General Question

Fly's avatar

How do you feel about the Daniel Tosh rape joke controversy?

Asked by Fly (8677 points ) July 14th, 2012

Let’s try not to let this get too heated, please.

Recently, comedian Daniel Tosh made some jokes about rape that many feel crossed a line.

I am personally of the opinion that people are really overreacting to this situation. To be clear: I completely understand how the jokes could offend people, so I am not trying to claim that it wasn’t offensive, insensitive, or over the line. But if any of you are familiar with Daniel Tosh’s stand-up or his television show Tosh.0, you know that he regularly makes jokes along these lines in addition to jokes about abortion, race, gender, and other controversial topics. I just feel that if you don’t appreciate or are offended by this type of humor, you shouldn’t go to his shows nor should you be so outraged when you go to a comedy show that you are unfamiliar with and you find the comedy offensive or unfunny; you should leave and not watch his shows, simple as that. And if you then choose to heckle the comedian, you should certainly be prepared to get a comeback. Multiple sources including the owner of the Laugh Factory and the comedian himself also state that he was misquoted, though I’m sure that it was offensive regardless.

So, what does the collective think on the matter?

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78 Answers

XOIIO's avatar

I’m not even sure what the joke was, ut rape jokes aren’t really funny, that being said he’s paid to push boundries wih comedy. He failed.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Ugh!

I think comedy should not be taken out of context or rehashed a million times after watching or reading joke clips on the Net. People need to read what actually transpired…but most are in a rush, hear/read a news clip and form an opinion.

The guy was answering an audience participation part of the act. Yes, I think he should’ve turned the word “rape” down as a subject. Then he was heckled by a blogger and he responded to her heckling. Sucks for him now.

The entire thing sounds like a set up to me.

Here’s a run down of what Jamie Masada (Laugh Factory Owner) says happened

Aethelflaed's avatar

She didn’t heckle him. Heckling is interrupting someone with aggressive or abusive comments. Tosh said “rape jokes are always funny”, and the woman responded “actually, rape jokes are never funny.” That’s civil disagreement, not heckling. And sure, comedians normally respond – but with “I remember my first drink” or “It’s always sad when cousins marry”, not “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…”

The problem isn’t that he had a comeback. It’s that his comeback was about thisclose to a rape threat.

And now, she shouldn’t have just left. I don’t get this – he can laugh about how rape is hilarious, and blame the victim, and say whatever he wants, and we’re not supposed to react, but if she civilly disagrees, it’s so impolite that that’s the problem? What about all the rape survivors in the room (and yes, unless there were only two or three women in that room, there were rape survivors there)? Rape victims are constantly being told to shut up, that they’re being too impolite by screaming for help, that they’re being too dramatic and needy by asking for assistance and justice and don’t they even know how this will ruin his life?

I get that it can seem like this was just one small comment, and why are people even so upset? But we have a massive rape culture, that’s full of slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and doing everything possible to not actually hold rapists accountable. That’s why 97% of rapists never spend a day in jail, and why so many rape survivors never report and find their support system abandon them. And you don’t get to a place where police, judges, DAs, and juries, not to mention friends, family, therapists, co-worker, etc are supportive if you don’t push back on the small stuff.

And since she had no idea he was coming on, and went to see someone else, the whole “why are you even seeing him if you don’t like him” thing doesn’t really apply.

_Whitetigress's avatar

It’s really touchy. On the one hand, the comedy for me is the actual mind behind a “rapist”. I picture a really desperate, barbaric, lonely, creepy kind of guy and character wise, that is hilarious because I can’t fathom knowing someone like that. On the other hand, their actions are totally terrible and horrible, I feel bad for women or men who are raped in that sense. But character wise, a rapist is a pretty extreme person. So for me it’s all perception and context. A comedian poking fun at rape I’m not so concerned. Now a couple of people at a bar, talking about how they’d like to rape that person and this person I’d be concerned about. There is a positive about this though, at the very least it will have the mainstream talking about rape and it’s roll on society.

syz's avatar

I thought Slate did a balanced article, and I tend to agree with the gist of it – if you do shock comedy, it should be about the perpetrators, not the victims.

(I have to admit, I kind of enjoyed the Onion’s response)

Aethelflaed's avatar

@syz Lindy West did what I’m pretty sure is the best article of all time on how to make a rape joke, explaining the various power dynamics, “free speech”, and the difference between rape jokes that include rape apology vs rape jokes that make rape culture and rapists the butt of the joke instead of rape victims.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

A famous comedian who garnered fame on Saturday Night Live and then later in movies was hired to perform at our company’s annual conference. From past performances, I thought that he was witty and looked forward to it.

