Patton Oswalt vs Sammy Rhodes (@prodigalsam) vs Trolls


In case you missed it, there was quite an interesting eruption on Twitter concerning Patton Oswalt and Sammy Rhodes.  The short version is this: A comedian called another comedian a hack and a joke thief.  Not much of a story.  It happens all the time and most people don’t “keep up” with comedy, they just occasionally laugh at it. But wait a minute.  This one is a bit more interesting.  Here’s why:

Who is Patton Oswalt?

He’s an accomplished and successful writer, actor, and comedian, the voice of Remy from the movie, Ratatouille, and a character on the TV show, King of Queens. This is just the tip of the iceberg as he’s also been in dozens of other movies and TV shows. He has several stand-up comedy specials, and oh yeah… 1.3 million Twitter followers. @pattonoswalt

Who is Sammy Rhodes?

He is a campus minister at the Reformed University Fellowship at the University of South Carolina, and he tweets jokes.  He has amassed over 130,000 Twitter followers, (@prodigalsam) which is no small feat.  He has no comedy, acting, or entertainment industry background, but apparently took to Twitter and has been relatively successful.

What was the big fiasco?

Rhodes had been accused of stealing jokes.  There was a Tumblr account made that compared many of his tweets to other people’s previous tweets.  Many were strikingly similar. Oswalt (from his Twitter account) called Rhodes a “thieving hack” and then in a string of tweets, began to engage with followers of both he and Rhodes.  There were many people both defending and attacking Rhodes and Oswalt’s account and as you can imagine, with 1.3 million followers, there was a huge amount of negativity directed at the unsuspecting Rhodes, who did not fight back or attack, but defended himself by saying that he never intentionally stole any jokes, and was sorry if he inadvertently did. Since then, Rhodes has done a couple of interview notably this one at  He also has said that some friends who love him well have asked him to pull back from twitter for a season for the sake of his family, ministry, and soul.  He has agreed to do so.


This was very interesting for the following reasons:

  • It is surprising to me that Patton Oswalt was even aware of Sammy Rhodes and had such a strong opinion. It was clear on Twitter that Oswalt and other well known comics were aware of a college minister in South Carolina and the fiasco as well.  Rainn Wilson even defended Rhodes,  saying that if someone scoured his account thoroughly enough you could probably make similar accusations of him.
  • It is also shocking how loyal Twitter users can be.  Without requests to do so, the follower’s of each party began to ferociously attack the other, which is entertaining, but extremely mean at the same time.
  • It is ALSO shocking that the general public, people with 28 followers for example, can be and are heard so easily by someone with 1.3 million followers.  Even though there is more messaging and info than ever, you can almost be assured that if you  @ mention someone, they will see it.
  • The most interesting thing for sure, was that the most dividing lines of the debate were between Christians defending Rhodes, and non-Christians attacking him on the grounds of him knowing better, given the fact that he was a minister, and Christian.  I wonder if either side made any progress with the other, changed anyone’s minds, made anyone think differently, or if the goal was just to hurt the other “team”.


We get a lot of criticism and support for this blog along the same dividing lines.  In fact, it seems to be one of the reasons people like the blog.  I do admit it is sometimes difficult receiving hateful comments and criticism.  I suppose it is even funny that a great deal of negativity, hurtful and even hateful comments come to us from Christians.  I am glad for this because our goal is to expose the hearts of people and get things out into the open. That includes bitter, legalistic Christians, staunch atheists who are hostile toward theism,  and spiritual agnostics who think that all Christians want to do is judge others.

Here is what I think: Rhodes and Oswalt are both cool in my book.

It is totally okay for Patton Oswalt to have the opinion that Sammy Rhodes is a moron, idiot, thief, hack, or anything else.  I’m fine with his comments, and although they made him seem a bit insecure, I like knowing what he really thinks.  Just in general, I love comedy; and the honesty of comics is the best part.

I love Sammy Rhodes’ Twitter account.  He is very funny and even if he did steal some jokes, there are thousands of other good ones that he certainly came up with on his own.  I love that he is a pastor and he also does his own thing.  It’s refreshing that he doesn’t have to make everything directly about Jesus. He actually seems like someone who is secure in his beliefs, as opposed to the pastor who is always worried about not being Christian enough, only tweeting scripture verses.

I support ANYBODY being able to voice ANY opinion they have.  In fact more people need to be honest and even bold about their opinions. Stand-up comedians tend to do a very good job of this. Christians tend to be much too careful in my opinion.

Lastly, there IS a difference in weight and value of an individual’s voice.  Mainly, the degree to which an individual is creating and putting new ideas and material in the world IS more valuable than those who simply react to it.  Those who have cultivated skill, value, audience, and credibility actually risk those things when they put out a new idea, opinion or expression.  This is in stark contrast to those who react with strong opinions, typically risk little, but attempt to capitalize on and get attention from the risk-taker and his audience (Yea, that is all you trolls out there).  The Internet has obscured the weight of people’s voices, and we just aren’t used to it yet.  So although I defend your right to be a troll, consider what you are doing when you interact on the Internet.

Are you just reacting to something and hoping to get some attention without any risk, or without any work?

Are you just throwing an insult or an easy criticism?

Are you just trying to make obnoxious noise for “Team Christian,” “Team Atheist” or “Team, We Hate Liberals”?

What do you think?

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