Steve Martin Apologizes for ‘Irresponsible’ Tweet, Dings Salon for Misquoting It

Steve Martin Apologizes for 'Irresponsible' Tweet, Dings Salon for Misquoting It

“It depends if you are in an African American neighborhood or an Italian restaurant”

Steve Martin has apologized after tweeting a joke about the spelling of “lasonia,” but dinged news outlets that made the joke seem more offensive than it was.

Martin was joking with fans when a follower asked him, “Is this how you spell lasonia?” Martin replied: “It depends. Are you in an African-American neighborhood or at an Italian restaurant?”

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He then deleted the respond and apologized, saying it was a riff on the African-American name “Lasonia.”

But when Salon reported on the tweet, it said he had asked, “Are you in an African-American restaurant or at an Italian restaurant?” The joke would have implied that African-Americans can't spell. Salon later updated the story with a correction in small type: “An earlier version of this story misquoted the tweet.”

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Martin later said on his website that his quote was “irresponsible,” and offered a “deep, sincere, and humble apology without reservation.” But he clarified that he was making a joke about an unusual name — nothing else.

Here is his full statement:

I am very upset that a tweet I sent out last week has been interpreted by some to be insulting to African Americans. By now media coverage of the unfortunate tweet has only added to this perception. To those who were offended, again, I offer a deep, sincere, and humble apology without reservation.

But I feel I need to tell you the context and origin of the joke.

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I was riffing on Twitter, inviting people to ask me grammar questions. I replied with what I hoped were funny answers. For example, a person might write “What's the difference between “then” and “than?” I would say, “then” is a conjunctive preposition, and “than” is a misspelling of “thank.” I have done similar things to this on other occasions, and there is a great spirit of fun between me and the Twitters followers.

I was going along fine when someone wrote, “Is this how you spell “lasonia?” I wrote: “It depends if you are in an African American neighborhood or an Italian restaurant.” I knew of the name Lasonia. I did not make it up, nor do I find it funny. So to me the answer was either Lasonia (with a capital), or Lasagna, depending on what you meant. That they sounded alike in this rare and particular context struck me as funny. That was the joke. When the tweet went out, I saw some negative comments and immediately deleted the tweet and apologized. I gathered the perception was that I was making fun of African American names. Later, thinking it over, I realized the tweet was irresponsible, and made a fuller apology on Twitter.

Then, Salon.com reported on the story and changed the wording of the tweet. They wrote: “It depends if you are in an African American restaurant or an Italian restaurant.” Clearly, this misquote implies that an African American restaurant can't spell “lasagna” on the menu. And my name was attached to the misquoted tweet. Other websites, including TMZ.com picked up this incorrect version and for the next four days, and more, it continued to spread and I couldn't get out of hell.

When the error was fixed, Salon footnoted it, but left the headline “Racist Tweet,” even though the tweet to which it referred had been expunged. I guess, to them, all tweets are interchangeable. However, one website which had jumped on me harshly, Twitchy.com, made a generous apology:

“The original version of this post stated that Martin's tweet denigrated the spelling ability of people who live in African American neighborhoods. A more likely explanation is that he was referencing the tendency of some African Americans to use names that include the prefix “La.” If we misinterpreted his joke (and we think we probably did), we apologize.”

I felt a little better, but not a lot.

Comedy is treacherous. I used to try out jokes in clubs and the audience's feedback would tell me when I had crossed a line, or how to shape a joke so it is clear. Today, the process is faster. It's your brain, a button, then millions of reactions. But it's my job to know.

  • Jim

    Well excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

  • wild and crazy

    These are ridiculous times. Now the mob is silencing great talents like Steve Martin over harmless nonsense. When Steve Martin can be railroaded by the likes of a Harvey Levin, society has hit rock bottom. I refuse to read TMZ and if another publication makes a habit of citing TMZ, I drop that publication too. Nothing good comes of Twitter, and I avoid that too. Hopefully Steve Martin won't creatively hold back after this inanity.

  • MobileGeorge

    In the hilarious movie, Booty Call, two African-American men were making fun of a woman named Listerine. Where was the outrage then? Let's face it… It doesn't matter what race you are, some names that people choose for their children are just funny.

  • Shawn Darby

    Good grief, live in an era of WORD JAIL…exactly what Steve done was poke fun at uneducated black people that spell words the way it sounds. No different than poking fun at a white redneck hillbilly…Yes Steve was smart to hurry and delete the tweet and apologize, all to avoid a costly lawsuit. The uneducated ghetto will never forget the past and will teach generations the same mentality, you owe in payment what your ancestors done. That's part of the game and act of life to apologize so they will shut up because many are ignorant and twist things around…No freedom of speech and apologize like a kid in school

    • Carlton_B

      You're an idiot, plain and simple. Take a man at his word. He explained everything and once again a moron twists his words. The guy can't win.

