Last weekend, Saturday Night Live aired a parody commercial called “Settl.” Immediately following guest host Ryan Gosling’s monologue, the pre-taped sketch featured female cast members giving testimonials for the titular app, where users can find, in Sasheer Zamata’s words, “normal guys with characteristics I’m now willing to overlook.” It was a successful segment of a successful episode, particularly compared with the Donald Trump PR fiasco of a few weeks ago.
Now, however, two collaborators have accused the sketch show of lifting both their concept and their jokes.
Earlier this year, developer Matt Condon and designer Ben Zweig gave a presentation at the Los Angeles edition of Comedy Hack Day, “a live event series that invites comedians, developers, and designers to come together, drink free booze, and build hilarious tech.” Finalist parody apps are then “showcased before a panel of celebrity judges at a one-of-a-kind live comedy show.” (CHD is put on by Cultivated Wit, the creative agency founded by Onion alum and current Daily Show producer Baratunde Thurston.)
In a video posted to YouTube in September, Zweig and Condon pitch “Settl,” complete with the Grindr-esque dropped “e,” to a panel of judges, including comedy heavyweights Cameron Esposito and James Adomian, who’s currently having a moment as the man behind this Bernie impression. The app is a stripped-down, last-ditch version of Tinder that asks for just a first name and a picture, “because at this point you’re deluding yourself if you think anyone cares about your hobbies”:
Like the subsequent SNL sketch, Condon and Zweig’s Settl also comes with a feature that prevents users from swiping left.
The similarities were apparent enough for one Reddit user to post about them in the SNL subreddit; Zweig himself then took to Medium, where he argued, “What happened is either a degree of comedic plagiarism, or an impressive lack of basic, easily-done research. In 2015, I’m not sure which one is worse.”
On the other hand, SNL takes its parody in a completely different direction, “targeting” middle-aged women looking to get married before their sisters rather than millennials alienated by apps supposedly by and for them, and their commercial focuses less on the app itself, as Condon and Zweig’s does, than on the just-OK guys users meet through it. Sites like Recode have also pointed out that Settl resembles YouTuber Ryan Higa’s viral ad for “GiveUpandSettle.com.”
Joke theft is a serious accusation — one that the sketch show has faced a few times before — and parallel thinking absolutely happens, particularly with a phenomenon as ripe for parody as dating apps. Still, Condon and Zweig maintain that, in Zweig’s words, “It’s the same goddamn app. It’s named the same goddamn thing.”
Representatives for SNL did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Condon and Zweig’s accusations.