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Blog: Everyone's Talking About Rape

Posted on July 18, 2012 at 3:35 AM

Oh boy, here we go. Everyone's said something at this point, so might as well. Happy to hear comments too, this isn't a one-way street. Alright, let's do this.

Everyone's Talking About Rape

Let's first get something out the way: Daniel Tosh isn't a great comedian. He's a good host for his television show, but in terms of crafting a good stand up act he's about the equivalent of going to the zoo to see monkeys, but all the monkeys do is fuck and throw their shit at you.'ll be entertained as all hell, I know I am in that respect when it comes to Tosh, but it's not exactly the best example of the wonderful side of nature. In other words, Tosh doesn't tell jokes, he just tries to get a rise out of you by saying shocking things and that results in humor. It's a technique a ton of comedians use with Tosh probably more dependent on that element of "shocking" you than most. Sometimes they say terrible things. Sometimes shockingly terrible things. It's nothing new and in some forms (like Family Guy and Tosh's own show) it works.

So the big issue came in to being last week about Tosh and a "rape joke" that he may or may not have said. Something that is not relevant here is whether or not he said a "rape joke" or whether or not it was funny. Truth is, if you know Tosh's act, it wasn't really a "rape joke" in the first place. It was about an absolute ridiculous scenario that, without question, would never ever happen and rape was an aspect of it. It's a bit he does a lot, if you've heard any of his stand up CDs or seen his act on television. It's simply absurdest comedy with that aforementioned "shocking" twist…and actually done fairly well if you like absurdest comedy.

Again, the issue isn't whether or not the joke was funny. Funny is subjective. The issue is that he said a "rape joke" in the first place.

The hubub (bub) really started by a blogger who was offended by the "joke" and heckled (for lack of a better word) Tosh to which Tosh responded as most comedians do by going after her and simultaneously as most comedians don't by implying she should get raped. Sure, it was all nasty and whatnot, but that's often the case when you are speaking over a comedian at a show and that's going to be their reaction no matter who they are, rapist or otherwise. It's their time, their stage, and if you don't like it it's your choice to leave and even demand a refund or, as the blogger wrote about, a voucher. Done and done.

But it wasn't. And the fact that Daniel Tosh horribly insulted the woman isn't the issue here either. It's more about what we choose to discuss and what we choose joke about...which is anything and everything.

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Jim Jefferies is as misogynistic as they come, covering every angle you can think of, but is he full of hatred and vile and making the world a horrible place? No, because what he says is so utterly ridiculous you just have to laugh at it.

What The Issue Is

What it is, is a tired old argument. It's not what's funny versus what is funny, it's actually the same "women think this" and "men think that" argument that has existed since the dawn of time. It's all stereotypes, but as you know stereotypes do have a shred of truth to them. All this turned from this small incident vaguely described by an offended female audience member into a bigger discussion about whether or not rape is something comedians (male comedians especially) should be able to use in an act. I'll keep this simple:

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is yes, but watch your step.

I'm not saying you should watch your step just because the subject matter is rape, it's that "watch your step" kind of goes for a lot of things for comedians. And that has nothing to do with line-crossing, it has to do with how you step around awful subject matters to craft a joke out of it. The longer answer is relevant to a lot of the "shocking" and offensive things in comedic acts and stuff they've been doing forever: Race stereotypes. 9/11. Incest. Pedophilia. Dead babies. Abortion. Disease. Cancer (hell, there's a whole charity about making cancer funny called Stand Up to Cancer). Murder. Sexuality. Religion. Various degrees of violence against various degrees of skin tones people and sexes and ages. You name it and comedians have tackled it in a number of ways probably offending a ton of people in doing so. In fact, didn't Gallagher have a hilarious dead baby joke and then crush a watermelon with a sledgehammer?

The point is, everyone has something in their life they are touchy on. It's subjective and, yes, that includes rape and, yes, that includes rape jokes done by male comedians. It's not a "slippery slope" discussion where people might say "oh, but if they can't tell rape jokes anymore then they can't make fun of the way women drive or how Asians are good at math." That has nothing to do with it because anything and everything can be made fun of and joked about in some fashion, whether you like the joke or not and whether or not you find it funny.