When he launched into a topic that I found offensive and disrespectful, I quietly told my friends that I had to leave and to call me later. And then I got up and walked out. The topic had nothing to do with me, but it was about a certain group of people, and specifically about the company’s leader.

The point is, not everyone in the audience knows a comedian’s style before attending a performance. Should they? Probably. Yet how is an audience member to know what topics will crop up? They get changed. There are several controversial comedians that I would go see live, but there are some topics where I draw the line and refuse to listen to it be turned into a joke.

ragingloli's avatar

Offence is taken, not given.
Every joke will offend someone.

funkdaddy's avatar

Tosh is a professional insult machine. He was at work.

Every discussion has a place and this was actually the place for inappropriate jokes. Someone doesn’t have to like it in order to agree that if offensive jokes aren’t your thing you’re probably better off catching a movie.

DigitalBlue's avatar

I think the uproar over this particular incident is more about our culture and society’s attitude toward women and rape, and less about Tosh. He’s just taking the brunt of it.
Saying that rape jokes are always funny, and someone responding that they feel that they are never funny – does not open the door to practically threaten someone. It’s insane to me that people feel that is defensible. I get that he is a comedian. I get that he is notorious for saying offensive stuff. I get that comedians get to push the lines around a little bit, but you don’t suggest that it would be funny if the person disagreeing with you were sexually assaulted by people in your audience.

gailcalled's avatar

Doesn’t a joke have to be funny?

ETpro's avatar

@ragingloli Would you say Hitler’s joke on the Jews was not the problem. It was hilarious. The Jews just shouldn’t have taken offence at it. That was the only problem. It is absurd to say that offence can’t be given.

Tosh signaled out a woman in the audience and said, “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…”

I don’t think it would be funny—and I do think some things are actually offensive. It isn’t always the fault of those who react to it.

gailcalled's avatar

^^^Well said.

Can you imagine, “Three Jews, an SS obersturmbanfuhrer and an attack dog walk into a bar.” It doesn’t bear thinking about.

digitalimpression's avatar

What happened to clean comedy? I miss Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Burns and Allen, Victor Borge…. Hell, Charlie Chaplin was funnier than a lot of comedians out there today without even saying a word.

There seems to be an ugly pattern in society (film/tv/comedians): Things must always be more shocking, more gory, more controversial than the last act.

chyna's avatar

I don’t find it funny and I don’t find it acceptable no matter what anyone said to him.
I miss Bill Cosby @digitalimpression.

Nullo's avatar

I feel that there are some things that are not suitable for levity, rape being among them.

cheebdragon's avatar

A lot of comedians have rape jokes. No one is forcing you to watch or listen to anything Tosh says.

@digitalimpression Cosby joked about child abuse, is that any less offensive than a joke about rape?

digitalimpression's avatar

@chyna “A new father quickly learns that his child invariably comes to the bathroom at precisely the times when he’s in there, as if he needed company. The only way for this father to be certain of bathroom privacy is to shave at the gas station.” – Bill Cosby

Yeah, I miss him too!

@cheebdragon Isn’t that a little naive though? What if there was a channel on tv where all they did was make fun of you personally. Or a KKK channel. Or a Nazi, Jew-hating channel.. or something similar. Hey, no one is forcing you to watch it.

I think it’s ok to criticize something, even if you don’t watch it.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I don’t find any “joke” regarding rape to be funny. Not at all. I also don’t find jokes about dead babies to be funny. Or 9/11 jokes. You can find humor in almost anything, but not those things. Some things should never be joked about.

And I do take offense to rape jokes. He wasn’t being funny. He was being an insensitive douchebag.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Qingu's avatar

I think some rape jokes can be funny.

I think it is completely fair and understandable if people think no rape jokes are funny.

I doubt that the joke Daniel Tosh was making about rape was actually that funny.

I think Tosh’s response to being heckled, where he said “wouldn’t it be funny if that woman got gang-raped right now,” was not remotely funny—was, in fact, sick and fucked up and he should be ashamed of himself along with anyone defending him.

I find it ironic that the people who are so quick to point out that “comedy should be able to joke about anything” get so defensive when comics are criticized.

ragingloli's avatar

You will love this one

livelaughlove21's avatar

If you know Daniel Tosh at all or have seen his stand-up and/or Tosh.0, you know that is his style of comedy. This isn’t even the most offensive thing he’s said. I feel like, if you don’t like his style, don’t watch his comedy. Simple as that. No need to freak out about something that was meant as a joke.

