This Monday I was flipping through channels on my flight to California and I landed on Comedy Central. It’s been three hours, I have two or three more to go, so I figure, why not. My uncle loves this channel and I’ve never really seen it myself, so I’ll try it out. And of course, the first thing they start talking about is Daniel Tosh. If you haven’t heard anything about the controversy from a couple of weeks ago with Daniel Tosh and rape jokes, I’ll sum it up for you. Two women went into a comedy club to see a line up of comedians, not knowing who a handful of them were. Daniel Tosh, one of these comedians, started to talk about rape, to which one woman stood up in the crowd and said, “rape jokes aren’t funny.”
Now let’s be honest here. Is standing up in the middle of a comedy club and talking back to a comedian the best idea in the world? No. Will you get hit back, hard? Absolutely. Would she have been better off going to him after the show and confronting him? Sure, if she wanted to be brushed off and have her comment not make any sort of impact. But she did say something, out loud too. And she made one hell of an impact.
Firstly, this started another round of the conflict raging between “stereotypical feminists [who] can’t take a joke,” and a group made of mostly men and other comedians about whether rape jokes are funny.
Now I need to say very clearly: rape jokes are not funny. Trivializing the trauma of something so intimately violating and psychologically damaging is not funny. I’m a college student, and I live 8 months a year with a population that’s fifty percent males ages 18-21. And I’ve talked with a fair share of my guy friends who find crude humor funny. So I get it, and I can keep a relatively open mind about jokes about sex and politics and things that are beyond inappropriate. I’m nineteen and in my third year of college, so I’m not that far off in finding juvenile things hilarious. But rape? That’s a different story. Rape, is not a joke. And never should be.
The second thing people argued about, and what started this whole whirlwind, was Daniel Tosh’s response. Now as a popular comedian I think he could have come up with a million and one different things to “put an audience member back in her place”. But of all the things in the world, he chose instead to say, “you know what would be really funny? If she got raped, by like, five guys right now”. Different sources say different things, but that’s the general gist of it.
Now I get it. Daniel Tosh is an edgy comedian. There’s a lot of people who say that she should have just left, that she shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and that, above all, she shouldn’t have heckled him. Fine. But she said it, and I hardly think that any amount of heckling warranted what Tosh said.
It’s not a point of contention that her comment made an impact, Tosh’s joke was all I heard about those few days after the incident. But this morning? I turn on the news and hear about protestors in Anaheim, drama within the Jackson family, with Tosh long forgotten. And I get it. The world we live in is unbelievably fast paced, so many things happen that make incidents like the one with Tosh just a small blip on the media radar. But as the world continues to turn, comments like Tosh’s continue to be made. And empowering rape in that way, regardless of the fact that it’s intended to be comedic? Should not happen. But it still does. And unless someone finally decides to act on it, things like this will continue to happen.
More background and thoughts on this whole hot mess here:
How to Make a Rape Joke (Jezebel.com)
When Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny (CNN)
If You don’t Want to Hear an Edgy Joke, Don’t Listen (CNN)
Why Daniel Tosh’s ‘rape joke’ at the Laugh Factory Wasn’t Funny (The Daily Beast)