Here at Law Law Land, there are a few pearls of wisdom we like to repeat — perhaps to a fault — just because they are so helpful and right. Copyright law doesn’t protect ideas, only the expressions of ideas. Being legally right only matters if you can afford to prove it. And, perhaps most important of all: don’t mess with the Donald. Just ask Bill Maher.
In January, Maher visited fellow comedian Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. There, Maher discussed his “beef” with Donald Trump, who Maher claimed had rejected several invitations to appear on Maher’s late-night HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher — evidently to Maher’s relief, given that Trump was such “a terrible racist.” Of course, the ever-gracious Mr. Maher was quick to wish “the best for the syphilitic monkey who does [Trump’s] Twitter feed.”
Seizing upon the “syphilitic monkey” moniker, the conversation led (as it naturally would) into a joke about Donald Trump being “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan” because, according to Maher, “the color of [Trump’s] hair…and the color of an orange orangutan is the only two things in nature of the same color.” (Obviously.) Ultimately, Maher concluded the joke by announcing — in an apparent parody of Trump’s (not actually) “very big,” (not remotely) game-changing pre-election announcement (more on that in a moment) — “I hope it’s not true…but unless [Trump] comes up with proof [that he is not the lovechild of an orangutan]…I’m willing to offer 5 million dollars to Donald Trump…that he can donate to a charity of his choice.” As an example, Maher suggested the “Hair Club for Men.”
The very next day, demonstrating the sense of humor for which he has become legendary, Trump had his attorney write to Maher, formally accepting Maher’s “offer” and attaching a copy of Mr. Trump’s birth certificate, demonstrating that Trump is indeed “the son of Fred Trump, not an orangutan.” (Can you imagine being the poor lawyer who got that “urgent” assignment at midnight?) Trump demanded a $5 million payout, and when Maher ignored the demand letter, Trump actually filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court demanding $5 million in damages. Let me be clear: this is not actually a joke. This is a lawsuit that has seriously been filed.
This prompted Maher to assert that Trump needs to understand two basic concepts: “what a joke is and what a contract is.” And although we all know how this case is going to end, we would be remiss in not taking this opportunity to dedicate an entire blog post to The Donald’s bloviating buffoonery. Could Trump really take this lawsuit all the way to the bank?