As for the rape joke issue. I’m a female and I’ve never been raped, so I don’t have any personal feelings about the issue. Do I think rape jokes are funny in general? No, and I don’t think Daniel Tosh does either. Him saying things like that is part of his comedy. If you take everything comedians joked about to heart, you’d hate them all.

With stand-up, I say the dirtier and more offensive, the better. It’s entertainment – not meant to be taken seriously. If you disagree, it’s cool, don’t watch it. So, in short, yeah, I think the controversy is a little dumb.

Qingu's avatar

@cheebdragon, a joke’s “offensiveness” does not stem from its subject matter. Let’s take dead baby jokes, for example.

“What’s brown and taps on glass every ten seconds? A dead baby in a microwave!”
—That’s funny, I think. It’s shock humor that is funny through absurdity. Some people would understandably get offended, and that’s okay.

“Hey, is it true that you just had a miscarriage? Wouldn’t it be hilarious if complications from your miscarriage also made you barren? Dead babies are funny!”
—This isn’t remotely funny. It’s stupid and cruel, and nothing more. There is no universe in which this is ever okay to say to someone.

digitalimpression's avatar

@cheebdragon Can you provide an example of a Bill Cosby child abuse joke? I can’t seem to find one. Either way, you’ll notice I didn’t choose a child abuse joke to quote because I probably wouldn’t have found it funny. Overall, he was a clean comic, especially when compared to todays comics.

Jokes about these sorts of topics are not necessary. So why do it? Ohhhhh right.. to make more money because of the filthy audience.

@Qingu I didn’t find either one of those jokes funny. But I guess I’m a little old fashioned.

Qingu's avatar

@digitalimpression, surely you can see the difference between those jokes, yes? One of them deliberately preys on a victim.

cheebdragon's avatar

You have the right to criticize him, just like he has the right to joke about rape.

digitalimpression's avatar

@Qingu I see the point you are trying to make, but the example of the “good” joke is just too horrible to prove the point, imho. But again, I don’t want to hear any “dead baby” jokes.

Qingu's avatar

@livelaughlove21, I hate it when people hide behind “it’s just a joke!”

For example, a mayor once made a joke about how Obama should grow a watermelon patch on the White House lawn.

You know, because he’s black! And blacks love watermelon. Funny! If you’re a racist.

The thing about this joke is, there is no universe in which people who laugh earnestly at this joke are not racists. Which is why people criticized the mayor for e-mailing this joke. And which is why her feeble excuse “lighten up it’s just a joke” is BS.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
funkdaddy's avatar

So, if you’re against this sort of thing, in the context where it should be expected, I’d have a follow up question.

Who decides what can and can’t be said? You? Popular vote? Ruling party?

It sounds dangerously like mandating morality.

I don’t like The 700 Club, I find it offensive and think it prays on the weak, (get it?) Personally I’d love to see it taken off television.

But when I step back, people who watch every day religiously (again!) have every right to enjoy it and use their money however they’d like.

cheebdragon's avatar

Everything is offensive to someone. You’re not special, get over it.

Qingu's avatar

@cheebdragon, exactly… but I don’t know why rights and free speech ever come up in discussions like these. Nobody thinks that it should be illegal for Daniel Tosh make rape jokes. I mean, it’s not illegal for Neo Nazis to march down the street in support of the Holocaust.

@funkdaddy, I find your question equally perplexing. Is anyone calling for legal action against Tosh? I haven’t seen that. I have seen people calling Tosh a cruel, unfunny asshole. Because he acted like a cruel, unfunny asshole.

I also have the right to call your mother an unwashed whore to her face… and I am assuming she would get offended. If I wear a comedian hat while calling your mother an unwashed whore to her face, that doesn’t magically make my action socially acceptable or defensible in any context.

Qingu's avatar

Let me also say that it costs you nothing to defend the free speech of comedians like Daniel Tosh on the Internet… especially since nobody is claiming their right to free speech should be taken away in the first place.

Claim: “I think Daniel Tosh is an asshole and not funny at all, and if he were a remotely decent human being he would be ashamed of himself and apologize unconditionally.”

Argument: “But he should have free speech!”

The latter is neither a brave nor a compelling argument to make.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Qingu Nope, sorry. If it’s okay to joke about rape and dead babies, then racist jokes are fair game. A person can feel just as hurt over a rape/dead baby joke as a black man can feel about a watermelon joke. Not all jokes are offensive, but not all jokes should be “okay” either. There are just somethings that should remain off-limits.

Qingu's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate, you must not have read what I actually wrote.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Qingu There’s no “hiding” involved. No, that Obama joke wasn’t funny, but if you don’t laugh at that but you DO laugh at Daniel Tosh’s joke, does that mean you think rape is funny, but hey, at least you’re not racist? Not so much.

