‘Mr. Bean’ Writer Accuses ‘Friends’ of Stealing His Thanksgiving Turkey Head Gag
Comedians stealing each other’s jokes is unfortunately a common problem. Some of these are innocent mistakes while others represent outright theft. But it’s a hard thing to prove.
The same goes for television comedies, where writers will recycle jokes or storylines from old shows with or without permission. The most recent example comes courtesy of British filmmaker and TV writer Richard Curtis, who just accused Friends creators of stealing a comedy bit from the hit series Mr. Bean.
But is it true? Did Friends really rip off the turkey head bit without permission?
Two ‘Friends’ castmates put turkeys on their heads during Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving episodes of Friends are some of the best and the turkey head storyline is no exception.
In “The One With All the Thanksgivings,” the group competes to determine who had the worst Thanksgiving memories starting with Chandler discussing the time his parents told him they were getting divorced. Then Phoebe recalls the time Joey got a turkey stuck on his head while trying to scare Chandler. Repeated attempts to get the poultry unstuck were unsuccessful.
After hard truths get uncovered via a series of flashback scenes, Monica reveals that she accidentally dropped a knife and severed Chandler’s toe after a misunderstanding. By way of apology (and to be silly) she goes over to his apartment wearing a turkey on her head in the present day.
Chandler accidentally slips and tells Monica he loves her for the first time while the turkey is still on her head. And, she scares Joey with her hilarious headpiece.
‘Mr. Bean’ did the turkey head joke first
“The One With All the Thanksgivings” aired for the first time in Nov. 1998. But in 1992, Mr. Bean put a turkey on his head and possibly inspired the iconic episode of Friends.
In “Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean,” the titular character (Rowan Atkinson) loses his watch inside the turkey carcass and goes a little too far trying to find it. He gets the turkey stuck on his head just as his girlfriend Irma arrives for Christmas dinner.
Mr. Bean writer Curtis reflected on the joke theft during a documentary interview, Yahoo Life reported. “I’m absolutely dazzled by the Friends thing. I only saw it the other day. I literally can’t believe what happened there. Bizarre,” he said.
Meanwhile, Atkinson is little less offended by the incident. “But in the end you can’t steal jokes. Jokes are there to be stolen – or to inspire,” the actor said.
‘Friends’ is still capitalizing on the original joke
There were plenty of popular gags on Friends but Monica with the turkey on her head is one of the most popular.
Courteney Cox even revisited the bit, in part, on her Instagram when she put together a short video recreating the gag. Once again, in her kitchen at home, she donned a turkey carcass and danced provocatively.
Fans loved her sense of humor and nostalgia, which helped fuel excitement for the upcoming Friends reunion special on HBO Max. So far, there’s no word on whether Mr. Bean plans on putting a turkey on his head again.