Oh goody, another comedian to avoid. For those that haven’t heard, Daniel Tosh is in the media spotlight this week over a controversy involving rape jokes in his recent appearance at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles. Tumblr blogger “cookies for breakfast” posted an account of a woman who was at Daniel Tosh’s show:
“So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”
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.
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…’”
Read the woman’s full account here: http://breakfastcookie.tumblr.com/post/26879625651/so-a-girl-walks-into-a-comedy-club
The club owner says that it went down differently than the woman claims http://www.boston.com/ae/tv/blog/2012/07/daniel_tosh_apo.html, and Daniel Tosh claims “context misquotes” in his tweeted apology. But the incident has ignited an intense debate between two powerful groups: those who believe that comedy can be about anything, and those that jokes like the ones that Daniel Tosh told have no place in comedy.
Damn Daniel Tosh for Complicating My Life
I had no idea who Daniel Tosh was until the day before yesterday. I’d never heard his comedy. I saw link about this story and was pretty disgusted when I read it, and I’ve tried several times to get my thoughts together on the issue and get them down here. Because this has disturbed me as a feminist, as a woman with disabilities, as someone who’s worked with women with disabilities…not to mention as someone who knows many women who have been raped, and as an aunt to a beautiful niece who will be celebrating her first birthday in just over a month.
Debates of this nature come up every time comedians use a slur like “retard” in a routine. I thought I knew how I felt – that if comedians are willing to make one vulnerable group a target, then they should have the integrity to be willing to make any vulnerable group a target, and I can always walk away if I don’t like it (which I do. I don’t like comedy that makes targets of people).
This seems different somehow, though, and I haven’t quite worked out why yet. I do know that with the sexual assault rates for women in general, and women with disabilities in particular, so high (and the rates for men likely higher than they are because of under-reporting), I’m very uncomfortable with any comedian inciting group rape as part of his routine. I feel very off-balance; this really threw my beliefs about the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” of comedy, and my ideas of from what I’m prepared to just walk away with a “Oh well, I don’t have to listen to it. Just be fair, if you’re going to be mean.”
I still need to do some more thinking. But I really, really like this woman’s perspective:
What side do you come down on? Is there “nothing sacred” in comedy, or should some things just not be joked about?