• Wed, Jul 11 2012

Dude, How Funny Is This Rape Joke?

daniel tosh rape

So, comedian Daniel Tosh made a rape joke. What was that rape joke? Allow CNN to explain:

A female audience member who says she was unfamiliar with Tosh’s act when she caught his performance at the Hollywood Laugh Factory. She claims, “Tosh [started] making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious.”

The audience member felt “provoked” and says she yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

Continues the account: “After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, ‘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…’

Daniel Tosh tweeted in response: 

“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. On a lighter note tonight’s new episode of Tosh.0 will be featuring clowns.”

Let me begin by saying that I agree with Tosh. I think that one of the great things about having a sense of humor is that it gives you a sword with which to cut the world’s horrors down to manageable size. When we make jokes about awful things that happen, we can rob those things of their power. Certainly, the Nazis and Hitler were not funny, but The Producers was funny, and in mocking Hitler it made him seem less powerful (if I always reference The Producers, it’s because it’s everything I think comedy should be). I think that is a good thing to be able to do if you want to survive in the world and not go completely insane. I believe that humor is the weapon of the underdog.

The problem isn’t that rape jokes can never be funny. I think I’d probably find someone who had been raped who was able to make jokes their rape pretty brave and amazing for being able to do so. I think that might even be cathartic for them. But I do not think it is funny coming from Daniel Tosh.

I do not think it is funny coming from Daniel Tosh, because, again, I’m apt to regard humor as the underdog’s weapon. Daniel Tosh is a man who has, to the best of my knowledge, never been raped. He is a man. It is statistically less likely will be raped. He likely does not know anyone who has been raped. I doubt Daniel Tosh was really trying to find a way to put a horror that people experience in its proper place, here.

I think that this joke is not funny, because I think that the purpose of humor is to attack aggressors, not victims. This joke fails because attacking victims is, in addition to being just plain a mean thing to do, almost never funny.

Also, for a professional comedian, I think that’s just a really lame joke.

So, the answer, as far as I can tell is “not funny at all, actually.”

 

Pic via Comedy Central

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  • Jessie

    I think also, the problem isn’t that he made a joke about rape in general. It is that he singled someone out and made a joke about the humor that would ensue from their hypothetical gang rape. He made it personal, and somewhat real. I love tosh, and I CAH-RINGE when at a heckler makes a scene at a comedy show. But Tosh is clever and witty and could have come up with a better way to handle what he felt was heckling.

    • Eileen

      Exactly.

    • Tommy Gorgeous

      I agree, Jessie. Comments from the audience drive a nail through my eyeball but he could have handled it better. However, wasn’t his response the point? No one could possibly believe that “rape is hilarious.” Discomfort and defied expectations both can elicit a laugh. Not to mention stagecraft. I could be getting too meta but I think the point is that while forced sex is awful in reality, our revulsion and discomfort can be exploited for laughs. Without saying “doesn’t that say a lot about us”, doesn’t that say a lot about us?

      While I think Jennifer has most of it right, I believe that a couple of things are at odds. 1) All of us know a person who has been raped. I’m guessing that Tosh knows many times the people we do, so it’s statistically impossible that he doesn’t know at least one victim of rape. But he (and we) also know people who have had cancer, committed suicide, been to jail, been murdered, been addicted to something, etc. Those things are presumably still on the table to poke fun of. 2) I feel like the idea that comedy is exclusively to talk truth to power has gained a lot of steam lately. It’s patently false. Comedy’s job is to make us laugh. Generally, it’s done by referencing the idiosyncrasies, hypocrisies, mundane details and general human foibles that surround us. Sometimes it involves making faces or doing silly voices. Sometimes it does “talk truth to power.” But even that is a stretch as both “truth” and “power” are somewhat subjective. It’s a great topic, wish it was discussed more often then when Michael Richards freaks out or Tracy Morgan does something Tracy Morgan-y.

      @Holden I’m not a fan of Tosh. I don’t know why. But for a comparison, I Googled “Gloria Steinem” and “boring” and came up with 1.9 million results. Let’s not let the algorithm be the arbiter of all things.

    • Holden

      @TommyProbablyNotThatGoodLookingInRealLife

      True, but nearly every one of those results is in a reference to a quote by Steinem. eg: “Money is boring unless you’re doing something with it.” “Perfect is boring. Beauty is irregular.” “Writing is only boring to the people who are boring themselves.” Whereas nearly every result for Tosh is in reference to the fact that HE’S A DOUCHEBAG.

  • Stephanie

    I think everyone needs to lighten up. He’s a comedian. They are supposed to make fun of everything. No one should take this personally.

    • Daisy

      Hun, you need to wake up because you are not living in the real world. And if you are not offended by this then you are just as worse as he is.

  • Holden

    Regardless of whether or not it was funny, regardless of the specific context, I think actually making a remark about wanting to see a woman in the audience raped and how ‘amusing’ it would be betrays a SERIOUS level of misogyny on Tosh’s part.

    By the way – just googled “Daniel Tosh” and “douche bag” – 1,430,000 search results. I rest my case.

    • Benitah

      I agree, he’s free to make all the rape jokes he wants but to attack a woman who may have been raped or likely knows someone who has been raped was vile. He had all the power in that situation, if you don’t have a better way of dealing with a heckler than saying it would be hilarious if she was gang raped, you aren’t much of a comedian.