Have I ever laughed at a racial joke? I sure have. Am I racist or do I have anything against people of a different race than my own? Not at all. I didn’t laugh at the racial joke because I’m racist or because I think what was said was true, I laughed because it was a joke that I happened to find funny. In fact, I love potentially offensive jokes about white people perhaps most of all – and gasp! I’m white.

I’m also a woman – have I ever laughed at a joke that was offensive to women? Yes. Am I a misogynist because of it? No.

So, “lighten up, it’s just a joke” isn’t an excuse, it’s often the truth. If comedians only told jokes that wouldn’t offend anyone, they wouldn’t be have jobs. That’s sort of the whole point of comedy like Daniel Tosh’s, and a lot of people like that type of entertainment.

Same for Dave Chapelle, Kat Williams, Dane Cook, Louis CK, Ricky Gervais, and many many others. Do they make offensive jokes? Hell yeah, most of their jokes are offensive. Are they awful, racist, misogynist, insensitive jerks because of it? NO! They’re comedians. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. People are allowed to be offended, but no one is forcing anyone to watch this stuff.

funkdaddy's avatar

@Qingu – are you drinking? It’s not personal. Not with me, not with @cheebdragon, not with @livelaughlove21, not with @digitalimpression.

I understand you like to take a hard line, but this isn’t a discussion about you. It’s a discussion with a group.

I don’t think the only recourse worth anything is legal, or we’d clearly see that Tosh hasn’t broken any laws. You can’t have it both ways.

If you call your mother an unwashed whore to her face and she’s not expecting it, you deserve what you get.

If you greet your mother every morning with the vilest insult you can think of and she laughs and tells you what a good boy you are. Then one day comes over to your home to see how you’re doing and gets offended when you insult her at the door, blogs about it and gets you fired from your job. That seems like a better parallel.

I’d have to say there was an expectation there. She can still be insulted, but maybe there’s better things to do with her time, and while there’s more to the story, the sound bite of “Man calls mother an unwashed whore” will be all people remember.

Qingu's avatar

@livelaughlove21, again, I don’t think you read what I wrote either.

Look at my first post in this thread. I think you can make jokes about rape, racism, or any sensitive subject matter that are very funny. I am not easily offended and I have laughed at all of these types of jokes.

Daniel Tosh’s rape joke response to the heckler was not funny. Singling out a woman in your audience—who is clearly already uncomfortable with the subject of rape—and saying “wouldn’t it be funny if she got gang-raped right now?” is not funny. It was creepy, childish, and cruel, and is not defensible.

Likewise, if someone claims to be offended by dead baby jokes—maybe this person just had a miscarriage and is understandably sensitive about the subject—it wouldn’t be funny at all to double down, hound her, and say “hey it would be hilarious if you had a miscarriage! Ha ha ha!” That is not humor. That is bullying, at best.

And saying “lighten up, everyone gets offended” does not excuse or justify deliberate bullying.

digitalimpression's avatar

This discussion seems to be taking a turn down a darkened alley so I’ll just say my piece and bid my farewells.
I have no desire to attack Tosh’s right to free speech. I think some of his material is quite funny. I’m not the sort of person who will black-list someone because they did/said something that offended me. However, society has a way of self regulating. Some things simply are not appropriate, regardless of where they are said. E.G. The whole Michael Richards thing. Clearly inappropriate. Who is arguing that he should have his right to free speech in that scenario?

The question was “how do you feel about this controversy”. Well, I miss when comedy didn’t have to have a “shock factor”. I miss when people told jokes to make people laugh not make people gasp. Victor Borge needed no offensive material and I, personally, found him to be hilarious.

I don’t intend to offend anyone with my viewpoint because it’s just that… my viewpoint.. my perspective.. my opinion. You’re welcome to your own. Let’s not make a shark feeding frenzy out of this. Either you don’t mind Tosh’s rape jokes, or you do. Either way, he’s going to carry on and be successful and continue making people laugh whilst offending others.

Qingu's avatar

@funkdaddy,

“If you greet your mother every morning with the vilest insult you can think of and she laughs and tells you what a good boy you are. Then one day comes over to your home to see how you’re doing and gets offended when you insult her at the door, blogs about it and gets you fired from your job. That seems like a better parallel”

This is a terrible analogy. First of all, it’s not clear that the women who went to Tosh’s show knew his schtick. Secondly, even if they should have expected Tosh to make offensive (to them) rape jokes at his show, Tosh’s response to the woman’s heckling is what at issue here.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Qingu I didn’t read what you wrote?

“I think some rape jokes can be funny.”

