Tosh In Trouble For Making Rape Joke

I want to say first off that I don’t think rape jokes are funny in any situation. I just don’t. I do think that humor is one of our few ways of dealing with the world and it is important to be able to joke about things, even terrible things. Sometimes those jokes aren’t going to be funny, but it is how we deal with horrible things. Still, there are just some things that are going to be problematic to joke about even if we need to in order to deal with the horribleness. We may not like the fact that our ability to think and speak is restricted, but it is the way things are.

I’m, of course, talking about Daniel Tosh getting in trouble for making a rape joke. To summarize, Tosh was doing an act and commented that he thought rape jokes were funny. An audience member contradicted him and Tosh made a joke about how he thought it would be funny if that audience member was raped right then. This did not go well.

Personally, I think my sympathy has to go out to the audience member first. As much as I think a person has a right to say things, that person has to understand that people also have a right to react. Really, this was over the line to refer to the audience member getting raped. I understand the humor mechanism he was trying to use, but there was no way that he wasn’t going to catch shit for that and it was pretty clear that this was going to feel like an attack to the audience member.

I do at least still feel bad for Tosh. I mean, there are things we need to be able to talk about (and sometimes joke about) that we can’t. His entire comedy bit involves pushing that envelope between acceptable and not acceptable. With comedy like that, it is inevitable that the comic will go over the line. It happened to Gilbert Gottfried (on multiple occasions) and it happened to Daniel Tosh.

Do I think he thinks rape is funny? No. Do I think he felt he should be able to joke about it without in any way making light of rape itself? Yes. Did it still go over the line? Yes. Sometimes with this kind of comedy the comic spends so much time on the line that his or her judgment as to what is going to be too far may be impaired. I think that happened here. This was just too much for Tosh to get away with.

I mean, I don’t think Tosh thinks that rape is funny. Rape is a horrifying, grotesque crime. I just think he wants to be able to joke about anything. He himself commented that: “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.” Technically you can make them. Whether or not you should is another story. Still, his comment itself seems a bit ironic. After all, this situation seems to disprove his point a bit.

Either way, the whole situation makes me uncomfortable. I feel bad for the audience member, but I feel a little bad for Tosh too. We need to be able to joke about bad things in order to be able to deal with life, but sometimes our dealing is going to make more for others to have to deal with. Rape definitely isn’t funny, but we have to be able to talk about it in order to put a stop to it. The whole situation is complicated and I just feel bad around….and now I’ll probably be attacked by both sides for not taking a total side one way or another. Oh well, I’m going to say fuck it and post anyway.

About David S. Atkinson

David S. Atkinson enjoys typing about himself in the third person, although he does not generally enjoy speaking in such a fashion. However, he is concerned about the Kierkegaard quote "Once you label me you negate me." He worries that if he attempts to define himself he will, in fact, nullify his existence...
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10 Responses to Tosh In Trouble For Making Rape Joke

  1. Wayne says:

    Personally I’m just glad that there are people out there that can tell me what is funny and what is never funny or else how would I know what to laugh at?

    • Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t begin to speak to what you might or might not find funny. I don’t find Tosh’s joke in this case funny, but I wouldn’t speak for anyone else. Other people’s minds are other people’s minds. Still, I think his come back in this one was over the line.

      • Wayne says:

        My comment was directed at the woman who objected to the joke. It is fine that she does not find the joke funny but she has to interrupt the performer to tell him that her opinion supercedes his and that he cannot make jokes that she does not find funny? The audacity of this woman!

      • Ah, I see. I’m torn on this. I support people being able to say what they want, even when I find it personally deplorable…but that also goes for the audience member as well. I support the fact that she felt the joke was so objectionable that she needed to dispense with the courtesy of not speaking during a show to say something about it. I have to support both of them being able to say what they felt they needed to say, even if I personally thought the joke was horrifying.

