Six years ago, many an aspiring comedian dreamed of writing the perfect Tweet or series of Tweets that would launch their careers as stand-ups or comedy writers.
Today, the best that comedian can hope for is an onscreen mention on @midnight, probably. The worst? Death threats.
Stephen Spinola has experienced both of those extremes in the past year.
Last January, Spinola’s submission of “The Bongfather” for @midnight’s call for suggestions of #WeedMovies landed his avatar and Twitter on the Comedy Central program.
— Stephen Spinola (@Mr_McStevie) January 6, 2016
This January, his offhanded Twitter jokes about 10-year-old Barron Trump, youngest child of new President Donald Trump, got him noticed by Alex Jones — the same Alex Jones who broadcasts his independent conspiracy theories and propaganda under the banner of InfoWars. The same Alex Jones who inspired a guy to shoot his gun inside a Washington pizzeria because Jones continued to claim falsely that Hillary Clinton was harboring criminals in the pizzerias basement. That’s the very short version of what people are talking about when they say “pizzagate,” but since it’s all based on lies and misinformation, that’s all you need to know. Someone from North Carolina brought his gun into the pizza shop and started shooting because Jones and his InfoWars told their listeners/viewers to conduct their own investigations. Jones via InfoWars also continues to spread the lie that the Sandy Hook massacre never even happened. And Trump not only condones Jones and InfoWars, but is reportedly mulling giving them White House press credentials. This is what is happening now.
Spinola had used his @midnight credit (and an offer from Viacom to join the network’s “CC: Social Scene” initiative to drive more traffic to Comedy Central projects) to alter his Twitter bio to read “Comedy Central content contributor.”
Spinola began receiving death threats. And a petition emerged on Change.org, collecting more than 120,000 signatures, for Comedy Central to fire Spinola.
Except, of course, Comedy Central never had Spinola on its payroll. The petitioners removed Spinola’s name on Wednesday. “I received a kind notice from Change.org that they received a claim from Viacom alleging that the content in regards to Stephen Spinola is untrue. Viacom has validated that the reference to Stephen Spinola being a “Comedy Central contributor” or in any way employed by Comedy Central or Viacom is false. Sincere apologies to Viacom. We are glad to hear this news.”
But the spiraling of actually “fake news” spread through the conservative web — to RedAlertPolitics, The Daily Caller, The Ralph Retort, The Truth Division, Heat Street — and through social media to anyone willing to buy into the idea that Spinola worked for Comedy Central and must be stopped.
And so the death threats haven’t stopped.
“People keep posting the story with incorrect info on different mediums and it is coming in with waves of harassment,” Spinola wrote to me today. “People still want me to get fired from Comedy Central lol. This is a disaster with no seeming end unless I give up and delete myself from the internet. They are going around to all the videos I’ve ever made and claiming that I’m a rapist, that I touch boys, and death threats. It’s pretty unbelievable and I’m ashamed at the comedians that have been telling me this will blow over and are not posting about it on their social media pages. This directly effects the way comedy will be received by our country in the future.”
He posted this on Facebook on Tuesday:
And this on Twitter:
— Stephen Spinola (@Mr_McStevie) January 25, 2017
Today, Spinola remains worried that his seven years spent trying to build a comedy career will be all for naught now, and that his Trump Tweets — which he deleted and apologized for — might end his career before it ever takes off. He noticed how Dan Harmon and other big names in comedy already have offered Katie Rich future employment if Saturday Night Live never decides to reinstate her writing gig there.
“I’m not going to be okay,” Spinola told The Comic’s Comic. “Nobody is offering work to the guy that Comedy Central is calling a liar in direct tweets to the right wing media. They are literally causing more death threats.”