The facts would seem to be these:
According to an anonymous blog post about a week and a half ago, a comic named Daniel Tosh, who has a show on Comedy Central, was doing a set at a club called The Laugh Factory.
During his act, Mr. Tosh apparently asserted that “rape jokes are always funny.” A female audience member yelled out “Actually, rape jokes are never funny.”
Mr. Tosh is then alleged to have responded:
“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?”
Tosh tweeted a conditional apology.
The club’s owner Jamie Masada came to Tosh’s defense, as did other comedians on Twitter.
The Internet has settled into a froth about the wrongness of making light of rape vs. the discourtesy of interrupting a comic. All of which misses the point.
Here then, is everything wrong with this story in the order it is mentioned:
- Naming a place The Laugh Factory is to equate the creation of comedy with the joyless place where ambition and innovation go to die the factory – a place where you clock in to stare slack-jawed at the drill press that gives you repetitive stress injuries and eats your dreams. If you think so little of comedy, why not just call your place the Gulag of Giggles and be done with it.
- This is an ANONYMOUS BLOG POST. It opens with the phrase: “This is something that happened to a friend of mine in her own words,” and closes with the words “Please reblog this and spread the word.” So the original item was posted by somebody who concedes they were not there, and who is not held to any form of journalistic ethics, and who states flatly that their primary aim was for it be disseminated widely. The opening line of this piece could well have been: “This here some shit I overheard at the bus depot,” and closed with “Kim Kardashian was naked when she told me she wanted to you to put it all over the Internet.”
- Daniel Tosh has founded his entire career on being a smirky douche. If you were the casting director for Law & Order: SVU, and you were looking to cast the role of Trust Fund Date Rapist or Roofie-Wielding Frat Boy, you could do a lot worse than Daniel fucking Tosh. So for any of us to pretend that this non-joke about gang rape represents for him some form of stunning departure is the kind of willful ignorance that makes people like me want to move to Alaska, where the ignorance is genuine.
- Here’s a salient aspect of this: the fact that he includes material about rape in his act, and in his unscripted, what – banter? is NOT THE POINT. It is entirely possible to do rape bits that are funny. But if your allegiance is with the rapists, you may encounter difficulty with certain crowds. Like say a crowd containing women. You stupid pig.
- There is no law against being a stupid pig. In fact, if history is to be believed, being a stupid pig is one of our most cherished and consistently exercised freedoms.
- This does NOT mean that humorless feminists are granted license to police our speech. Hate speech is still speech. And speech – any speech – even speech that reinforces gender narratives and perpetuates the prevailing patrician power dynamic, is protected. Period, full stop.
- Here’s doddering club owner Jamie Masada leaping arthritically to Tosh’s defense, according to BuzzFeed: “Masada says Tosh asked the audience, "What you guys want to talk about?" After someone in the front said "rape," a woman in the audience started screaming, ‘No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it.’ Then, Masada says, ‘Daniel came in, and he said, 'Well it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys' — something like that. I really didn’t hear properly.’” He continues, "It was a comment — it wasn’t a joke at the expense of this girl." Flames, meet fan. Fan, flames.
- The first of Tosh’s two tweets regarding this incident: “All the out of context misquotes aside, I’d like to sincerely apologize. And he LINKS to the blog post” Beyond the pulling-teeth-style of deliberate half-assed-ness, there is the split infinitive. And linguists agree that the only – the ONLY – acceptable spot for a split infinitive is in the voiceover intro to Star Trek. Which is to say nothing of the petulant and puny atonement an apology via Twitter represents.
- Tosh’s second tweet, sent like a minute after the first: “the point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them. #deadbabies” Now, science has established that dead babies are indisputably hilarious. Come on. Baby at the bottom a staircase with his shattered femurs poking out of his fat little thighs? That is a hoot. Savor that laugh for a sec. And regarding the rest of this tweet, I think Mr. Tosh needs to curl up with a good dictionary and clarify for himself what a “point” actually is, and more importantly, what “heckled” means. Dictionary.com: “to harass (a public speaker, performer, etc.) with impertinent questions, gibes, or the like; to badger.” Look, son, if you open the can of rape-worms and then fold like a little origami bitch when somebody says ONE THING to call you out, you are not fit to be doing standup. Now sit your punk ass down and shut your smug mouth for all time, you whiny little shitbird.
- Other comics tweeted their supposed support of Tosh. Jim Norton, whose ouvre has a rich ribbon of rape running through it, asks “Why is is OK for an actor to play a rapist, but not for a comic to joke about it?” Which is a pretty transparent way of saying “Please. I wanna keep doing rape jokes.” Dane Cook, the platinum-selling hack, had this to say: “If you journey through this life easily offended by other peoples words I think its best for everyone if you just kill yourself.” Which gives a sense of Mr. Cook’s level of craft and capacity for nuance. Look – comics are in the business of saying outlandish things. Any curtailment of this represents a threat to their livelihood. What else are they gonna say publicly about this? It’s like telling a baker that flour and sugar are illegal – what do you EXPECT to hear from these people? They’re not defending Tosh – whom I can guarantee most of them despise him with a blazing, volcanic hatred – they’re defending their bit of turf.
- Footnote: Tosh is now scrambling like mad to rewrite the pilot of the cartoon show he’s doing for Comedy Central, scrubbing it free of, you guessed it, rape jokes.
Now. In conclusion – there are several things that bug the bejesus outta me on stories like this:
A) This is not a story. In the days since some rich white TV star said a thing in a comedy club that hurt some girl’s feelings, like 38 real live, actual children have been killed by gunfire in Chicago alone. I confess I haven’t had the heart to look up the exact number, because I don’t feel like crying bitter, bitter tears of impotent rage and perplexity.
B) Who wins in this? The rich white TV star. The stupid Internet has been talking about the rich white TV star nonstop for like 10 days. The rich white TV star’s fire is fueled by the oxygen of our regard. It is our gaze that permits him to burn. Without us, he is heatless and lightless. Without us, he is snuffed rapidly out. But we keep our gaze trained on him. We keep baying in our outrage and he, along with hundreds of others like him, smirk at what hapless dopes we are, and keep taking our money.
C) We seem hopelessly addicted to taking umbrage. I am old enough to remember a time when a grown-up could feel offended by something, and then PROCEED WITH THEIR LIVES AS THOUGH NOTHING MORE THAN A FEELING HAD TRANSPIRED. Now, too damn many of us are compelled to hit the brakes in a shower of sparks and squawk about our hurt, hurt feelings until we are paid heed by the media which should be devoting its shoe leather and moxie to the question of kids getting gunned down on public streets, but have grown so soft and dim that they would rather devote inch after column inch to the frothing feelings of some girl who heard objectionable words in a comedy club and had her friend write about it.
And so then I, and by extension you, have gotten caught in the gears of this idiot machine.