Patton Oswalt makes Asian name joke, in response to racist KTVU news report

As a TV station and NTSB come under fire for a racist prank, the comedian says "Wi So Solly" is their new PR guy

Published July 13, 2013 2:13PM (EDT)

  (AP/Charles Sykes)
(AP/Charles Sykes)

Here's Patton Oswalt's response to the racist mega screw-up by a Bay Area TV station which reported "Wi Tu Lo" and "Ho Lee Fuk" were among the pilots of the crashed Asiana Airlines flight.

Yes, it's an Asian name joke of his own!

On Twitter, the comedian cracked that "KTVU has announced hiring PR spokesman Wi So Solly."

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The station has apologized, as has the National Transportation Safety Board, which blamed a summer intern for confirming the names.

No word yet on whether Oswalt's summer intern is writing his new material.

UPDATE: Well, I guess we know it was Oswalt himself and not his summer intern who wrote that  joke.

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To be clear: We get the joke, funny man. And might have laughed -- in fourth grade.

UPDATE: This seems to be a night where it's clear why race remains central, and why crude and unsophisticated elementary school jokes about it need to be called out, no matter how bullying the joke's teller may be.

So the reliably pedantic and thin-skinned Patton Oswalt wants to defend his poorly crafted joke rather than admit it fell short of being funny, and fired off a barrage of Twitter attacks against Salon all afternoon -- most of them of the "you're so politically correct" variety that probably also weren't all that smart when he first told them in 1993.

Let's start with the fact that there's nothing less funny than analyzing joke. But Oswalt's slightly unhinged tweets are all based around a big lie: He claims, now, that the target of the joke is actually the Oakland TV station, KTVU, which aired the racist report.

But here's what he actually wrote: "SF news station KTVU has announced hiring PR spokesman Wi So Solly to address the Asiania Airlines on-air gaffe."

No one who laughed at that joke did so because he ripped the TV station a new one. No, they laughed at the actual punch line, the Asian name "Wi So Sorry." Oswalt's a savvy enough comic not to need a lesson in Satire 101, but satire and irony in a joke like this are all about who is targeted. And the punch line is not about KTVU. It's targeting a funny Asian name -- and in a way that even Bart Simpson would have found tired and unoriginal.

When Oswalt insists the target of the joke was KTVU, he protests way too much. Even his most infantile fans who liked and retweeted and commented on his joke knew full well what was funny about it. So they added onto the thread about the newscasts's weathercaster, named oh-so-cleverly Mi So Horny, and about the general manager of the station. Yes, General Tso. You know, like the chicken! 

The chicken in this case is Patton Oswalt. First, because if he really believes that this wasn't a joke about an Asian name, targeting Asian people, he sure didn't stop anyone in his comments from crossing the racist joke line, a line which he at least only tiptoed up to himself. I waded through his Twitter feed for some time and if Oswalt asked for those jokes to stop, it happened after I crawled out of that cesspool.

But really, this is the same tired line we've heard from Oswalt and other comedians before. They're all about free speech for themselves to make whatever joke they want, and whenever anyone uses their own speech to counter them, they're politically correct prudes who just can't take a joke. Don't you know, this is their art! And their art can't be constrained by, oh, basic decency.

Too bad the art he's so fervently defending has all the smarts and sophistication of a boy's first poop joke. Those boys, at least, someday grow up.

By David Daley

David Daley, former editor-in-chief of Salon, is the author of the national bestseller “Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count” and “Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy.”

MORE FROM David Daley

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Asiana Airlines Ktvu Ntsb Patton Oswalt Twitter