Robin Williams vs. Australia vs. Alabama

Call it a case of he said, he said. On the Letterman show the other night, guest Robin Williams told a joke in which he called Australians “basically English rednecks.” Understandably, this pissed Australia off, as evidenced by the ire of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Appearing on a radio program, he offered the following advice to the logorrheic comedian: “I think Robin Williams should go and spend a bit of time in Alabama before he frames comments about anyone being particularly redneck.” Touché. Only now somebody else is pissed off.

Turns out the denizens of the (great?) state of Alabama don’t relish being called “rednecks” any more than the Aussies, and Governor Bob Riley was quick to address the slight. “I’m not sure if Prime Minister Rudd has ever been to Alabama. If he has, he would know that Alabamians are decent, hard working, creative people.” Touché again.

Rudd has yet to issue anything in the way of an apology, but Williams has. On still another radio show (this time it was Fox), he offered to modify the joke in the future, replacing the offending term with the much clunkier “English good old boy”—this despite the fact that he’s told the joke in Australia before without incident. Who knew that “redneck” was such an incendiary term to begin with? A comedian can’t even lob it around without causing an international fracas.

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