Now That’s Comedy! (Trigger Warning: Rape)

The internet has imploded over something stupid that some random guy said.

But this time it’s something I legitimately feel the need to comment on. Patton Oswalt
thinks that Daniel Tosh doesn’t need to be bashed like this. Normally, I think the internet has a high incidence of people getting really upset for reasons that can’t make much impact on the real world.

But in this case I make an exception. A really big one.

Here is where the trigger warning goes: if you are a survivor, PLEASE be sure that you are in a good place before you click any of the links in this article. Be sure that you are comfortable with reading about this before you go further.

A woman shouts “Rape Jokes are NEVER funny” during a comedy set in which it is implied that rape jokes are funny.  perhaps Mr. Tosh doesn’t like hecklers. But the ensuing threat really wasn’t necessary: “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…”

Patton Oswalt makes a point which typically, I would find valid. Comedy, and other forms of art which involves an audience, requires time to become perfect. Many of us do improvised humor, and sometimes we fuck up. Sure. That’s fine. But this was not the example to use in making that argument. Here’s why:

While I’m sure there are rape jokes which could theoretically be funny (I leave the option open, because there are certain topics I find verboten, and I’ve actually heard jokes on THOSE topics that were funny), perhaps a 5 minute bit about how rape jokes are funny isn’t exactly the best way to show it. Furthermore, following it up with what is tantamount to a threat is unacceptable.

The kind of humor which Tosh used wasn’t just problematic because it was offensive, it was problematic because it is this exact kind of humor which makes it more difficult for women to be taken seriously when they do experience sexual assault.  And it also makes it more difficult for women to speak out about it.  If we accept a threat like that as funny, we remove the authenticity of the experience people may have had. Sure, it’s hilarious to think of 5 men just hopping on a woman in the middle of the laugh factory because it’s so unrealistic that we can’t imagine it.

Mocking rape doesn’t help get rape taken seriously. It makes it harder for women to feel like they will be taken seriously – and even more difficult for male survivors of rape.

Comedy is challenging. But the weapon of the sharp tongue shouldn’t be used to shame, and we should never threaten our audiences , even when we feel criticized on the stage.

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2 Responses

  1. Clare Holzman
    Clare Holzman July 18, 2012 at 10:39 pm | | Reply

    Rape jokes also contribute to a culture in which men think rape is acceptable behavior.

    1. E.S. Henry
      E.S. Henry July 18, 2012 at 10:41 pm | | Reply


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