The Twitter-verse exploded this week after a question and answer session with comedy legend Steve Martin went awry.
The 68-year-old Hollywood veteran was counseling tweeters on the finer points of grammar when a question came in regarding the correct spelling of the Italian dish lasagna.
“I was going along fine when someone wrote, ‘Is this how you spell “lasonia?”’ said Martin, who later addressed the situation on his personal website, SteveMartin.com.
“It depends if you are in an African American neighborhood or an Italian restaurant,” Martin said in a reply which has since been deleted from his Twitter account.
“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,” said Martin in his 522-word explanation of the issue. The remainder of the session concluded without incident, including questions about the correct placement of commas and apostrophes.
To make matters worse, several news outlets including TMZ, Salon, and Twitchy picked up on an incorrect version of the tweet and reported that Martin said the spelling depended on whether you were in an “African American restaurant” or an “Italian restaurant.”
Though Martin admitted the original tweet was “inappropriate,” the inaccurate statement only added to the public backlash, as it implied that the comedian believed the dish would be spelled incorrectly at a Black establishment.
“Comedy is treacherous,” said Martin. “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.”
The Grammy Award-winning writer, producer, and actor is best known for his television and film roles in movies such as “Father of the Bride,” “Bringing Down the House,” “The Pink Panther” and “Baby Mama.”