DISCLAIMER: This article was written with the intention for publication with a news outlet. Editor informed me that, although she enjoyed the read, it ended up not being the right “fit” for their audience. Alas. This is why I have a blog. Enjoy?
“Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now?”
How about – “Wouldn’t it be funny if Daniel Tosh actually made a clever joke right now?”
You see, once the news came out that comedian Daniel Tosh had made the aforementioned rape comment after being heckled by a female audience member during a recent spot at the Laugh Factory, everyone from news outlets to fellow comedians to “activists” (ie people who think they’re so morally righteous that their words have weight on Twitter) had an opinion, and they let it be known.
Cries of “freedom of speech” and “you can’t censor comedy!” were juxtaposed against assertions that “you shouldn’t joke about rape” and that “one in four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.”
And while all those points have an element of validity to them, there’s one point missing. In my opinion, the real crime:
Daniel Tosh, in that moment, was just…not…funny.
(Yes, I realize calling a comedian unfunny is the equivalent of telling a guy that his you-know-what is small, but hey, maybe some girls are into that?)
If you’re going to attack and offend in the name of comedy, by all means, do so – just make sure what you’re saying is actually funny (that’s the whole point of comedy, right? Being funny?) I understand that humor is subjective, and one person’s Mozart is another person’s Ke$ha, however I think it’s fair to say that the statement “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now” wasn’t the most clever comeback to a girl yelling “rape is never funny” from the crowd. In fact, labeling it “comedy” and forcing us to appreciate the idea is like…comedy rape (in other words, ‘humor’ that is forced upon to an unwilling audience.)
Now, in Tosh’s defense, I understand where he was coming from. While I’m not justifying Tosh’s actions (again because I don’t think what he deemed as a ‘joke’ was funny, I’ve heard/made much better rape jokes), I do think it’s important to apply that old adage of putting “yourself in someone else’s shoes” and understanding what drives comedians to do what they do.
No comedian enjoys getting heckled. In fact, for some, it’s a reminder of the days of their youth, when they were likely the outcast, sitting at the un-cool table at lunch. It’s widely understood that most comics (most, not all) have some sort of troubled past, some disconcerting upbringing that has compelled them to want to pursue a career that gives one the freedom and the platform to say whatever you want and have people actually listen.
The problem arises when this power is challenged. The comedy club heckler is the equivalent to the school bully. So naturally, a comic goes into a defensive mode and immediately attacks through humor, the crowd laughs, and everyone moves on.
If Tosh had said something clever about rape, a funny joke that proved to the female heckler that rape actually could be funny, that, in my opinion, would have been a better response than just saying “wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now?” To be honest, that comment just shows a lack of effort and a lack of quick-wittedness on the part of the comedian (he might as well have responded with that classic elementary school diss of, “Your Mom!”)
As for Tosh’s next move? While he could profusely apologize and censor any and all references to sexual assault from his material from here on out, I think that as a comic, he should use this incident to fuel creativity. In fact, he should work on writing really good, thought-provoking, hilarious jokes that involve offensive subject matter, so that the next time someone heckles him and yells that “rape is never funny”, he’ll actually be able to prove to them that “no, sometimes it actually is.”
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