Bullish Life: If You Can Take a Dick, You Can Take a Joke, Lady! (Um, No.)

There is Nothing Wrong With Wanting People to Be Generally Polite.

The owner of the Laugh Factory — in addition to mentioning the standing ovation — defended Tosh by saying, “If you don’t want to get insulted don’t go to comedy clubs.”

How is it that you can’t fucking cough at the Philharmonic — and you certainly don’t call out “Your solo sucked!”, nor do the musicians make fun of your lack of knowledge about Bizet — but our society has evolved some bizarre form of entertainment wherein you, the audience, are expected to be willing to be personally insulted in front of a room of people? Wasn’t that the WORST PART of adolescence? Call me crazy, but I don’t like to be insulted even once when I am trying to have a good time, such as by paying money for entertainment!

As a comic and as an audience member, I just want no part of an entire room full of rudeness. I only entertain polite people. (Seriously: my shows do VERY WELL for audiences of schoolteachers and librarians.) I was raised to believe that it is noble — and in fact mandatory, unless you fear physical danger — to speak up if someone tells a racist joke. As a consumer, I cannot fathom the attraction of waiting to be insulted, or watching others be insulted.

Oh, and then if you don’t laugh, or – god forbid – try to get up to go to the bathroom, the comic yells in front of everyone, “If you can take a dick, you can take a joke, lady! And I KNOW you can take a dick, amIrite?”

Can we talk about that for a minute? “If you can take a dick, you can take a joke.” First off, it sort of implies that all sex for women (or straight women and gay men, or something) is an exercise in enduring suffering. Great advertising, guys! It’s also just a non-sequitur.

I suppose you can make the argument that tolerating meanness is an important life skill, but not so much that we should encourage meanness so people have the opportunity to build up their tolerance to it. (“I only beat my kid so he’ll be prepared in case anyone beats him!”)

In the NYTimes, comedian Bill Burr lashed out an “alt-comedy,” complaining that it “distilled all of the horror out of attempting to be a comedian … No heckling, no drunks, no obnoxious behavior, no aggressiveness.” He went on to decry the existence of a warm, safe, nurturing “comedy womb.”

Well, yes. Yes! While some people thrive on constant combativeness, some do not! No one says, “This painting would be so much better if the painter had to paint it while people shouted at him,” or “This ballet dancer is crap if she can’t force people who don’t like ballet to like The Nutcracker.”

Here is me talking about female power in the warm, safe comedy womb of the Women in Comedy Festival. It’s cool if you don’t think I’m funny or interesting, but I assure you, yelling wouldn’t make it any better.

Send in your questions to bullish@thegloss.com or follow on Twitter @jendziura. See a Bullish archive here.

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    • Kj

      You know, one of the funniest things I have ever seen was when my university hired some terrible comic for a show during first year orientation, and he started telling some of the most sexist, racist jokes I have ever heard.

      I think there was something about murdering your wife and leaving her body by the side of the road and how all football players were black and something about how Canada didn’t have Burger King (which a – isn’t funny, and b – we totally have Burger King – literally a block away from the school.)

      All of us orientation leaders were fresh out of ULTRA SENSITIVITY / POLITICAL CORRECTNESS TRAINING to respond to every type of oppression that ever existed, and the frosh were, well, Canadian, so you can imagine the deafening silence (well, polite Canadian faux-laughter) that met all these jokes.

      I eventually started to laugh my ass off, just because it was so absurd that the organizers had picked this dude to do a routine for us. And it was great to see this douche get shot down.

      Also: You talk REALLY fast. Dear God.

    • Alison

      I have to agree with the talking too fast. I missed half of what you said, which seemed like it would have been interesting and funny.

      I have already been blasted by male Tosh fans in comments on Buzzfeed, but my point there was valid. (plus, they are clearly immature jerks.) Rape jokes aren’t funny if they are about someone *being* raped, or about threatening rape.

      I saw a clip of Ricky Gervais doing ‘rape jokes’ where I giggled a little, but his point was about the *rapist*, and what kind of society have we become that the British Gov. has to put out commercials saying that rape is wrong. I only giggled because it was also sad. The point is there can be humor in such jokes that most people can relate to, but when you joke about someone BEING raped, you’re an a** and the people who laugh are callous idiots.