”“What’s brown and taps on glass every ten seconds? A dead baby in a microwave!” That’s funny, I think. It’s shock humor that is funny through absurdity. Some people would understandably get offended, and that’s okay.”

“I hate it when people hide behind “it’s just a joke!”
For example, a mayor once made a joke about how Obama should grow a watermelon patch on the White House lawn.
You know, because he’s black! And blacks love watermelon. Funny! If you’re a racist.
The thing about this joke is, there is no universe in which people who laugh earnestly at this joke are not racists. Which is why people criticized the mayor for e-mailing this joke. And which is why her feeble excuse “lighten up it’s just a joke” is BS.”

It appears as though you’re saying that jokes about rape and dead babies are funny, but racial jokes aren’t funny unless you’re a racist. So… if I’m a racist for laughing at a joke about a black man liking watermelon, then thinking rape and dead babies are funny makes you a….. what exactly? A hypocrite.

Qingu's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate, nope. Not at all what I’m saying. You need to read my posts more closely before you call me a hypocrite.

Edit: Maybe I should be clearer. I don’t think a joke’s subject matter determines whether it can be funny or whether it should be off limits.

Daniel Tosh was not wrong because he made a joke about rape. Rather, he was wrong to deliberately provoke and bully a woman who said she thought rape jokes were offensive.

The mayor was not wrong because she made a joke about the sensitive subject of racist stereotypes. Rather, she was wrong because her joke was nothing but a racist stereotype.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Qingu I don’t think you read what I said either. If she wasn’t aware of the types of jokes Daniel Tosh does each and every time he hits the stage, she wouldn’t have bought the ticket. Being singled out during a comedy show you voluntarily attended is something you should prepare yourself for before you walk into the venue. Getting all worked up just because you’re singled out is ridiculous. Maybe this woman should stop attending comedy shows.

Just because YOU didn’t find this particular joke funny doesn’t mean no one else should have. Believe it or not, you’re not the official authority on the funniness of jokes. What you’ve said during this discussion is basically a huge contradiction.

amujinx's avatar

I don’t believe for a second that Tosh could have said that and got the whole audience to laugh as the woman left as she claims. Sounds more like someone got upset about a joke and exaggerated what was actually said to create controversy to me.

I’m sure Tosh’s joke was pretty vile to be fair, just not anywhere near as vile as the blogger claims.

cheebdragon's avatar

@digitalimpression Himself was full of jokes about his mom beating him, his kids having brain damage, how his daughters were plotting to kill the brother….Personally, I thought it was hilarious, but you don’t think someone who was beaten by their mother might be offended by those same jokes?

I don’t have any problems with Cosby, but you have to see the irony behind this, has anyone accused Tosh of being a rapist?

Qingu's avatar

@livelaughlove21, sorry, but I would never attend a comedy show with the expectation of the comic pointing at me and saying it would be funny if I got gang raped.

Because it’s not funny. There’s no joke there. The only thing it is is cruel.

I mean, Jesus. If someone with a disability showed up at a comedy club and the comedian proceeded to point at him and shout “look it’s a cripple! ha ha ha” ... that’s okay with you? Because people should expect that kind of humor at comedy clubs?

Are there any jokes, anything comedians could say to a person, that you do think cross a line?

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Qingu I quoted what you said. Verbatim. That’s the way it reads. “Rape jokes can be funny. That dead baby joke is funny. No one will laugh at a racial joke unless they’re a racist.” You’ll criticize someone for making a racial joke, and elaborate that it’s not that funny because it’s an overplayed stereotype. But rape jokes can be funny. Riiiiiiight. As a woman who narrowly escaped rape at the tender age of thirteen, that pisses me the hell off.

And I’m done here.

Qingu's avatar

@cheebdragon, again, it’s not the subject matter of the jokes. It’s the response.

I have no problem with Cosby’s child abuse jokes. (I love that routine, actually).

I would have a huge problem if, when confronted by someone who said child abuse wasn’t funny (possibly because they were themselves abused as children), Cosby proceeded to say something like “actually it would be funny if you were abused as a child! ha ha ha!”

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Qingu That’s not even sort of the same thing. If, somehow, Daniel Tosh knew that this girl had once been gang raped, and then proceeded to say, “you were raped! ha ha ha!” – no, that wouldn’t be funny. But once again, that’s not what he did. Laughing at a handicapped person for being handicapped being equated to what Tosh did is just completely ridiculous.

Qingu's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate, I don’t really know what else to say. I didn’t say what you claim I said. I certainly don’t believe it. I did not intend to give that impression. Maybe if you go back and read all of the things I’ve said in this thread, you’ll see that it’s not the case.

