Aaron Sorkin is a big fan of Aaron Sorkin’s work. The Social Network scribe and Syracuse University grad delivered a commencement address at his alma mater on Sunday and as Syracuse student Chelsea DeBaise first noticed, the speech included several lines that were recycled wholesale from a convocation speech Sorkin gave at Syracuse in 1997.
Among the repeated moments: In each oration, Sorkin began with the same anecdote about a long-married couple. In both, he described an actor who backed out of A Few Good Men to appear in a film that was never made, following the story with this insight: “I don’t know what the first actor is doing, and I can’t remember his name. Sometimes, just when you think you’ve finally got the ball safely in the end zone, you’re back to delivering pizzas for Domino’s. Welcome to the NFL.” And in both, he also remembered his roommate Chris, a victim of the AIDS epidemic: “He was born out of his time and would have felt most at home playing Mickey Rooney’s sidekick in Babes on Broadway,” Sorkin said in 1997 and again in 2012.
Sorkin’s old speech isn’t the only self-penned source he mined for material. Slate‘s David Haglund notes that his commencement address also includes “at least four lines” from The West Wing‘s first four seasons, “which were written almost entirely by Sorkin.” Additionally, one of those lines — “It seems to me that more and more we’ve come to expect less and less from each other, and I think that should change” — appeared in both The West Wing and Sports Night, Sorkin’s first TV show. Hall of mirrors!
And this isn’t the first time the writer has quoted himself. The West Wing and Sports Night shared a decent amount of dialogue, as well as many similar jokes. (Don’t you dare use a dangling modifier in front of Aaron Sorkin.) A line from Studio 60 also became one of The Social Network‘s most quotable moments. In the NBC drama, Matthew Perry’s character dismisses a group of hacks by saying, “If they’d written [the screenplay], they’d have written it.” In The Social Network, the quote is only slightly changed: “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”
There’s nothing wrong with Sorkin recycling the lines he loves best; all writers are guilty of doing the same thing, especially in speeches. But if he wants to keep people from noticing, he might have to start crafting less memorable sentences.