Steve Martin Apologizes for Racial Tweet

The comedian made an insensitive gaffe on social media.

Posted: 12/26/2013 08:45 AM EST

Steve Martin is apologizing for a racial gaffe he made on Twitter last week. The comedian was joking with fans on the social media site when one of his quips went too far. 

Asked by a follower, "Is this how you spell lasonia?" Martin shot back: "It depends. Are you in an African-American neighborhood or at an Italian restaurant?" 

Martin, who quickly deleted the tweet, later explained, "I was riffing on Twitter, inviting people to ask me grammar questions. I replied with what I hoped were funny answers." He continued, "I was going along fine when someone wrote, 'How do 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." 

Noting, too, that he had been misquoted on some websites, Martin also reminded his fans, "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."

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(Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

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