Lemon: Be careful what you tweet
01:40 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

The comedian lands in hot water after inviting people to ask him questions on Twitter

He posts a response that appeared to some to be insulting African-Americans

"It's your brain, a button, then millions of reactions," he writes

CNN  — 

In days of yore, comedian Steve Martin said he used to try out jokes in clubs and adjust them based on an audience’s feedback.

“Today, the process is faster. It’s your brain, a button, then millions of reactions,” he said on his website.

Martin was writing Monday to explain himself after sending a tweet that, by his own admission, was “unfortunate.”

“To those who were offended, again, I offer a deep, sincere, and humble apology without reservation,” he wrote. “But I feel I need to tell you the context and origin of the joke.”

The storm started Friday when he invited people to ask him grammar questions on Twitter.

Someone wrote, “Is this how you spell lasonia?” to which Martin replied: “It depends. Are you in an African-American neighborhood or at 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,” he wrote on his website.

“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.”

The story didn’t stop there.

Martin said his tweet was picked up and quoted, inaccurately, by various outlets, including Salon.

“It depends. Are you in an African-American restaurant or at an Italian restaurant,” Salon said Martin wrote, suggesting he meant to imply that African-American restaurants can’t spell “lasagna.”

The inaccurate version spread, and Martin said he felt he “couldn’t get out of hell.”

“Comedy is treacherous,” he wrote. “But it’s my job to know.”