Seriously, do you know how many comedians have jokes about rape in some form? A lot, and a lot done in various styles and approaches. I started counting but stopped after Carlin because once Carlin's done it there's no point in counting any more. Not that Carlin is validation, but Carlin IS one of the more beloved comedians while Daniel Tosh is...well Daniel Tosh. Not to insult Tosh, he's fine. But my point is even the most popular, renowned and "accepted" comedians probably have a rape joke or twenty.

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Not only that...Carlin does his usual social observation of the entire "joke" process and deconstruction of comedy while doing so.

Of Words and Preferences

You know, this brings up something else, and it's the phrase "Rape Joke." Man, that sounds awful, doesn't it? You think of that, the victimizing of rape and that someone dare put "joke" at the end of it. The thing is, you don't know the context of said joke and, I'm sorry, it's not a black and white deal. Things never are, comedy especially. You see those two words together and you naturally cringe at it: one word so horrible and other so gleeful. It's not the only thing that has that issue.

A comedian can't read an audience and say "oh, well there's a black guy over there, better not do any black jokes...and that woman looks like she lost a child a few months ago and that guy's mother might have nix those as well..." That's the way comedy is and will always be, and anything can be made funny if you're good at your job and, as I said, watch your step. Tosh was at a place where you are expecting jokes...and those jokes are going to cover anything and everything. Nobody is going to put up a sign that says "Hey, if you are offended by dead babies and rape, don't enter." That's just the way comedy is. You take the good with the bad, the stuff you like versus the stuff you don't.

Comedians aren't there to conform to what you think is funny, that's why we all have our preferences when it comes to comedians and that's why we love them in the first place: they say things we would never say, say things we think about but couldn't quite put together and say things that you've always wanted to say but didn't realize until someone else got up the nerve to say it. I love Patton Oswalt's act because I'm a nerd and he jokes about nerdy things and comments on the stupidness of our society, but I'm not the biggest Bill Hicks fan out there because politics makes my head hurt. It's just preference, but those are just two examples where comedians point out things in their lives, our lives, the world's...lives...that are sometimes awful and make us laugh at them. If you don't like it, why make a big deal out of it?

Hmmm..apparently I was supposed to say "stupidity." "Stupidness" isn't a word at all.

Well it kind of goes like this: those making a "rape joke" (yes there's that ugly word again) are often men and those against having jokes about rape are often women. As I said: an old argument of the sexes.

Here's where I have an issue: those against "rape jokes' seem to imply that laughing at a rape joke or telling a rape joke is the same as validating rape itself. The problem with that logic is that you can say that for a lot of the jokes I listed way above about horrible things...but you can't say that because rape is, most often, associated to the victimization of women....but you can't say that because men are raped too (yet nobody seems to really care I guess)...but you can't say that because both men and women are victims of many different things and singling out one and saying you can't center a joke on it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

It's all being too simplified yet over-analyzed at the same time. Let me ask you this:

Do you like Louis CK? Chances are you do. Everybody does. Even rapists.

Do you like raping dead children? Probably not. Unless you're a rapist.

Well guess what, Louis has a joke about that...and it's hilarious. It's the way he says it and the way he integrates it into the story. He even admits during the same set that he only says those horrible things because it bothers the audience...and it makes them laugh even more because it's so NOT him that it becomes funny. It's absurdity. Taking real, awful things and kind of understanding your own place in the world as a result.

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Louis CK also has a good bit about raping Hitler. Again, so utterly absurd it's funny as a result.

The thing is, simply saying "raping dead children" is horrible. It over-simplifies the point of the joke...but then people begin to take that over-simplification and that small phrase and then over-analyze it to death until everyone gets on a high-horse of moral superiority and it all mutates into something else that may or may not involve Cthulhu destroying the planet in judgement.