      • kjon

        That also seemed to be the gist of a jezebel article on rape jokes (Lindy West, maybe?) last week.

    • epilonious

      On one hand, yes rape jokes are bad and can hurt people especially women faced with “the lap dance is always better when the stripper is crying” society.

      On the other hand, I don’t really follow Tosh… but have to hear about him All The Time because he has successfully trolled the English speaking world. And not the standard “I am living under a bridge trying to get your goat” troll but a full on “trolling for comments” make the discourse in the US explode over whether some jackass should be allowed to make jackass comments in public (short answer: yes) and should people who heckle notoriously raunchy comments expect to be treated horribly (short answer: yes) and should women worry about and/or dump the guy who repeatedly tries prove to them how awesomely funny and important Tosh is (short answer: yes).

      I’m in “I hope people get over his behavior sooner than later” mode.

    • Jane

      I find it funny that so many men, with their oh-so-fluffy-and-warm 1% chance of being raped, are preaching to feminists (20% chance) that we’re the ones that need to “lighten up.” Easy for you to say. Do you think that if men faced our odds, we’d just be brushing them off? Also, if Tosh fans know he’s offensive, why are they so upset that people are offended?

    • Mandy

      I think I may be the only woman I know who has been raped, molested, & sexually assaulted who actually finds Tosh hysterical. I prefer to laugh at the dark things in the world, instead of letting myself be filled with anger & bitterness. If I got cancer, I would make jokes about my hair falling out or losing my tits. If I ever let bad things change my outlook on life, instead of employing dark humor, I feel like I might as well just give up all together.

      • Ellie

        I totally agree Mandy. First off, I think humor is a much healthier coping mechanism than many other alternate possibilities. Plus, I like the control I have over the situation. I’m making JOKES about awful things that happened to me!
        I do think rape jokes can be funny. And I love Daniel Tosh. That said, I don’t think his comment to the woman in the audience was a joke, not because I didn’t find it funny (I didn’t), but it lacked the elements that can make even those cringe worthy topics funny. I don’t think he threatened her, or invited guys to come rape her, but he singled her out because of her opinion on a delicate and likely very personal subject. And he did it in a non funny way that affected her on a personal level.
        I have been called out by him in front of a much larger audience. He basically said he’d never date me because of my age (a few years younger than him), and went on to find some girl who was 19 to talk to. I was not insulted, and looked at it more like he made himself the butt of the joke…yup, you’re the stereotypical pathetic guy who is still single, trying desperately to hold on to your youth, and pining for girls half your age.
        To each their own.

    • Sam

      1) I love you for writing this article.
      2) I think rape jokes are never funny. I have a few male friends whom I’ve also been able to convince this of, and they not only don’t make rape jokes ever, they also call out other people for doing so. Unfortunately, I get called a wet blanket whenever I do so (not that that stops me…but it’s still upsetting), but when a guy does it, it makes whomever is making the joke think twice–which is fucking stupid and sexist, but still. Convincing our male friends to do that can actually help quite a bit.
      3) I saw a comedian from my college perform on campus a couple years ago and ended up walking out because he made so many rape jokes. Fortunately, nobody thought he was funny so he was rewarded for his indecency with a silent, cold room…but I still wanted to vomit in all his shoes.

      • Sam

        Oh and 4) I think the fact that so many male comedians seem like lonely drunks has something to do with why so they hold animosity towards women. Being miserable makes you want others to be miserable (yeah, yeah, I know I sound like a first grade teacher). I don’t think I’ve ever known a miserable-seeming female comedian, and I’ve met quite a few! Their humor is usually more self-deprecating, less cruel, and more clever.

    • Mia

      I think I have a major girl crush on you from the other side of the world. I love your writing & this article is no exception.

    • Amanda White

      As an aside, it actually was pretty usual to yell out “Your solo sucks!” (in Italian) in opera houses, but that was in Italy and like the 17th century.

      Actually, they do still sort of do it a lot there. But the houses are so much bigger now that they mostly just go BOOOOO because you’d never understand them.