      • Shawn Darby

        Nope your the idiot and can not read

        • Rpoe07

          I think you mean you're

          • read before flapping

            A small grammatical error is nothing compared to a 180 degree misapprehension of a point

    • jaks

      I wish you would go to WORD JAIL

  • Carlton_B

    How did a man who practices an intellectual brand of comedy become popular? Clearly this world is full of up tight idiots.

    • Brandy

      People who use the word “brand” for anything other than laundry detergent or cattle are idiots.

      • brand-y

        I didn't realize cows could surf the net…

        • Brand-o

          STELLA!

      • Carlton_B

        Really? Is that because you have a limited vocabulary and get confused easily?

      • E.a. Solinas

        Sweetie, don't blame others for your lack of understanding of the English language.

  • Adam

    Unfortunately, Steve doesn't understand the nature of the people he ran up against. There is a powerful group called the grievance industry, an outgrowth of the victims industry. They are not interested in any sort of dialogue, compromise, or reason. Witness Jesse Jackson, the poster child of this movement. Would he be of the slightest consideration in any public discussion without the power of this grievance lobby?

    These people will only go away after constant and loud pushback. Phil Robertson and Chick-fil-a president Dan Cathy have both run afoul of the gay mafia and have proven that by standing up to them, nothing happens (Ask Jesse about the Nike boycott). America will be better off without these thought police, but until they are gone, there will be a long road strewn with the carcasses of free thought.

    • Carlton_B

      Huh? The Duck Dynasty guy outright insulted gay people knowingly. A&E removed him from TV because of it, which is their right.

      Steve Martin said something funny that people misunderstood.

      How is there a comparison?

      • Brian

        Notice that in the same post that he's ranting about the “grievance industry” and the “victims industry” he goes on to cry how Phil Robertson and Dan Cathy are victims of some “gay mafia” without the slightest hint of irony.

        • miked22

          Well, Dan Cathy is a victim, at the very least. He was asked “do you support traditional marriage?” and, when he answered, “Guilty as charged,” and then, the press reported it as if he gave that answer after being asked if he's against gay marriage. They were totally out to get him and twisted the context of what he said to try and destroy him. And that's exactly what Salon did with Martin here and good for Martin for calling them out and exposing them for the political charlatans they are.

      • Beverley Davis

        Phil is back and he never apologized and will never.

    • Brian

      Right, because it isn't like we just went through the annual sarah palin/fox news fake victimizationathon where christians and christmas are portrayed as under attack because some have the nerve to say “happy holidays” instead of “merry christmas.”

  • Bo

    Why would a man want to live his life in this manner? Making a stupid joke which it was then spend all this time defending himself. Jeez! Please love me…please oh please understand me…please oh please think well of me…please oh please approve of me…my god…how childish and spiritually bankrupt is that. As the old wise sage once said, ‘Wanting to be someone special makes one a slave of approval'. Ya wanna live like that Steve? Be my guest. It's all insanity and in the end? I'm not too sure you're being totally honest here either!

    • Sheila Carty

      He's a comedian. They're a needy bunch by nature.

    • dee

      Dude: you are in SERIOUS need of Mr. Martin's grammatical help. Go play nice and apologize to him and MAYbe he'll help you become a halfway decent text-insulter. Word!

  • EstebanCafe

    LOL. You Americans and your insane political correctness. It's always amusing when it turns around and bites those who would encourage it. BTW, exactly WHEN is Chelsea Clinton going to join all that PC fun and tweet something stupid–you know, just in time for Mommy Dearest's run for the White House ? Your press works overtime, doing a yeoman's job keeping the Left's feet out of its collective mouth–and its moron's out of print. Your Right should have such a bullet-proof vest.

    And please, PLEASE do not bring up the 4 dead in Benghazi in the same sentence as Hillary. After all, What Does It Matter Now ?

    • dee

      @Esteban Cafe: having lived in Europe and now in the Asian/Pacific area of the world, as an “American” — from the USA, not Canada — I can say that it is easy to misinterpret other parts of the world. Where ever the heck you live, you haven't got a clue about the USA and our society and our media at the moment. The political “Right” needs no protection from anyone but itself. The media in our country has been leaning toward the right since the late 1990s. Go check out some films of Wolf Blitzer during the late 80s and early 90s sometime; then watch him “report” during the late 90s and on. And most of the cable companies CNN and so forth — even MSNBC — have been walking in lockstep with Fox “Views” (using the other word is a lie). That's because a large percentage of Americans — some of them even half-way educated — actually believe what is spit out on that televised channel of vitriol and right-wing opinion. And “poor” O'Reilly or Hannity or Coulter need protection? In the immortal words of Duck Dodger: It is to laugh.

      Wake up, quit sucking at your Glass Teat — television or computer — and and smell the reality. The USA has ALWAYS been, at best, a moderate country, with only one era of left-leaning political challengers (the late 1960s early 1970s). And the last, TRULY, liberal President elected in America was FDR. Even Kennedy was a moderate-rightist, with a tendency to lean to the left (when he was starting to get wise and good at the job) just before fate intervened in November '63. And Clinton was always a moderate who leaned whichever way the political wind was blowing.

