If the misinformed #CancelColbert campaign teaches us anything, it should be that the premise of a joke is just as important as its punch line. Twitter erupted Thursday evening when The Colbert Report’s official Twitter page tweeted a joke from Wednesday night’s episode. On the show, Stephen Colbert, the well-known satirist, pointed out the absurdity of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s response to the controversy over his team’s racially-charged name. Snyder announced the start of “The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation” which “inspired” the late night pundit to found is own charitable organization. “I am willing to show the Asian community I care by introducing The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” Hilarious, in context. However, due to our society’s need to boil content down to 140 characters, it seems the person in charge of The Colbert Report‘s feed on Twitter only tweeted the punch line of the joke.
— Suey Park (@suey_park) March 28, 2014
The Twittersphere soon had the hashtag #CancelColbert trending with cries of outrage about the show being racist and mean-hearted (and transphobic?). People called for Comedy Central to bring the host’s reign of terror to an end. Many may not have realized that Colbert does not run the @ColbertReport Twitter account, which deleted the tweet as controversy grew. The account isn’t even run by the show, but rather by Comedy Central. Colbert responded from his own account with this:
— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) March 28, 2014
The joke, taken out of context, could appear to be a random stab at #Asians. Most of the angry tweeters may not know that the segment closed with, “I owe all this sensitivity to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. So Asians, send your thank you letters to him, not me.” A potential error in judgment reminds us all how jokes work and the important value of context.
For context, inform yourself and check out the segment below — especially around the 4:45 mark — instead of mindlessly reading updates on your Twitter feed in order to justify your knee-jerk reactions.