  • Dan R

    Daniel Tosh isn’t in the slightest bit funny, and he has a highly annoying face that makes me want to deck him. I’m still trying to figure out why he has his own show and why it gets so much publicity. Bad comedians like Tosh have a history of crossing the line when they panic because they aren’t funny. No, Tosh, it wouldn’t be funny if 5 guys raped her right now. Actually, that’s really creepy and I think you are a weirdo with no social life.

  • lucygoosey74

    Ok, so lots of people seem to have their dander up over this, but really, Daniel Tosh has NEVER been known for tasteful jokes. Actually, he’s done plenty of rape jokes directed towards MEN on his show as well. So has Family Guy, South Park, American Dad, and other comedy shows that are not known for their tastefulness.

    I can understand how the female audience member probably felt attacked being singled out like that, and yes, it was rather crude..I get that.
    That being said, I think that if you don’t like his particular brand of humor, don’t watch his show. This is coming from a rape survivor.
    Shows and movies that depict graphic rape scenes disturb me a lot more than a tasteless joke ever will, but that’s just me.

    • Annoyed

      I personally disagree with you. A movie or image may be more unsettling but a joke can be just as bad. Rape or sexual assault is not something to joke about, especially since so many survivors don’t speak up. He’s a horrible man to be joking like that, especially what he said to that woman.

  • porkchop

    Yes! Tasteless offensive jokes can only work if you’re the underdog. Daniel Tosh’s whole schtick seems to be “I’m a horrible person,” which is cool, I guess. I’ve laughed at that guy. Still, when he talks about how flat-chested girls are worthless and how he would not buy drinks for them, I’m like “Oh, thank Christ.” Even though the odds of me being in a bar with him are almost zero, I still feel relieved.

    If you heckle a comedian, they will say the meanest thing they can think of. That’s just how this works.

    Comedy etiquette aside, that joke isn’t funny.

  • Benitah

    For anyone who says that jokes about cancer, murder, dead babies etc are the same as rape jokes is missing the point. There are no social stigmas against the victims of cancer. No one ever says that it’s the baby’s fault that he/she died. Murder victims are unilaterally sympathized with. THAT IS NOT THE CASE WITH RAPE. It is an under reported crime because it’s the only crime where the victim is put on trial: what was she wearing, was she drunk, why did she go back to the guy’s place, what was she doing walking home at three in the morning alone? Rape has been used throughout the years to systematically control women. Cancer patients do not have to hide their disease because they fear that a loved will look at them differently, rape victims often do. The whole world grieves with parents who lose a child, rape victims get called “sluts”.

    I think that Tosh has every right to make jokes about rape but do not try and tie rape jokes with other types of jokes.

  • Jess

    From what I can gather, Tosh was just being his usual tacky self and if that’s the absolute pinnacle of comedy he wants to achieve? His choice. But he should maybe go look at other comedians and how they deal with hecklers coz, um, yea. That’s the best he got?
    I don’t like rape jokes. I have been raped and it’s true, most of the blame gets foisted off on you. People try to ‘rationalize’ it and make it out to not be rape. ‘You’re making it up.’ ‘You just want attention.’ ‘You’re a slut, you probably wanted it.’ Coz apparently I’m a tough bitch so if I hadn’t wanted it I wouldn’t have been raped. Go figure. That’s what I don’t like about rape jokes. When have you ever come across one that made fun of the rapist? Sure, they make fun of the situation, the victim and how it all comes out in society. But I’ve never once heard any one make a joke at the rapist’s expense. Now why is that?

  • Kai

    Thanks for posting this.

    I’m glad to know that The Gloss supports rapist culture and I can add you to the list of Tosh supporters I no longer want to support in any way.

    • Sarah!

      lol what?

    • Jennifer Wright

      Yes. That is what I said. That is exactly right.

      GO RAPIST CULTURE! GO!

  • Danielle

    I have to disagree with you Jennifer. The foundation of the comedic arts is that there is nothing sacred in comedy. Everything is up for grabs. This reminds me of all those women who were offended by Andrew Dice Clay back in the 80′s and 90′s. If that woman was so offended or simply didn’t think it wasn’t funny she had the freedom to get up and leave. Hell she could have demanded her money back. It seems like there is no way Americans can’t be offended these days. I feel like the liberals are the new Puritans. Everything is offensive and inappropriate at all times.

    • Viola

      “He likely does not know anyone who has been raped.”

      Well, actually, he probably does. We all do. In my country, it’s one in five women. One in five, and most of the people who attacked them never get convicted. That, I think is what makes the difference with jokes about sexual assault to me. Firstly, because there is so much stigma against survivors of assault, so many of them cannot openly admit that is what they are. To Daniel Tosh, it is just a word he is using to raise the stakes of his performance, to most survivors it is not something you use casually.
      People get amazingly offended when you call them out on jokes about sexual assault, they say “How can you possibly think I approve of the action itself?” Making the joke, or finding it funny, does not make you a bad person. But, it’s like putting pictures of yourself naked on the internet, it can be art, it can be expression, but you have to square with the fact that there will be people getting off on it. Statistically speaking, there were probably rapists in that audience, who laughed at it being trivialised, and survivors who weren’t so much in on the joke.