  2. Karen Lyon says:

    I think this is a very reasoned response to this issue, but with all due respect, you are a man. So is Daniel Tosh, obviously. This is not to say that men aren’t raped, but the majority of rape victims are women and we all know this. I’ve known a rape victim or two. They DON’T joke about it, I might add. The argument that “there are awful things in the world that we can still make jokes about” (as Tosh put it) is frankly disingenuous. Would any comedian joke about Jerry Sandusky? Absolutely not. Would anyone want to? Doubtful. That would be because we all understand there are some things in this world that are not funny in any context. Tosh was not being insensitive, he was being obtuse in his refusal to understand he crossed that line. Feeding the controversy is that people are defending him and trying to excuse his behavior. I don’t feel you are doing so, and I admire your sympathy for the fact that Tosh is getting a lot of flak, but isn’t that the consequence for not taking a deep breath and acting like an adult? He came back at that heckler mouth before mind, and now people are trying to make it sound less offensive, which is ridiculous, considering he was talking about a gang rape. When we mess up, bad stuff often follows, and we need to just take the consequences, learn from that and move on. I live for the day when someone who makes an “offensive remark” (I hate that expression now,) then honestly apologizes, and admits that the outrage he/she gets is completely deserved. No defensive posturing, no rationalizing, no “mistakes were made”, no lining up testimonials to his/her true character. Just a simple “I’m sorry, it was stupid, and I accept the fact that people are pissed off about it. I would react that way if someone else said it.” My wonderful, now departed, Dad used to say it took a big man to admit when he was wrong (which was a tongue in cheek comment, since he was 5’7″). I wish more people felt that way.

    • Well, Southpark actually did make jokes about Sandusky. I didn’t find those funny either. Regardless, I agree that it would be more refreshing if people who said something offensive just apologized and let it go at that (at least the ones who were sorry). I think that’s part of freedom of speech, admitting when you said something completely stupid if you are in fact sorry about it.

    • I mean, people who want to be able to say something that is offensive have to just accept the fact that people are going to get really pissed at them. If they aren’t sorry, then they have to accept that people are going to judge them accordingly.

    • Rayon says:

      In many ways, I agree with you. Some things are better off not joking about. Unfortunately, the reality of it all is different. Comedy, as a whole, is about taking apart events and relaying them to an audience through a medium, in this case Daniel Tosh, so that they may find them funny. Comedians have done this with 9/11, religion, homosexuality, murder, and many other, so called, sensitive topics. That is how the industry was built. Many subject to comedic value are often demoralized. Is there a line? no, one does not exist. Should there be one? I say yes. However, condemning Daniel Tosh for doing what has been always done is wrong. I do not believe he owes anyone an apology. Based on what is done at comedy show, I think many may have overreacted–not that you are not entitled to that. You can pretty much have whatever reaction you want to have. Rape is a touchy subject. However, if we exclude rape, why not exclude joking about people 300LBS and over or a religion. In fact, why not stop making humorous comments or even stop attempting to make them. The point is; people will say things we do not life. Unfortunately, that is the reality of life–GET OVER IT!

  3. silver price says:

    There are awful things in the world, and you can still make jokes about them. I have a rape joke myself. When I wrote about my sexual assault for a nonfiction workshop in my MFA program, I called the piece “rape-portage,” as in “reportage” as pronounced by arrogant MFAers as “re-por-taj” or “re-pər-ˈtäzh,” if you want to get fancy. I’d laugh at my own joke, which I said aloud only to myself and a few close friends, feeling as if the worst thing that happened to me was something I could now own and talk about without feeling it was the worst thing that had happened to me. I used humor to distance myself from pain, while never forgetting the pain or diminishing or devaluing it.

  4. Incidentally, to the guy whose posts I’ve been deleting off here: I respect your opinion on the issue and would have left the post on there, regardless what it was, but I’m not leaving up a direct attack on myself. You have the right to say it, but I don’t have to leave an attack on me up on my blog. I’ll just delete it. Also, there’s no first amendment issue there as I am not a state actor.

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