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WBEZ apologizes for Polish joke

Comedy is inherently risky, as the folks at WBEZ Chicago’s show “Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!” found out this week after one of the cast told a joke about Polish people and light bulbs.

The joke, heard on the Oct. 26 broadcast of the show, prompted an angry letter from the Polish consul general in Chicago and then an apology from the show’s executive producer, Michael Danforth.

“Finding that right mix of irreverence and comedy is a risky business and we sometimes step over the line,” Danforth wrote to Consul General Paulina Kapuscinska. “Never is it our intention to offend. Therefore we are grateful to our listeners for letting us know if a particular joke or story went too far. Since we failed in that objective, please accept my apology on behalf of the staff of Wait Wait.”

The offending joke, told during the “Bluff the Listener” segment, referred to the number of Poles it takes to screw in a light bulb. The joke drew loud applause from the studio audience.

“Jokes such as these offend your listeners in a number of ways: Firstly, they are xenophobic in nature and present Chicago NPR (WBEZ) as promoters of prejudice; secondly, they are some of the most unsophisticated of jokes, which offend the intellect of NPR listeners; and lastly, they promote untrue stereotypes about Poles and Poland,” Kapuscinska wrote in a letter posted on the consul general’s website.

Contributing: Stefano Esposito



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