Over the weekend, a blogger on “Cookies For Breakfast” wrote about a friend’s experience at a Daniel Tosh comedy show — highlighting how the comedian had made several rape jokes — and even encouraged the audience to rape the woman for speaking out against his offensive rape commentary.
According to the blog post, the woman in question was offended by Tosh’s rape jokes, and yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes aren’t funny!” In response, Tosh said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her?”
As is typical of this type of controversy (see also: Michael Richards and Tracy Morgan), the incident went viral, and Tosh soon issued the most cursory of non-apologetic apologies, tweeting, “All the out of context misquotes aside, I’d like to sincerely apologize.” He then followed up by explaining “the point i was making before I was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them.
So Tosh was making rape jokes to point out how terrible rape is. He’s a regular activist! But more than Tosh’s response to the heckler being offensive and threatening, it was lazy and uncreative. Making a rape joke is easy. If the best you can do to handle a heckler is to threaten her with rape, then you’re probably not a very good comedian.
But Tosh’s lack of comedy skills seem to elude his defenders. In the aftermath of the incident both Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada and fellow comedian Louis C.K. came to Tosh’s defense (Though he’s got plenty of detractors, like Martha Plimpton, who tweeted, “
@danieltosh I can’t wait to hear your ‘lynching is funny!’ bit. Or would that be a little TOO dangerous?”) Said Masada, “Comedians sometimes tell jokes and sometimes they can be off color. I think Daniel Tosh is one of the funniest comics alive. He is one of the most caring people I know. He had no intentions of hurting anyone.” And Louis C.K., who also defended Tracy Morgan after he made homophobic comments in a stand up routine, took to Twitter to offer tacit support, writing, “Your show makes me laugh every time I watch it. And you have pretty eyes.”
Masada also denied that Tosh made a personal attack. “I understand where she is coming from, but Daniel Tosh did not attack this young lady,” he said. “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.”
It seems Masada has a rather warped sense of what’s funny. Telling a comedian that his rape jokes aren’t funny is hardly “dishing out something to a comic [trying] to be funny.”
There are those that might say that the woman was “asking for it” simply by attending the show. Tosh is, after all, fairly well known for his incendiary comic style. And even if one hadn’t seen his stand up before, his Comedy Central show, “Tosh 2.0,” offers a multitude of offensive tropes (his favorite targets include the obese, the eccentric and just women in general). Tosh’s bread and butter is being offensive. But there’s a difference between making a rape joke (which is terrible, granted) and directing a rape joke at a particular member of your audience.
What Tosh did was couch a direct threat in a hypothetical scenario. And as the woman in question notes:
“I should probably add that having to basically flee while Tosh was enthusing about how hilarious it would be if I was gang-raped in that small, claustrophic room was pretty viscerally terrifying and threatening all the same, even if the actual scenario was unlikely to take place. The suggestion of it is violent enough and was meant to put me in my place.”
And what’s the “place” of women in comedy? Certainly not subjects but objects. After all, women can’t be funny — that’s been debated ad nauseam– but raping women is realllllly hilarious.
It sucks that we live in a world where that kind of pushing the envelope is considered so hilarious by so many. Tosh’s fans will defend his right to make rape jokes, claiming that this it’s comedy’s job to make us feel uncomfortable and squirmy. But in Daniel Tosh’s case, “uncomfortable” crosses over to “physically threatened.” And there’s nothing funny about that.