It was a terrible idea but he did it anyway. Now his already lousy professional reputation just got worse.
Comedian Daniel Tosh was doing a set at The Laugh Factory in Los Angeles late last week. According to this now-infamous anonymous audience member’s account (posted at her friend’s Tumblr blog), the Tosh.0 host made “some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc.”.
Feeling deeply and understandably uncomfortable about this, the female audience member shouted out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”
Tosh’s reply, according to the woman’s account:
“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…”
Along with her girlfriend, she went on to rightly complain to the manager who offered an apology.
Unlike the Michael Richards debacle six years ago, no video footage or audio recordings of the incident were made, as far as we know. (None surfaced in the wake of Tracy Morgan’s anti-gay misfire last year, either.) Jamie Masada, who runs The Factory (the same place where Richards flipped out), lamely tried to dispute the anonymous woman’s claims in an exclusive interview with Buzzfeed.com.
But he didn’t exactly help Tosh’s cause:
“Masada says Tosh asked the audience, ‘What you guys want to talk about?’ After someone in the front said ‘rape,’ a woman in the audience started screaming, ‘No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it.’ Then, Masada says, ‘Daniel came in, and he said, ‘Well it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys’ — something like that. I really didn’t hear properly.”
Wow, that’s some rebuttal from a half-listening comedy club owner who went on to say, “It was a comment — it wasn’t a joke at the expense of this girl.”
And that makes it more palatable? Who talks that way to women?
Masada claims the woman and her friend stuck around for the whole set (she wrote that they left their seats after Tosh’s misogynistic “joke”) and instead of receiving a refund they were given free tickets for a future show (which no one disputes). Puzzled why they accepted the tickets (maybe because they still want to see actual comedy from actual comedians?), he plays the old how-can-he-be-offensive-when-he-got-a-standing-ovation routine as a “credible” defense. Then, he concludes thusly:
“If you don’t want to get insulted don’t go to comedy clubs.”
I guess “You’re New Jersey in pants!” isn’t edgy enough these days.
As always, when we can’t see and/or hear an incident like this through captured footage, it’s very difficult to know for sure exactly what was said and the contexual circumstances surrounding it. But now that Tosh has not only offered a phony apology (“all the out of context misquotes aside, i’d like to sincerely apologize”) but also a pitiful explanation (“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. #deadbabies”. Old-school rule of comedy: if you have to explain the point of a joke, you still won’t get the laugh.), it’s obvious that the woman wasn’t lying. She may or may not have remembered the exact wording but in essence, from what she reported, Tosh blew it.
As anyone in the stand-up world will tell you, there’s a thin line between being a brilliant, edgy comedian and an unfunny, hateful asshole. If you’re going to tackle an explosive topic like rape in a comic setting, you better be a genius with your material or you’ll be paying the price for your stupidity for years to come. Context and tone is everything. Even with that said, is taking a gamble like this really worth alienating most of your audience for, especially if you’re ill-equipped to pull it off properly? Surely, there was no effort to be anything here but a jerk to that audience member who showed tremendous courage in a hostile environment.
Michael Richards was lucky. He didn’t have a career to lose in 2006. It was already over by the time he went haywire on some hecklers. The 37-year-old Tosh, on the other hand, has a popular TV show on Comedy Central (think Jackass meets America’s Funniest Home Videos) that actually outdraws The Daily Show. He has over six million followers on Twitter. His last TV stand-up special was seen by more than three million people.
Regardless of one’s reputation in the comedy world, this is an enormous blunder. Is it really a wonderful thing to be known as the guy who thinks rape jokes are funny? Do I even need to answer that question? Sadly, Tosh’s career probably won’t lose any momentum. Incredibly, in 2012, sexist douches can still thrive in their chosen profession. (Example: Charlie Sheen.)
Meanwhile, former FBI Director Louis Freeh has released his much anticipated report about the Jerry Sandusky case. The former defensive coordinator for Penn State University’s football team was recently convicted of raping and molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period. The report points the finger at four key Penn State figures, including the late head coach Joe Paterno, who all conspired to keep the disturbing details of the case between themselves, instead of talking directly to the police, which gave an unchecked predator all the time in the world to violate so many innocent kids.
Hilarious, right, Daniel Tosh?
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, July 13, 2012
UPDATE: New York stand-up Meghan O’Keefe has an excellent commentary about all of this in her latest Huffington Post piece which I highly recommend you check out here.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, July 15, 2012