent said...

I have defended copyright cases in which plaintiffs have posted Wikipedia entries that parrot their lawsuit contentions. Collaborative fact-sharing loses its value in an adversary context,

William Patry said...

Vicent, I don't understand your reference to wikipedia here

Andrew said...

I think Vincent is commenting on the Wikipedia article as evidence of originality. My own Wikipeduia article states that I invented the stapler, which will be used in my upcoming suit against Swingline. Though it pales in comparision to the lies on my Match.com page.

I'd go ahead and say "singing and dancing act" is not at all copyrightable, but the individual jokes very well may be. To quote Krusty the Clown, "if this is anyone but Steve Allen, you're stealing my bit." I imagine enough variety shows existed before the 1970's that Fox's attornies could dig up somone on Ed Sullivan using those jokes to prove they were not original to Capt. Mauser.
Furthermore, Family Guy is just gonna whip out the parody defense, that theirs was a tribute, even if their audience didn't get the joke.

William Patry said...

Let's hope that all the Family Guys whip out.