I want to elaborate because now I’m frustrated because I suspect we actually agree. I think there are ways of making jokes about sensitive subjects, like rape and racism, that are funny because they call attention to absurdity or injustice. However, I do not think such jokes are funny when they simply laugh at a victim, or make light of suffering, or embody a cruel stereotype. And I think the latter is exactly what Daniel Tosh did… which is why I am criticizing him and people who are defending him.

Qingu's avatar

So if Tosh knew the woman was a rape victim, his statement would not be funny, because it would be like laughing at a handicapped person… But since the woman did not identify herself then and there as a rape victim, Tosh is in the clear?

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Qingu Are you serious? I mean, really, come on! Pointing and laughing at someone about something you know is true about them (race, handicap, doesn’t matter…) is bullying. And no, it’s not funny to poke fun at someone like that at their expense. Pointing at a random girl in the audience of a comedy show featuring a comedian who is widely known for telling offensive jokes and making a joke based on NO knowledge about her is just that – a joke! If you can’t see the difference, then you have bigger issues than determining when rape jokes are funny and when they’re not.

How about this? I feel as if this rape joke situation was taken out of proportion by this lady and that, while she has a right to be offended, Daniel Tosh is a comedian and I see nothing wrong with what he did. You, on the other hand, feel as if he was bullying her and that the joke wasn’t funny in the slightest.

This is something we call differing opinions. Stating your OPINIONS as if they’re facts is how arguments like these begin. So, shall we just agree to disagree or would you like to, once again, state that I didn’t read your response and/or insinuate that I’m a bad person for not thinking Daniel Tosh was out of line?

DominicX's avatar

@Qingu “I think there are ways of making jokes about sensitive subjects, like rape and racism, that are funny because they call attention to absurdity or injustice. However, I do not think such jokes are funny when they simply laugh at a victim, or make light of suffering, or embody a cruel stereotype. And I think the latter is exactly what Daniel Tosh did…”

Agreed. I wouldn’t even call his comment about gang-rape a “joke”. It was just awkward and weird.

End of my contribution to this.

Qingu's avatar

First of all, “opinions differ” is not a mindblowing fact to point out. We are having a debate. Let’s see which of our opinions makes more sense.

That said, I am glad we have established some sort of limits for what you consider acceptable humor. You do not think pointing at a disabled person and calling them a cripple is acceptable. I am assuming you would likewise not think pointing to a black person and saying “wouldn’t it be funny if he got lynched right now” is acceptable.

But we disagree on whether it’s acceptable to say, to a “random” woman who happens to be uncomfortable with rape jokes, “wouldn’t it be funny if you got gang-raped right now.”

Okay. First of all, one in four women have been raped. Maybe Daniel Tosh is unaware of this statistic. Nevertheless, there is a good chance that the women has, in fact, been the victim of the thing Tosh is “joking” about. The fact that she said she was uncomfortable makes it even more likely.

Secondly, I am still confused as to what exactly you think Tosh’s “joke” was. Tosh did not dispute her account. The “joke” was claiming that it would be funny if a woman in the audience got gang-raped. I don’t see how this is “just that — a joke!” What’s the joke, exactly? Why is this funny? I know that jokes get ruined when you explain them, but for our purposes maybe it would help if you would explain how this joke could be construed as funny. Because I’m not seeing it. All I see is cruelty. I guess there are people who think cruelty is funny.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Qingu You know, I’m getting the feeling that you’ve never actually watched Daniel Tosh do stand-up before. Maybe you should start with that. Perhaps you’ll think nothing he says constitutes as a “joke” because all of his material sounds like this rape comment he made. If that’s the case, then there’s no argument to be had, is there?

And, in case you missed it, me stating that we have differing opinions and we should agree to disagree – that’s me getting really sick of this useless “debate”. I’m never going to think you’re right and you’re never going to think I’m right. Shall I continue to waste my time saying the same thing over and over while you do the same? No, I don’t think I shall. You feel free to go on though…I’m sure you will.

Qingu's avatar

I have watched Tosh’s show.

Some of it was funny and clever but yeah, a lot of it was literally just pointing at and bullying people he found on Youtube.

Though I don’t recall seeing anything as pointlessly vicious as pointing at a woman and saying how funny it would be if she got gang-raped.

JLeslie's avatar

I skimmed the answers above.

My opinion is rape jokes are never funny. Gang rape even less funny. I think people and the media are making too much of it. He told a bad joke in bad taste. People, the audience, should let him know it is crossing the line by not laughing, they can even boo, but the entire nation and world doesn’t need to hate him for it.

