Feb 15, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT
Funny thing about social media: the more famous you are as a comedian, the less funny you seem to be on Twitter. Many of the big names in comedy have jumped aboard the Twitter machine in recent years — Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Albert Brooks and Robin Williams are examples. But with few exceptions they’ve all struggled with the new medium: none I’ve just mentioned are particularly amusing in 140 characters or less. It’s like that time Milton Berle was on Saturday Night Live — he was just a generation too late.
And such seems to be the case with one of my favorite Monty Python alums, John Cleese. Mr. Cleese typed out a tweet on Valentine’s Day in which he referenced the Oscar Pistorius shooting (dubious comedy territory to begin with), which went thusly:
For those not familiar with British slang, “legless” basically means drunk.
The tweet has 2,576 retweets and 626 favorites so far because, well, Cleese has 2.4 million followers, and many think that he can do no wrong. Oh look, Basil Fawlty has gotten himself into another jam! Others, however, were not so very amused.
Then Cleese broke the first rule of Twitter: if you bomb, own it. Weak non-apology apologies are worse than the offending tweets themselves (just ask about any college or pro athlete).
In my opinion, Cleese should have followed the advice of another of his iconic screen characters: sheriff John Langston in the film Silverado. When he saw the Pistorius story, instead of pulling out his cell phone, he should have simply said: “Today my jurisdiction ends here.”
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