I think Daniel Tosh is pretty funny. I'm also a fan of Family Guy, South Park, and a few other humorous programs that are largely aimed at boys in their 20's. I further think that Trey and Matt, Seth McFarland, Dave Chapelle and Daniel Tosh are much smarter than they appear and some are masters at their particular craft. (Okay, Tosh is no John Oliver, but he's getting there.) This week, rape-victims and non rape-victims alike have raised their collective voices in declaring blood feud against Daniel Tosh after an incident during a recent stand-up gig.Let's start with the amusing headline Daniel Tosh wishes rape on heckler, shall we?
A stand up comedian is doing some stand up comedy. The comedian is Daniel Tosh, and some of the comedy is about rape. Carlin did rape jokes, as did Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Wanda Sykes, and plenty of other people whose names escape me at the moment. And some woman in the audience thought she ought to tell Tosh that "rape jokes are never funny." Apparently, she thought was the US Secretary of Comedy or some shit...
Forbidden Humor is a conversation I've had with plenty of passionate, well-meaning people of both genders. In brief, I think:
--No topic should ever be completely off limits for comedy.
--Comedy is FAR too valuable as a coping tool for anyone to create an arbitrary standard for which subjects no one may be allowed to take lightly.
--There's a difference between "this isn't funny to me" and "joking about this is morally wrong."
--Saying no subject should be off limits is NOT the same as defending any particular joke regardless of taste, hate-quotient, cruel intent, or ignorance.
As to this particular incident, I can understand why people are upset. But I reject the characterization that Tosh "wished rape" on a woman because he heckled her back. If you find tasteless jokes upsetting, going to see Tosh seems like a dumb thing to do. If you didn't know how offended you'd be, the polite thing to do is to leave quietly if it becomes too much for you. If you're SO offended that you feel you have NO OPTION other than to interrupt someone's rehearsed performance, by all means feel free to do so.
But bear in mind though that you've voluntarily climbed into the hot seat, surrounded by people who have paid good money to cheer the other guy. He has to keep control of the room or he's sunk. What kind of a reaction was she expecting? Would it have been less rude of him to tell her to go the fuck home?
So no, Tosh heckling back during a set of rape jokes does not really equal him "wishing" that some rude woman in a club gets gang raped...at least not to anyone who's ever met a human being before. We all say stupid shit when we're flustered, tired, angry, nervous, whatever. Granted, Tosh has a long history of tasteless jokes and plenty of things that anger feminists. And like my experiences with American Psycho
, I can't fucking stand it when my liberal feminists pals feel like they get to judge me or label me as "part of the problem," or the omnipresent threat of unfriending
all who disagree. Yeah, that's why America has free speech, so we can refuse to talk to each other like a bunch of fucking playground babies if we disagree and are also angry...that'll solve everything.
From my own experience, I've been heckled while speaking to a crowd. I heckled back, and know that someone laughed somewhere in there. After the speech, I needed to ask other people what I'd actually said because I had no fucking idea. I was so nervous I wanted to puke. I could have called my heckler a lesbian Hitler in blackface and I wouldn't have fucking remembered.
Let's look for a mo' at what this heckler had to say for herself: I did it because, even though being “disruptive” is against my nature, I felt that sitting there and saying nothing, or leaving quietly, would have been against my values as a person and as a woman. I don’t sit there while someone tells me how I should feel about something as profound and damaging as rape.
Ah, so essentially, she didn't want to be disruptive, she had to. Being polite was against her values...her values that said she needed to let a comedian know in the middle of his act that she didn't find him funny. And when the guy trying to perform had the nerve to disagree, her values dictated that she continued to argue with him. You know, for all rape victims everywhere...or something.
Honestly, I'm not trying to mock her. I'm trying to point out how stupid it is to make some sort of ridiculous faux stand in a rude way and then attack the performer because his off the cuff reaction was no less to your liking than his prepared remarks. No one is forcing you to hear comedy that you don't like. And comedy that you don't like isn't hurting you. And making a joke about rape isn't the same as laughing AT someone who's been raped.
Was Tosh's joke tasteless? Sure, probably. Does him making that joke necessarily mean that he delights in violent sexual assault and daydreams about his hecklers being sodomized? No.
Does this woman need to be "less sensitive?" Also No. But if she doesn't like a show, she should not see it, or protest through the usual channels, or tell Tosh after the show, or be ready for a shitstorm when she starts one.
Honestly, some of the stuff on Tosh's show grosses me out and I have to turn away lest I start gagging. See how that works, I can stop watching something instead of insisting that everything my eyes can see has to tailor itself to my specific tastes. Ahhhhhhhh...merica!
EDIT: (Saturday morning, 3:34am) I didn't think this needed explaining, but apparently it does. The Daniel Tosh you see on TV and in stand-up is a character. You know, like the way Stephen Colbert plays a character. Yes, it's a radically different character. But it's baffling to me how many people honestly think that Tosh was literally saying that he'd enjoy and find humor in a woman being violently gang raped in front of him. And more baffling considering how many of the people going batshit about it are every bit as sarcastic as Tosh. Oh, sarcasm isn't supposed to be taken literally? You don't say? I presumed that if the subject matter was uncomfortable, I was supposed to assume everything said is intended literally. Else how can I show my solidarity/support for rape victims?
I'm also growing weary of the overwhelming percentage of people who feel they must quantify their remarks by revealing whether or not they've been raped. That's just weird to me. I don't get it.
Apparently I also need to point out that I don't think rape is hilarious as a rule. I understand fully that it's a horrible thing, a serious issue, and something all men should be taught from childhood is a gross violation of the very concept of humanity. That's exactly why it can be vital to use humor to address, diffuse, and deconstruct so-called rape culture. While one could certainly argue that this was not Tosh's intention, look at the discourse that's happened due to this event. It ranges from mindless to profound, and rises to the level of a internet trollish car wreck, but people have discussed rape more in the last three days since the last time they tried to arrest Julian Assange.
And SOME people have to walk away from that with a greater understanding of the issues surrounding rape than they had going in.