IPhone Misadventure Draws Laughs, For Now

Dilbert, Letterman and others are weighing in on the Apple prototype lost in a bar. But the comedy of errors may not have a funny ending

You won't see these comics in any newspaper: “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams, inspired by the Apple employee who lost a new iPhone prototype in a bar only to see the device end up with a tech blogger, posted two strips online lampooning the mess.

He didn't have to change much to get laughs – though in the virtual funny pages, the offender was Wally the engineer, Dilbert's useless trouble-magnet of a co-worker.

“I’m only going to the beer garden, so it should be fine,” Wally tells Dilbert as he borrows the phone. Adams noted that he popped the strips on his blog because they wouldn't have made the papers until June 18.

The man-walks-into-a-bar-with-an-iPhone debacle has prompted much humor: David Letterman offered a Top 10 list of excuses (“It must have fallen out of my iPants”). Funny or Die posted an amusing video in which a vengeful Steve Jobs tortures the offending employee in a scene out of a Quentin Tarantino movie. Hitler, as always, isn’t happy, as the latest installment in the “Downfall” meme shows.

But this comedy of errors may not be headed to a funny ending.

As Adams posted Wally's misadventures Monday, it was reported that authorities seized computers from the home of Jason Chen, the Gizmodo editor who published a post last week showing the new iPhone prototype in various states, using video and pictures. The phone, reportedly bought for $5,000, was subsequently returned to Apple.

The folks at Gawker Media, who own the Gizmodo site, contend Chen is protected under the California shield law. Authorities, at least for now, seem to be treating the case like a stolen property investigation.

Ultimately, the incident could be framed as a test case for journalism published on the web.

“Are bloggers journalists? I guess we’ll find out,” Gawker Media boss Nick Denton told The New York Times.

Gizmodo is no less deserving of First Amendment protection than any other journalistic enterprise. The site also is no less deserving of scrutiny, from the media, the law – or the comedians.

“Take a moment to marvel at the fact that I didn't need to add anything to the story as it has been told in the media,” Adams wrote on his blog. “All it really needed was Wally.”

One voice that's been silent – at least publicly – is that of Jobs, who likes to make big announcements about new Apple gadgets himself. Check out the Funny or Die video below about his imagined reaction to having his thunder stolen (warning: NSFW): 

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NY City News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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