So there’s this comedian, Daniel Tosh. He has a show on Comedy Central, Tosh.0, in which he makes fun of internet videos. I’ve seen it, since I’m basically married to a twelve-year-old boy when it comes to shows about fart jokes and drunk people doing stupid things. I don’t find the show funny, I don’t find him funny, and I would never go see him in a comedy club.
And I’m no comedy elitist: I love Family Guy, South Park, Louis CK, and a site I came across last night that shows pictures of cats looking bored while their owners record amateur porn in the background (or, sometimes, the foreground). I laugh my ass off at Comedy Central roasts, no matter how wrong they get. I don’t get offended easily.
But when I heard that Tosh had told a woman in his audience at the Laugh Factory that it would be funny if she were gang raped, my gut reaction was “What an asshole. That’s just wrong.” Which confused me, because normally I stand up for a comedian’s right to say whatever.
Basically, what happened was that Tosh made a comment that even rape jokes can be funny, and a woman in the audience got offended and yelled back that actually, no they can’t. And according to this woman, Tosh responded with the following:
Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…
And I watched as blog posts popped up about it. There are basically two key points being argued: Can rape jokes be funny, and do comedians get a pass just because they’re comedians? I watched as people took sides on both issues, and I got more confused. I agreed with all of them.
Some defend the concept that yes, even rape jokes can be funny. Lindy West – who will go down in history as having written the funniest review ever of a bad movie – picked apart some rape jokes and analyzed why they were funny. While I don’t agree with all of her examples, I do agree with her overall premise that as long as the rape victim is not the butt of the joke, the joke has a shot. It’s like when Kate Winslet said on Extras that she was only playing a nun in a holocaust movie so that she could finally win an Oscar. She wasn’t making dead Jews the butt of the joke, she was making fun of Hollywood and her own ambitions. Hilarious.
This collection of tweets from women makes the point that there is a “rape culture” that demeans women and makes violence seem OK by making a joke out of it. I think that’s true. It’s obvious from the threats these women got that some men still think women should shut up, and that if raping them is the only way to make that happen, then go for it. Does that mean that comedians shouldn’t be able to make jokes about rape? I don’t agree with that.
It’s like saying that video games make kids violent, so we have to ban violent video games, when the real issue is why some kids would let video games influence them, instead of thinking for themselves. I suspect that some people are just born assholes and don’t need much encouragement to flourish, and thinking you can stop rape by not letting people make jokes about it is like saying you can stop violence by not letting kids play cops and robbers.
Some claim that while comedians are entitled to make fun of any subject, they are not obligated to. And to this I say, only do it if you’re sure it’s funny. If you’re joking about rape or the holocaust or September 11th or whatever, and you’re doing it to be “edgy” or because you think it’s “brave” to go there, then you’re an attention whore and probably not funny. But I do believe that yes, a skilled comedian and writer can make a funny joke out of ANY subject, and if they’re good at it they should go for it.
This Daniel Tosh rape joke controversy really has me second guessing some of my rapes.
— Anthony Jeselnik (@anthonyjeselnik) July 11, 2012
See, that made me chuckle.
I understand where she is coming from, but Daniel Tosh did not attack this young lady. I feel bad for her and I apologize to her. If you are a member of the audience and you start dishing out something to a comic and try to be funny, you better be able to take it.
[Jamie] Masada says Tosh asked the audience, “What you guys want to talk about?” After someone in the front said “rape,” a woman in the audience started screaming, “No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it.” Then, Masada says, “Daniel came in, and he said, ‘Well it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys’ — something like that. I really didn’t hear properly.”
He continues, “It was a comment — it wasn’t a joke at the expense of this girl.”
If Jamie Masada is right (and he says he didn’t hear properly), I completely fail to see how on any level that comment wasn’t at the expense of the woman in the audience. It’s no better than the comment the woman claims Tosh made. So the owner really doesn’t have much credibility with me at this point.
The club owner went on to compare it to the last really big incident at his club, when Michael Richards went off on a racist rant:
Michael Richards came from hatred. Daniel Tosh did not — it was a joke and that’s what comedians do.
And that’s when the light bulb went off for me. Why all of those other blog posts were missing the point of what happened.
My blogging friend Marinka’s post came closest to arguing the point I’m about to make, when she said that Tosh’s comment came from a place of anger, not humor. But she spent most of the post talking about jokes, and that’s the main problem with the arguments being made for and against what Tosh said. Everybody’s talking about jokes, and what comedians should and shouldn’t do, and what’s funny.
And that completely misses the point.
I am convinced, 100%, that Daniel Tosh was not making a joke. Yes, he was in a comedy club, in front of an audience, being paid to make jokes. But in that moment, when he talked about an actual, specific member of his audience being gang raped, he wasn’t joking.
I don’t mean that he actually wanted five guys to go over to her and rape her. I mean that he felt threatened, and was threatening her back to make her shut up.
Going up on a stage trying to get people to laugh has to be one of the most terrifying things you can do to yourself that doesn’t involve heights or toddlers. And having someone in the audience yell something at you that’s basically saying “You’re not being funny! I came here to be entertained!” has to make a person panic, whether the audience member is offended or drunk or just hard to entertain.
And I think in that moment, Tosh left his comedian self and reverted back to a scared little boy, and let loose the nastiest, fiercest threat he could think of.
So let’s not let this argument be about jokes. Tosh wasn’t trying to make a joke. He was trying to threaten a woman into shutting up. And there’s nothing at all funny about that.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.