Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Women shouldn't be allowed in comedy clubs, anyway.

Wassup? Did somebody point out that comedians only resort 
to shock tactics when they don't have anything funny to say?

So, this week the internet has been debating about Daniel Tosh. No, I hadn’t heard of him either. He calls himself a “comedian” and last week he found himself in a spot of bother as a story about his rape jokes went viral. 

A Tumblr user provided the platform for her friend to describe her experience at a comedy club. When Tosh went into a repetitive “rape jokes are funny” spiel she told him unequivocally that they are not, and he suggested it would be amusing if she got raped right then and there. 

It was re-blogged and re-tweeted around the world and gave Tosh the kid of publicity that greater men can only dream of. There isn’t much for me to say, since other people have already covered the bases much better than I could: Lindy West of Jezebel makes the point that actually, rape jokes CAN be acceptable and funny, depending on whether they are on the side of rapists or humanity in general. (Examples of the times when it works and IS edgy and clever don’t involve Tosh.)

Meghan O’Keefe of the Huffington Post makes a similarly impassioned plea to remember that humour cannot be censored: (Tosh) “can say and do what he wants. If he needs to say things like "rape jokes are always funny" on stage in order to cope with whatever's in his life, he totally has that right. Sometimes we laugh at tragedy because we can't physically  – or psychologically – do anything else.” 

Jamie Masada, the owner of the club, attempted some damage limitation by claiming that Tosh hadn’t been aiming wisecracks at the woman at all. Apparently when he asked the audience "What do you guys want to talk about?" someone said "rape" (maybe comedy clubs should have resident therapists?) and the woman in question said "No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it." So Tosh responded “Well it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys”. Now, am I crazy, or is this WORSE than the original story? Responding to a heckler with the first desperate retort that pops into your head is one thing – and there are many teenage boys who would have made a similar comeback – but just randomly commenting that someone was probably raped? That’s WEIRD. 

Whatever actually went on, Daniel Tosh isn’t the worst part of the story. The worst part is the response from the internet, which I can only assume is a pretty fair representation of the world at large. Many, many people have offered the opinion “What did she expect, going to a comedy club? That’s what happens when you heckle!” which makes me wonder what their response would have been if she had actually been raped. “What did she expect, going out at night? That’s what happens when you go to a place that serves alcohol to men!” Even the Huff ran a story which ended “Did Tosh go too far? Was the audience member asking for trouble by heckling him?” Yes folks, she was asking for it. (Can we hear what she was wearing, too? I’m sure that will shed some valuable light on the story.)

The fail-safe riposte that’s ALWAYS used when offensive jokes come up is: “Where’s your sense of humour?” Nothing shuts people down faster. (We’d rather keep quiet about our opinions than risk being seen as a humourless bore.) Comedians use it, bullies use it, every passive aggressive nitwit uses it. It’s the perfect disclaimer when you want to say something insulting without inviting any retribution; adding “I’m joking!” makes even the most obnoxious sentence acceptable. Jackson Katz also made this point brilliantly in his appraisal of Eminem; you can be as misogynistic as you like if you dismiss any critics as people who “don’t get it”.

Next time somebody uses this defense to claim that making jokes about rape is funny and you really shouldn't be taking it all so seriously, don't try to convince them otherwise.  That's what they want you to do, because there's no way to win that argument. Just point this out:

We’re onto you. We know that saying “You have no sense of humour” is bullshit. We know that it’s what people say when they have absolutely no other defence and are hoping you will back off before you realise that. It is NULL AND VOID and you’re going to have to do a lot better than that. So there.

But the prize for best response to Tosh  goes to Curtis Luciani,  a comedian who “gets it.” 

Please read it.

No comments:

Post a Comment