A lot of women have been raped or molested, or know someone who has been, so in a room of people you are likely to upset a good portion of them. It is more than offensive, it brings up scary, extremely emotional feelings for a lot of people. If we joke about women nagging their husband’s, or gaining weight after marriage, or black people not swimming, or any other thing that might be offensive to the group, that is still very different than talking about bodily harm in my opinion.

lillycoyote's avatar

I apologize for both not reading your link @Fly and for not reading any of the other comments on this thread. What exactly, did Daniel Tosh say?

Whatever he said, whatever anyone on this thread has said, there is really nothing funny about rape. Really. It is not a joking matter. Rape, most often, changes a woman, changes womens’ lives forever. They can survive, recover, heal, but they will most likely never be quite the same again.

Some things you don’t joke about and rape, particularly gang rape, is not one of them.

I’m so very sorry if I can’t lighten up a little bit and find the humor in it.

Edit: Though, I guess since I, at this point, don’t actually know what Daniel Tosh said, perhaps I should not judge him; however, I really doubt any “joke” about rape, to me, would be acceptable.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@Qingu I get what you’re saying, and I agree.
@livelaughlove21 the woman who was in the audience did make a statement through a friend (while attempting to protect her identity), but they do claim that they didn’t know that Tosh was even on the schedule. She didn’t even buy the ticket, she was invited to the show.

I don’t even see where the humor is to be found. He didn’t make a joke. He suggested that it would be amusing if this woman were assaulted. By more than one person, for that matter. That’s not a joke, in my opinion it borders on being a threat. If someone in the audience had taken it upon themselves to act on that suggestion, in any way, I would hope that Tosh would be held accountable for his suggestion.

It’s not even about whether or not it is okay to joke about certain topics… though, I agree with the comments above and opinions that I’ve read elsewhere, that if you’re going to joke about touchy subjects, at least make the perpetrator the butt of the joke. Not the victim. That is how you execute a funny joke about a taboo subject. People often look for humor or seek to make light of horrific things in order to better swallow that reality can be ugly. Fine, I get that, I participate in that. But if you’re going to joke about something ugly, let’s say child abuse, then make the joke on the abuser. You don’t say “it would be so funny if 5 grown men started punching this 3 year old in the face right now! Ha ha!” No. That isn’t a joke. Do I think you should be allowed to say it? Sure. But don’t be surprised when I think you’re an asshole for it.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@lillycoyote You can read the post that started it all. Basically, she goes to a comedy club to see another comedian, has no idea who Tosh is, and then:

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…” and I, completely stunned and finding it hard to process what was happening but knowing i needed to get out of there, immediately nudged my friend, who was also completely stunned, and we high-tailed it out of there. It was humiliating, of course, especially as the audience guffawed in response to Tosh, their eyes following us as we made our way out of there. I didn’t hear the rest of what he said about me.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I actually love rape jokes – when the absurdity of the situation, the rapist, and/or rape culture is the butt of the joke. When the victim is the butt of the joke, I can’t stand them. It’s not about figuring out what topics are off-limits, it’s about using comedy to invert existing power structures and finding the joke that makes the world better instead of worse.

Response moderated (Spam)
CWOTUS's avatar

I can understand why the woman was upset, because of course rape isn’t funny. But I can also understand why the comedian – any comedian – would try to make a joke about it that is funny. We find humor in awful things sometimes because we have to in order to maintain our sanity. One of the comedians who came to Tosh’s defense in the link provided in the question was pretty funny: “This Daniel Tosh rape joke controversy really has me second guessing some of my rapes.”

I’ll give a simple enough example from my own life:
On September 11, 2001, I was working in California and therefore was just getting up to go to work for the day as the news was on television about the World Trade Center attack. Before I left the house I watched as the first tower crumbled to the ground. It was horrifying, of course. There was nothing funny about it then and there is still nothing funny about it.

When I got to work we were all more or less going through the motions, in shocked silence and with very little interaction between our group, who were normally active, cheerful and open to discuss any topic of the day. I made a joke about the current situation. It was perfectly forgettable (I have forgotten the joke myself) and probably quite lame. It was either speculation about the effect of the attack on Manhattan property values or something to do with what this would do to people’s daily commute. It got a few nervous laughs – and we started talking again.

I use humor a lot – all the time, really – to de-fuse tense situations or to relax people who are uncomfortable. Not every joke works, but if it works to get people talking instead of frozen in a particular response mode (like this woman obviously was about rape, for example), then it’s not all bad, either.

