Analysis of media issues, politics and current events.
First all, Rape is horrible. Let’s get that out of the way. My anti-raping people stance is quite consistent. “No means no.” But not “no you can’t talk about it just because someone is uncomfortable.” With that said,
Daniel Tosh has been taking heat for a joking about rape at a comedy show. But no matter if the owner of the comedy club’s description of what happened or the blogger’s (who attended) different version of the experience is true, this seems more like an issue of the right to not be offended bumping up against the right to free speech (by the way, there is no right not to be offended). And also where no actual rape occurred.
According to the owner of the comedy club, The Laugh Factory, Daniel Tosh came out on stage and asked what the audience wanted to talk about. The a member of audience (I’ve been to a Tosh comedy event, they get rowdy) said “Rape.” Suddenly a woman yelled out “No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it!” And to which Daniel Tosh said “Well, sounds like she’s been raped by five guys.”
That’s the manager’s account. The blogger that posted this story said Daniel Tosh actually said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by five guys? Like right now?” To which the audience laughed.
According to the manager, this woman, watched the rest of the show, then complained to the manager. Who gave she and her friend tickets for another show as a gift. Again, the blogger has different view and timeline of events (she says they left immediately).
Okay, once again. No rapes at all. Including comedy clubs. And like some have implied accepting tickets doesn’t immediately mean something wasn’t offensive to them. But to the lady and blogger who came with her, spoiler alert: you are at a comedy show. Comedy is brutal sometimes. If you are at a Gallagher concert you get hit by splattering watermelon guts. If you are at a Jim Norton or Daniel Tosh concert, you get hit by sharp and controversial comments. Sometimes directed at a category you identify with.
Has this woman not seen this guy’s act? Or his show (I think in the woman’s blog she says she has)? Again, I’m not getting on her for rape, or possibly being raped. Or somehow saying, “she was asking for it” when she got Tosh’s comments. But in the realm of communication, people can joke about things, we don’t like. But even so, we can’t go so far to believe merely talking or even joking around uncomfortable thoughts is off limits.
If she was raped. Or Daniel Tosh truly said it was okay to be raped. Or wished that upon her. That’s one thing. And, by the way, there are laws like defamation, libel or threats that remedy such speech if someone truly goes over the line. But the idea that something is simply off the table by topic alone is not. Part of comedy is dissection and poking a stick at uncomfortable, anxiety producing things in our lives.
I saw an episode of The Soup this weekend where Joel McHale comes out of a clip where Doctor Oz is pushing behind a woman trying to get past another man who is representing a nasal polyp with a they’re-raping-her joke.
If that same woman was in the audience as said “No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it!” I think the reaction would be. 1) We’re not for rape. 2) This is clearly a joke and 3) This isn’t about you. Don’t like it. Don’t laugh. And don’t support the show.
I’ve been at clubs where comedians make uncomfortable jokes about black people (Artie Lange ). Or have listened to Howard Stern make fun of issues and groups like Jews, blacks (he did a rap song called “My Niggas). Does it sting sometimes? Or feel unfair and demeaning? Yes. But as long as it doesn’t turn angry and trying-to-hurt-you personal (I’m looking at you “Mr. N Word” Michael Richards), we shake it off and watch someone else get their turn at being uncomfortable or momentarily spotlighted with embarrassment.
My point is that comedy that people pay for often walks the edge of what is comfortable or what is emotionally risky sometimes. If not, TV has lots of sitcoms ready to welcome you. And like Don Imus, sometimes comedians fall off that delicate edge into out-of-bounds hatred and hurt. And they suffer the price. In Daniel Tosh’s case, it doesn’t look like he fell off. You just didn’t like where he was standing and you’re telling him not to take another step. Doesn’t mean you have to like it.
To the woman who yelled at the audience and pleaded with Daniel Tosh not to joke about rape, I hope something horrible didn’t happen in that women life like that. And you’re absolutely right, rape is hurtful. But simply joking about in a non-endorsing, disconnection from action or incitement way is legal and speech protected.
Comedy = Tragedy plus time. And if so, perhaps it wasn’t time for you to be in front of a comedian.