Jennifer Dziura writes life coaching advice weekly here on TheGloss, and career coaching advice Fridays on TheGrindstone.
Maybe I’m a little late to this party, but maybe I’m years early — so, comedian Daniel Tosh recently quipped from stage that “rape jokes are always funny.” A woman disagreed! Tosh shot back, “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…”
The lady blogs have done plenty of coverage of this matter. Ever Mainard’s “feminst rape joke” got renewed play.
Quoth Elissa Bassist on The Daily Beast, arguing that you can make jokes about awful things as a way to process them, but that Tosh didn’t: “That’s not a joke. It’s an invitation. It’s a celebration of a violent crime, which is itself another violation. It’s not a way to cope. It’s a ‘this is something we can do and then laugh about it, no big deal.’”
Of course, many famous comedians rushed to Tosh’s defense. The owner of the Laugh Factory defended Tosh’s jokes on the basis that the rest of the audience gave the act a standing ovation. That, of course, is not how causality works at all. If you tell a racist joke to everyone you know and they all think it’s hilarious, that means that all your friends are racists. Telling a racist joke to racists, who like it, does not somehow make the joke not racist. Telling rape jokes to people who love rape jokes means that a lot of shitty people were in a room together.
But this is such an old conversation. So old. It was just this January when Dane Cook made some “jokes” about how he “chainsaw-fucked” a “disgusting whore’s cunt.”
I have performed in many comedy clubs. I have also performed in hipsterish bar backrooms, university theaters, a Methodist church basement, several outdoor stages on Army bases in Kuwait and Qatar, in the airplane hangar of a Navy aircraft carrier, and, happily, at Boston’s Women in Comedy Festival. I don’t call myself a comedian anymore. I’m an educational humorist, and I love it.
Comedy clubs are, in general, awful. And it’s a self-perpetuating cycle of awfulness. A club tries to put a nice balance of comedians on its stage (meaning one female comic for every 4 or 5 male comics, as well as some balance of race, age, type of act, etc.)
But the comedy world contains a great many men who believe that because they are “liberals” (that is, they hate Republicans), therefore anything they say about women is fine. (Chainsaws!) So women don’t go to comedy clubs in anywhere near the numbers that men do. Which means that many club owners book even fewer female comics, or they book the female comics they think will appeal to men. So even fewer women go. Also, in my experience, most women are mortified by getting called out from the stage if they try to get up to go to the bathroom. Oh, we are shrill, humorless bitches who just want to go to the bathroom without everyone thinking about it!
It is in this circle of Dante’s Inferno that pointing out, “You know, it’s statistically likely that at least eleven people in this room have been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes…” will be regarded as an act of CRA-ZAY, irrelevant feminist harpydom.