      • JDon357

        Dee. Wow! Msnbc is leaning right? So the tower in Pisa is straight up? JFK leaned to the left when he got “wise”? His assassination was “fate”!
        I suppose you think what Bashir said about defecating on Palin's face was moderate. You don't drink the Kool Aid, you swim in it.

  • j

    He starred in The Jerk. He was celebrated for it. Nuff said.

    • j

      And that Queen Latifah movie.

      • j

        But I'll be the first to agree that Three Amigos was extremely racist.

        • earl

          These are ridiculous times. Now the mob is silencing great talents like
          Steve Martin over harmless nonsense. When Steve Martin can be
          railroaded by the likes of a Harvey Levin, society has hit rock bottom.
          I refuse to read TMZ and if another publication makes a habit of
          citing TMZ, I drop that publication too. Nothing good comes of Twitter,
          and I avoid that too. Hopefully Steve Martin won't creatively hold
          back after this inanity.

    • dee

      And for ANYone screaming racism, I hope they will remember: Steve “the Jerk” Martin was born a poor black child.

      Seriously…TMZ…and all of the others who've blown this way out of proportion — get a sense of humor. Buy, beg or steal, but get one already! :)

  • Michael Hinks

    Who cares? But it does show how sick Hollywood has made us!

  • robin

    I think the joke is the spelling of black names intentionally often being anything but what you expect. I think it is funny.

  • AngusCarpathian

    I feel bad for Steve, that was actually pretty funny and not meant to be racist, unlike that Duck Dynasty dipsh!t.

  • Kuddly_Kitten

    The sad truth of this story is that the original joke was a SAFE joke. Absolutely nothing offensive about it. It's shameful that even a safe joke can have backlash in these hyper-sensitive times. Hopefully, no one will now misinterpret his banjo playing as “making fun of mountain folk.”

  • pete

    Get off from Steve Martin and start talking/caring about actual issues in the world…and learn what a joke is…

  • Jan Wilson Payne

    It is also unfair that you have to be a “professional comedian” to get a pass on a joke. Jokes are jokes. Some find them funny, some don't. Everybody should take a deep knee bend and re-watch Blazing Saddles. Life is too short to carry a chip on your shoulder.

  • Bradgina

    Fact is, the people misinterpreting his ink-blot of a joke are the ones who are racists. I'm sure people named Lasonia know that their name sounds an awful lot like Lasagna. He was making a play on words, not making fun of anybody. And since we're on the subject, I'm sure Lasonia is delicious, but alas I cannot have any because I'm gluten-intolerant; and she's married.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gerard.kennelly Gerard Kennelly

    if he wants to apologise for something
    why doesn't he say sorry for ITS COMPLICATED
    he was way too creepy in that role :(

  • Skully

    Pretty sure Sarahlebrity Palin will support his right to free soeech……right?

  • timae14@hotmail.co.uk

    Sorry Steve Martin bye bye

  • Chad Norton

    I had been working on a screenplay about three African American women named Preonda, La-A (“that's Ladasha, you say the DASH honey” she once told me) and 4ty (pronounced Forté). They are spunky girls with plenty of attitude that get into a heap of trouble being on the wrong side of The Man. The girls are fish-out-of-water, but chance and destiny continually fall on their side as they overcome every obstacle to find themselves victorious in the end. Alas, I will be deleting this labor-of-love out of fear. Fear of a world that doesn't have a taste for Lasonia.

  • roger

    Steve Martin seems like a sweet guy who wouldn't intentionally hurt anyone. I could be wrong, but that's the way he has come across all these years, intelligent, sensitive, witty.

  • Munch Hausen

    Steve Martin caved and shouldn't have. The humor police need to be stopped and he has the cache to do so. Sad that he failed to even try.

  • randynewman

    That was a great joke and he shouldn't have apologized for being a great comedian. We are all so sensitive in this Country anymore, just waiting for something to offend us.

  • JDon357

    There are those who tweet and blog who are trying to move us towards accepting the notion that saying something about any protected group which is interpreted by any liberal as being negative – should be considered a crime.
    Just like we've accepted “hate crimes” as deserving harsher punishment, we ll soon be forced to accept outlawing ethnic jokes and sexual jokes if the subjects are same sex. Even though the subjects of all these jokes are not actual people, anymore than Batman or Madea.

  • thejerk

    he should have said “Sir!! you are talking to a nigger!!!” and then kicked everyone's ass, lol.

  • jugheadobama

    Sy-phillis, Merconium and Orangello are not amused.

  • LeroyBrown

    Yo, white mutherfucker, the ‘hood poulice be comin’ to git yo cracker ass. We speaks english gudd in da house, spelin be our spelsiatee, feel me??? don't ever be mesing wid we.

  • LeroyBrown

    Christopher Hitchens was right. With the exception of Lucille ball, women are not funny. And liberal cunts even less.