Mark Twain knew all of this (and would have made funny comments about the Holocaust, I’m sure):
Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.
– Following the Equator

The funniest things are the forbidden.
– Notebook, 1879

Humorists of the ‘mere’ sort cannot survive. Humor is only a fragrance, a decoration.
– Mark Twain’s Autobiography

The humorous writer professes to awaken and direct your love, your pity, your kindness—your scorn for untruth, pretension, imposture….He takes upon himself to be the week-day preacher.
– “Notes on Thackeray’s Essay on Swift”

Finally, two related personal notes:
I wrote my father’s obituary for his home city newspaper. You have to understand that I loved my father dearly, and his premature death (at 80, but he was a healthy 80, so it was unexpected) nine years ago has affected me greatly. Still, I made humorous references to his life in the writing. The obits editor wrote to me after they ran it in the paper (without changing a word) and told me it was one of the best she had ever seen.

He died from an accident, followed by exposure as he lay unconscious in the cold one night. I discovered as I visited the house he and my mother had rented in Arizona that he had taken the trash out to the curb in the two-wheeled wheelie-bin on a pea-gravel driveway. The week after the funeral, while I was at the house myself and took the trash out, I realized what must have happened. The pea gravel is fine to drive on, but those narrow wheels of the trash bin are very “draggy” when the bin is loaded (as it was for me after the funeral and initial clearing of the house, since my mother then had to go to a nursing home). It was tough to push the loaded bin. I realized that my dad must have been overtaxed and (since he had low blood pressure to begin with and was at high altitude near Flagstaff), probably passed out, falling and striking his head on the concrete porch as he was returning to the house.

So I realized right away that “the trash took out Dad”. No, it’s not ha-ha funny, but it helped me to deal. It helps me to deal.

bkcunningham's avatar

This discussion reminded me of something. This would be better if I knew how to properly link. Relevant:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua0TT87KNwo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejNUguCZ9H0

dabbler's avatar

From the small amount of Tosh I’ve seen, his comedy is lazy and stupid.
However, I will defend his ‘free speech’ right to say whatever stupid joke occurs to his pea brain.

I will also heartily endorse anyone attacking the quality of his ‘work’ and trying to get him off the air and get the jerk-offs who produce that crap, and decide to air it, fired. And let his sponsors know while you’re at it.

jca's avatar

I would love to see a video of the exchange just like the Michael Richards’ one linked above. I feel a video would add a whole new dimension to the debate.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I agree with you @Fly. Not so long ago, a British comedian, Frankie Boyle, was heckled by an offended audience member after he made a joke about Downs Syndrome. What annoyed me about this was the fact that this particular comedian is well known for being vulgar and making fun of the less fortunate, it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to this woman that he was likely to say something that many consider offensive because that is the whole point of his comedy. People who are easily offended should stay away from stand up comedy unless they know the comedian will stay away from topics that may be risky to some.

Edit: I should add that I do not know who the comedian in question here is or if he is well known for using touchy subjects in his acts.

DominicX's avatar

This also reminds me of the Tracy Morgan homophobic rant incident. I’ve seen comedians make fun of gays and I thought it was plenty funny—but Tracy Morgan ranting that he will stab his son to death if he turns out gay, I just thought that was awkward and unfunny.

A comedian can joke about racism or homophobia, but as soon as they do something that shows they might actually be racist or homophobic, it’s not a joke anymore and it isn’t funny. I guess the same could apply to rape. Joking about it can work, but showing that you actually think rape is funny or that it’s no big deal makes it not a joke. And that’s how Tosh’s response to the woman sounded.

And yes, there is a “fine line”. Good comedians know how not to cross it.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I should also add that I am not defending rape jokes and, from what I have read here, this comedians “jokes” weren’t funny at all but I have also never been offended by stand up comedy. I may feel a joke is distasteful and not laugh but it wouldn’t make me think badly of that comedian because they are doing a job and others will find it funny. That’s just how it is. I certainly wouldn’t make a big deal out of it, at worst, I wouldn’t pay them any more attention.

cheebdragon's avatar

If you thought Tosh was offensive, you probably haven’t heard Tom Leykis.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

Why don’t I come to your place of business and repeatedly interrupt YOU.

Got something to say? Convince the club manager you can get some laughs and GO FOR IT.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

“Daniel Tosh is not afraid…”

-REM

bolwerk's avatar

Tosh is so unfunny that he wouldn’t know humor if it bent him over and shoved its…

Crashsequence2012's avatar

Constitutionally protected freedom of speech. Full stop.

The heckler’s statement was genuinely meant.

Tosh’s reply, was of course entirely hypothetical.

Get a fucking grip everyone.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] We had a problem with successfully moderating several replies at the end of this question, so they have been deleted. Apologies.

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