Why is everyone so Goddamn eager to stick up for Daniel Tosh? What contribution has he really made to comedy? I know he has a show that I’ve never watched. I know he does stand-up that I’ve never seen or heard. I know that people know his name. What has he really contributed, though? As in, who the hell is he, really?
Like I said, I’ve never ever watched his show or his stand-up acts, but I just want to point out that most people I’ve spoken to about Tosh’s humor seem to think that the man is just not that funny. I’m sure there are plenty of perfectly nice people out there that put on Tosh.0 and laugh their asses off, but I’ve never met any of those people — at least not as far as I know. (If any friends of mine out there are reading this and thinking, “Shit, I LOVE that show. Now Steff’s gonna hate me!” please calm down. Chances are, I like YOU more than I DISlike this Tosh asshole. Once more, I don’t even watch the damn show. That’s how much I care about him.) That aside, I think it’s safe to say that the man is not going to be remembered as an important comedian of our time. In fact, I’d bet every cent I have that the man only has a few more years before he’s headlining at the Chumash Casino.
Anyway, this guy made a rape joke. In fact, it wasn’t even a joke. According to the girl who actually experienced this whole thing, Tosh was up on stage making awkward comments about how “rape jokes are always funny.” So, you see, he wasn’t even making rape jokes — he was just making weird statements about rape jokes. He said, “rape jokes are always funny,” and this girl — who, at the end of the day, is a damn brave girl — disagreed with him, and said, “Rape jokes are never funny.”
Now, I’m not gonna bother going into the sexual politics of what happened here. I’m going to keep it very simple. Ready?
I wouldn’t really call that “heckling.” She didn’t say, “YOU are not funny, you asshole.” She just disagreed with his statement. Because that’s what the line was — it was a STATEMENT. It wasn’t even a damn JOKE. He wasn’t up there making JOKES.
You see the point I’m trying to make?
Now, I have tried to stay out of Tosh-related conversations since this whole thing went down. I’m at a brand new job, and I’m trying to be nice to everybody and I don’t want to make anyone too uncomfortable by babbling about all the steadfast convictions I have about every damn thing. Remaining quiet during Tosh-related conversations, however, has proved rather challenging. It seems that whenever someone starts a conversation with, “Have you heard about the Daniel Tosh thing?” they always end up mocking the girl who spoke up. I’ve also heard a lot of, “Well, if you’re gonna go watch a comedian, you have to be prepared to hear something offensive.”
This is true. This is a true, true statement. I would simply like to point out, though, that I would be behind this idea 100% if Tosh were actually up there performing material he’d worked on. He wasn’t really doing that, though — he was just saying dumb shit.
There’s a difference between George Carlin and Daniel Tosh. There’s a difference between Chris Rock and Daniel Tosh. There’s a difference between Kevin Hart and Daniel Tosh. There’s a difference between Louis C.K. and Daniel Tosh. Ellen Degeneres. Sarah Silverman. Robin fucking Williams. Motherfuckin’ M’ONIQUE. What’s the difference? The difference is simple. The people I just listed are amazing comedians who challenge their audience members to look at — and laugh at — the ugly, messed up truths of being human. If any of these comedians decided to do an entire routine that revolved around the idea that “rape jokes are always funny,” it would probably piss off and embarrass a lot of people, but it would also make them THINK. That is one of the most amazing things about comedy — it makes you laugh while you recoil in horror at how fucked up the world is, and that YOU are very much a part of this twisted place.
This is why the argument of “he was making a joke” is invalid. He wasn’t making a joke, he was just saying shocking shit to get a reaction from people. Yes, there is a difference.
A few days ago I was watching an episode of 30 Rock. Popular damn show. Prior to watching it the other day, I had only ever seen one entire episode from start to finish. It isn’t the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s damn smart and I think Tina Fey deserves all the credit she gets.
Ya know what the episode I watched the other day contained? A rape joke. I don’t know the characters’s names so bear with me while I try to explain. Jane Krakowski’s character was half-assedly trying to seduce the weird guy from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The guy got scared and ran away, and Jane Krakowski called after him, “IT ISN’T RAPE IF NEITHER ONE OF US REALLY WANT IT!”
I laughed. I thought it was a funny line. Oh, believe me, I think it’s terrible when people say with strong conviction, “It isn’t rape if the girl was wearing a tank top” or “It isn’t rape if the girl was drunk” or “It isn’t rape if it was a date.” Trust me, that is some fucked up repugnant shit. However, that’s exactly the kind of mentality this joke was invoking and, therefore, dissecting. It was funny because bullshit statements like that are very true to life. ALSO, the line in question was said by a WOMAN. The shock factor was there not only because someone said “rape,” but also because the person saying it was a woman. So there it all is — your shock value, your social commentary, and your punchline. It was an actual rape joke that was funny. Are there people out there who would have heard that line and thought, “Turn off this filth”? Yes. Absolutely. And they have the right to turn off the TV. Is Tina Fey as bad as Daniel Tosh? No. Why? Because she had the decency to write some actual material. Because she’s a comedian, not a bullshitter.
Are rape jokes always funny as long as women deliver them? I don’t know. I’m not really trying to argue that they are “always” or “never” funny. I’m simply pointing out there difference between what Tosh actually said versus an actual “rape joke.” Anyone can stand up on a stage and talk for an hour and call themselves a comedian, but not everyone can be a comedian just because they never shut up.
During my sophomore year of college I took a stand up comedy class. (I also took my first feminist studies class that year. Ya know what the first thing my professor said was? “This class is not about hating men. I love men.” Chew on that, assholes.) My stand-up professor was a foul-mouthed queen from San Francisco named Doug. He let us tell jokes about everything and anything. People told jokes about sex and drugs and violence. People told jokes about race and religion. Really, there was nothing we weren’t allowed to discuss. Doug’s one rule? No rape jokes. Some people in the class thought this was a stupid rule. In fact, a lot of students started making jokes about how they weren’t allowed to make rape jokes. None of the jokes were ever all that funny, really, and they really annoyed Doug. One day, a kid did a routine about a time he peed up his grandma’s nose. He ended his routine with some kind of dumb line like, “No rape jokes, you guys.” Doug got on the microphone afterward and said, “I just let you come up here and talk about peeing on your grandmother. I don’t think I need to be persecuted for outlawing jokes about rape.”
Doug didn’t have a bad point, really. There’s an entire world of material out there — why should audience members be expected to brace themselves for an evening of discomfort? If a comedian can only come up with the line, “Rape jokes are always funny,” I think HE should be prepared for someone to disagree, right? And then maybe deal with it in a professional, witty manner?
I guess that’s what a real comedian would do, anyway. At least one with staying power.