[Full disclosure: I think Tosh is funny, both his show and his stand-up. If that is an immediate deal-breaker for you then I just saved you from having to read the rest of this post. You are welcome.]
Many of the articles written on Daniel Tosh’s rape joke extravaganza begin with the following clip which is meant both to illustrate his boiling hatred of women as well as his manifest unfunniness.
I laughed at this. I’ll explain later.
Daniel Tosh is the new WORST PERSON WHO’S EVAR SAID ANYTHING EVAR! At least according to half of the internet. Or most of the internet for me because it seems like every outlet I go to is tripping over themselves to condemn Tosh as not only a promoter of raping but the least funny person to step on stage since Andrew Dice Clay.
If you missed the story Tosh went overboard dealing with a heckler and according to this anonymous blogger, Tosh allegedly said the following to the anonymous blogger’s friend:
“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…”
He later tweeted a somewhat half-assed apology that was interpreted as admitting that things went down in the way the blogger claimed.
According to a follow-up on Buzzfeed though there is some question as to the anonymous blogger’s version of events. (The blogger has refused to comment to the media so far) The owner of the Laugh Factory, Jamie Masada (who has his own conflict of interest but we’ll give him at least the same benefit of the doubt as the anonymous blogger) claims it was much less aggressive if still offensive and that the woman and her friend did not leave immediately but watched the rest of the show and then complained. His version:
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 goes on to say:
Masada says that the woman then sat through the rest of Tosh’s set — which received a standing ovation — before complaining to the manager about Tosh’s joke.
Well now what? This is the internet. The internet dial has two settings when it comes to controversy: SELF-RIGHTEOUS DEFENSIVENESS and OUTRAGE FOREVER!
My guess is that Tosh’s reply to the heckler fell somewhere in the middle but leaning towards offensive. A little too much anger; not enough wit. It was enough that he apologized. Though if it were as gruesome as she claims on her blog (if she wrote it verbatim then it is definitely over the line) wouldn’t at least one other person in the crowd of 280 come forward and confirm or deny? Everybody wants to put their two sense in on everything anyway. And it was at a club in LA for christ sake’s! Where’s the fame whores? Come! Claim your 15 seconds! Tell us what happened!
Of course everybody had to weigh in to show just how totes into feminismand chicks and stuff they were. Never miss an opportunity to be outraged and show everyone your moral rectitude. Those on the defensiveness side tended to take to Twitter. You can find numerous comics standing up for Daniel Tosh (some are pretty funny).
There were a few nuanced responses to the whole thing particularly Lindy West (of whom I’m a super fan boy and if you don’t like her then OUTRAGE FOREVER at you) at Jezebel who takes Tosh to task and also illustrates the difference between a funny rape joke (the person violated is not the butt of the joke) and not a funny rape joke (it makes fun of the victim or just isn’t funny).
For me personally, there is nothing that’s off the menu in the context of comedians telling jokes as long as the intent is not malicious. That’s where Tosh went off the rails here. If we believe the blogger’s version of events; this is malicious. If it was the comedy club owner’s version it sounds more lazy than anything which deserves its own disapprobation.
And it is completely justified to take him to task for saying offensive stuff. However, do it on your own time. A standup show is not a Yahoo! article. Your opinion during the show doesn’t matter. Go home and blog about it. Or have your friend blog about it.
I saw Transformers 3 in the theater. I wanted to see some advanced crossbows, like the ones here, but in the movie. I’m not proud of it. At no point did it occur to me to stand up and say “This plot is worse than pubic hair soup!” Other patrons would have justly wished for my speedy death. Think about the opera. You’d be slapped across the face with a white glove and challenged to a duel if you hopped up and shouted “Boring!” in the middle of an aria.
The grandiose posturing after the fact is embarrassing. As is the confusing of rape jokes and actual rape. I know it’s fun to make sweeping statements like “Rape jokes are never funny” but that’s not true. Rape jokes are very difficult. They require you to be extra funny/clever/witty to make up for the topic. But they can be funny.
Even when they are about Tosh’s sister. The point of that joke is how depraved he and his sister are that rape is a practical joke. It’s an absurd premise with an even more absurd response from the sister. He’s illustrating how horrible of a person you’d have to be to think that rape is a hilarious episode of Punk’d. And the joke is framed by the victim, not Tosh. The humor is in the interpretation of the rape. Not the rape itself. It’s in the same vein as Sarah Silverman’s joke “I was raped by a doctor…which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.” (Tosh’s joke isn’t in Sarah’s league either in cleverness or economy, in my opinion)
(Oh and I love the Hot Pockets throwaway line at the end. “I had another comic friend finish that joke for me.” I think these are the sort of great absurdist lines that get lost in the offensive shuffle with Tosh.)
Another thing The Outrage Machine forgets is that rape jokes aren’t actual rape. Actual rape is not funny. It’s abhorrent. It is the worst expression of a paternalistic society. Standing up against rape jokes is to standing up against actual rape as liking a KONY 2012 video is to standing up against child soldiers. You didn’t do anything.
Or in this case, all you did was interrupt a comedy show.
The only actual good thing to come of this woman’s blog post is that it got everyone talking about the issue of actual rape and actual violence towards women. These are things that should be discussed. People who engage in these behaviors should have their dicks cut off and then forced to listen to castration jokes.
The witch-hunt to ferret out rape jokes is a sanctimonious jaunt designed to congratulate oneself publicly for how right thinking and wonderful they are.
And think about what else we are doing when we valorize this blogger’s friend. This person sat in a group of people and decided that her experience and her view of a situation was not only valid (which it is) but was more valid than anyone else at the clubs (it isn’t) and that she simply had to make sure everyone knew this because after all she knew what was right and good and she needed to protect everyone else, because well, she knew what was best for everybody.
Of course it sounds a little to paternalistic when you say it that way. But, no matter. Rage on internet. Rage on.