Let's All Shut Up About Tosh's Rape Joke
On Friday night of last week, Daniel Tosh performed at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles. If you have an Internet connection, you've probably read about it by now. While performing material about rape jokes and how they are always funny, an audience member took umbrage. She decided to take a stand by declaring, "Actually rape jokes are never funny!"
After being called out, Tosh paused for a moment before responding, “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…” This shocked the audience member who then decided to leave the show. And then tell a friend what happened. That friend then posted the events on their tumblr page.
And then a shitstorm began.
Lines were drawn. One side declaring that Daniel Tosh is a douchebag hack who should be held accountable. While the other side declared that people were just being too sensitive and should avoid comedy that isn't to their tastes. Neither side is really adding anything to the discussion except distracting noise. So... shut up.
To recap: a woman went to a comedy club. She called out that the comedian wasn't being funny. To the comic. In a comedy club. As nasty and ugly as it is, we're at a point where a comic is expected to eviscerate anyone that disrupts them. Even if it's a disruption designed to encourage the comic. Male or female, their reputation is staked on it. If you interrupt the show, you're doing so at your own risk. No matter how you are handled by the comic, you're going to have the attention shifted to you. That's what happens when you yell in a public space. Chances are that you will then have your ass handed to you. It's because the audience demands to see the blood on the knife. Those who come out on either the winning or the losing side of this exchange have no right to open it up to a larger public.
And yes, I do realize the irony of saying she was asking for it. I'm not trying to defend rape jokes or rape or rapists or basic cable television hosts who wear unflattering sweaters. As a man, I'm conflicted to even have an opinion toward this issue. I can never know the horror of rape or imagine my recourse should it touch my life personally. However, I am a defender of time and place. I'm of the mind that jokes shouldn't leave the context in which they are told. The 'you had to be there' adage is true. Daniel Tosh is a gleeful fartknocker who gets his kicks by pushing the envelope. Dark humor is his sandbox. If you don't like it, then you don't like it and that's where you are at the end of the day.
The woman in this situation had every right to be offended. It's common practice for comedians to work the room and make fun of the spectators. I've had it happen to me. Unprovoked. In the moment, yes, I was offended because I don't think there's anything wrong with my hair but I recognized what was happening at that time -- a comic struggling to keep the attention focused on them decided to lash out. Their punchlines weren't connecting and they felt backed against the wall. I let it slide because the comments were made in the spirit of humor (my hair is awesome though), and though she had the right to be offended, she didn't have the right to be scared.
Had he yelled this out in traffic or a frat house, then yes that would be scary. But here the fear was unwarranted. First of all, she was sitting at the Laugh Factory. They really frown against rape occurring on their premises unless they are the ones doing it to your wallet. I highly doubt they would let a young woman be raped while in their audience, especially if she hadn't yet fulfilled her two drink minimum. Nor do I think Tosh's response sparked inspiration among the other audience members. No one was thinking, "Hey. Yeah! Gang-raping that girl would be good for a goof. Let me round up four friends!!"
Next, the girl left the club and her friend blogged about the incident, ending her post with the message: "Please reblog and spread the word." And then Tosh apologized via Twitter for some reason. That reason of course being that Comedy Central's shareholders don't want to be painted as advocates of rape. Certainly not during an ugly, public feud with a satellite cable provider. Much like this discussion doesn't deserve to be a discussion, this situation didn't deserve an apology. The bigger issue is not the joke itself but the reaction to it. If we are going to sit and judge what comedy is allowed, and what comedy needs an apology, we need to shut down stand-up comedy and sitcoms forever.
Tosh's humor is designed to offend, but to suddenly take exception because it's something that challenges your beliefs is ridiculous. What about the Mexicans in the room? Or the Hurricane Katrina victims? Would you laugh if his jokes were pointed at them? Chances are, yes, in an 'oh, no he didn't!', sort of way. That's how he's buttered his bread all of these years.
All that aside, my real point is: just shut up. I'm not talking to Tosh or the butt of his joke. I'm talking to the rest of us. We have no right to get worked up about this. It doesn't deserve our attention. It didn't nor should it ever concern us. By talking about it, we're perpetuating it. The offended woman doesn't need me criticizing her, nor does she need you defending her. Neither does Daniel Tosh. If you have a bone to pick with Daniel Tosh's comedy, you should have spoken out about it before his recent performance. Why wasn't anyone offended to the point of protest sooner? If the issue of offensive comedy was that important to you, you would have.
Refocus your energy into something that benefits you by policing your own life instead of creating an issue where there shouldn't be one. I'm talking to myself just as much as I'm talking to you.