That's what's happening now. It's like playing that game when you were non-dead/raped-children where you sat in a circle, someone starts by thinking of a sentence and it then is whispered all the way around the circle until it comes back to the original person and is completely different than what he or she said. It kind of turned into something else but when it really just comes down to: yes, things are funny but when they're funny. Things hit. Things miss. Something offensive can be funny and that's been proven since comedy has been around. It just needs to be done right. Not all rape jokes are funny just like not every Catholic pedophile joke is funny, it's all about how they are crafted and delivered to your probably-not-so-innocent ears.  But when a comedian can make it funny, we should not only appreciate their ability to take something so offensive or horrible and make us laugh, but should thank them that they did it so that we don't have to.

Of course, that's when they make it funny. Like I said, it's not always funny, just as it's not always unfunny, but any offensive subject matter can be funny.

Offense and Self-Importance

Ralph Garman on KROQ, and God bless him he's a Los Angeles Treasure as far as I'm concerned even though he's from Philadelphia brought up an issue that nobody is really talking about and said it best late last week: The whole world of people taking offense then flying a banner about it has gotten out of hand. In the grander scheme, you - as one person being offended by something someone said - is completely meaningless. True, the blogger's, errr, blog has become a part of the national discussion, but the truth is who really cares that one person was offended by a rape joke in the first place? People get offended by shit every single day.

In other words you aren't going to change the world because you didn't like something someone said that one time. That's life. However, people are using their blogs and twitter and all this social media at their disposal to make statements and a lot of those statements are how they are right and everyone else is wrong. So when those people become offended by something, they have to shout it from every mountaintop so that others will agree with them and kind of validate their "rightness." They like to say "Oh, here's my soapbox moment for me to approve or dissaprove of what's happening right now even though we'll all forget about it in a week or so."

Yeah, exaclty. You'll forget about all this. You will. After a week, what happens? The same thing that happens every single day of your life: You move on. You'll always move on. A week from now, nobody will remember any of this and we'll all still get up, go to work, go to school, come home and and sleep only to get up and do it all again. Things will happen during the day that will make us laugh, make us cry, offend us or just make us so unbelievably happy. But as time goes on, it all fades into just another day and a series of moments. People will forget, just as you will. People forget "issues" all the time. It just comes and goes. Hell, you'll forget this hypocritical blog quicker than you forgot Amanda Black was a "thing" at one time. Going on about how you don't like something isn't going to achieve anything. Just look at all those petitions from groups like the Parent's Television Council, whom I mock on this site regularly. What are they achieving other than saying "Hey! Look at me!? I'm right!" Then that's it...they really didn't achieve anything beyond self promotion and we forget what the Hell they were complaining about in the first place.

The truth is, a majority doesn't care if you're offended by something. You can't say "he crossed the line" with a joke about rape when everybody's line is different (though I think everyone agrees he crossed the line with his response to her heckling, including Tosh who apologized for it).  Everyone is going to be offended by something at some point. Well, except me. You have to try damn hard to offend me. I will say I'm a sucker for animals so puppy killing jokes might offend me and the aforementioned cancer jokes will have to be pretty well-crafted for me to chuckle, but I'd probably laugh at the absurdity of it all to be honest. I mean, who the hell kills puppies? Certainly not that comedian on stage which is why it's funny. He's probably a rapist though.

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And yes, there are female comedians that have rape as a part of their act as well.

I kind of look at it like this: we're all human. We all say stupid things. We all hear stupid things. Some things we like. Some things we don't. Some things we wish we never heard and want to go and write about it on the internets. The conclusion here is that rape is awful, a lot of things in this world are, but like a lot of things it can be turned into humor in the right context.

Know the context and the joke and how it's used rather than just going by someone saying it was a "rape joke." Then, if you're still offended, go on with your life. Making a joke about something that offended you isn't validating it, just as laughing at it isn't validating it. You're offended, that's fine you have the right to be, but there are many things that offend many people. I'm personally offended by bloggers who write pages about shit they know nothing about. Those self-righteous assholes need to get a life.

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