By Jim Hagerty
A day after she appeared on NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly, Rockford native Natasha Leggero is under fire for a remark made about aging World War II veterans during two-hour special.
Known for her racy standup act and off-colored wit, Leggero was discussing a controversial SpaghettiOs ad showing the mascot holding an American flag with fellow hosts, Anthony Anderson, Jane Lynch and Carson Daly.
The ad was part of a Campbell’s campaign to honor Pearl Harbor Day and was accused of mocking the 1941 military strike.
After Lynch quipped about whether SpaghettiOs can legitimately be considered pasta, Leggero added a punch line that may be as loud as the Japanese torpedoes that shook America to its core 72 years ago.
“I mean, it sucks that the only survivors of Pearl Harbor are being mocked by the only food they can still chew. It’s just sad,” Leggero said.
Anderson (NYPD Blue, The Departed, Treme) barely restrained himself from complete laughter while Lynch (Hollywood Game Night, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Glee, etc.) and Daly took the comment in stride. Viewers, however, angrily took to the social media in response.
“I was appalled at your remarks on last night’s show,” a user posted on Leggero’s Facebook page. “Hope to never see you on television again!”
Leggero’s Facebook page is liked by more than 37,000 people.
On Twitter, newsfeeds buzzed with hundreds of tweets about the comment and a Change.org petition is calling for Leggero to visit veterans and apologize in person.
“I believe Natasha Leggero needs to apologize to ALL WWII vets,” the petition reads. “One way she could do this would be to visit any VA hospital…. . What she chose to say on New Year’s Eve was NOT funny at all. We have many of those veterans in VA hospitals all across the country living their last days as peaceful (sic) as possible.”
So far, Leggero hasn’t commented. Members of her family said they weren’t offended by the remark and that the Rockford East graduate was just doing what she does best–telling jokes.
“Natasha is very kindhearted and respectful,” a relative said on Facebook. “She is a comedian and she has an ‘act.’ I was with a number of people last night and no one was offended by her comment and we all support our vets.
“I think our reaction to comments is based on our perception and her intention was not to mock. I did not see it that way at all and no, I am not ashamed of her at all. (I) am very proud of all she has accomplished on her own coming from a small town.”
Legerro, 39, got her professional start at the former New American Theater in Rockford. After high school, she moved to New York and earned a degree in theater criticism from Hunter College. She has since enjoyed a successful standup career that spawned the 2011 comedy album, Coke Money.
Leggero’s litany of TV appearances include slots on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Chelsey Lately, Comedy Central Roasts and Arrested Development. Her hit YouTube series, ‘Tubbin’ with Tash, features an array of comedic guests who join her for conversation in her hot tub.
Spokesmen for NBC were also not available for comment.
Posted Jan. 1, 2014