For all of the people out there expressing their moral outrage and joining in on a Daniel Tosh feeding frenzy I offer this classic George Carlin routine. In this routine Carlin starts off discussing 1st amendment rights, moves on to people telling comedians what they can and can’t joke about, and runs into the subject of rape. He very clearly says in this routine that rape is hilarious…much like Tosh did…but as he unravels the routine he gets into the bullshit excuses that men use to justify rape…takes the female side on the issue of women’s clothing not being an excuse for rape…makes fun of rapists and their apparent lack of standards…and makes a very important point about being able to joke about anything as long as the joke is constructed well enough. By the end of the routine you see that he is not pro-rape, and not some simple sexist pig who is just in it to harass women. You get to see all this because he was allowed to finish the damn joke…Tosh wasn’t. Daniel Tosh’s joke might have turned out to be just as iconic as this routine (one of the most famous jokes Carlin ever made) but we will never know because he was cut off. What people are judging isn’t his “Rape Joke”…it’s the way he handled the heckler who busted up his routine. I am not going to defend his response to this heckler but I will say as a comedian that we have all been in situations where we had to respond to a heckler and it got very ugly. There is no script for off the cuff responses and they sometimes go horribly wrong.
Having said that I will now say this…anyone who has ever seen me perform knows that I don’t do rape jokes. This is not because people say it’s wrong or tell me I can’t…it’s because I choose not to. I find the subject distasteful. It’s one of the few restrictions I have on what I say….however…I don’t need to like the content of Tosh’s joke (of course I will never know since he never got to make the joke) in order to defend the right to make it. If you go to a comedy show you should expect to hear off color comments made about controversial subjects…either wear your big boy pants and pack your sense of humor…or don’t go.
The lessons to learn here are probably:
1) People who are easily offended shouldn’t go to comedy shows.
2) Comedians talk about social issues as a form of satire.
3) The first amendment protects a comedians right to make a joke no matter how much you dislike it…the first amendment does not just apply to people who say things that you like.
4) Stick to the facts…we were not judging his rape joke because it was never made…we were judging his reaction to a heckler
5) Yes this woman was a heckler. A heckler is by definition someone who stands up and starts yelling to interrupt your routine…which is what she did. It doesn’t matter whether Tosh was talking about rape or my little pony…it is still heckling.
6) If you think you can stand on a stage in front of a few hundred people and deal with a heckler without ever having an off night and pissing someone off…you are probably seriously deluded (but prove me wrong…I dare you.)
7) If you call out a comedian on stage you are calling down the lightning bolts from Zeus…and everybody knows that. We generally do not let it pass as a rule. That is letting the audience control the cadence of your show, and that can ruin your delivery completely. If you let one person get away with it…it will only be a minute or two before another one tries it.I would like to point one last thing out…Tosh’s onstage persona is very much a douchebag. His mannerisms, his inflection, even his facial expressions are all used to cultivate this persona. He is the kind of guy that you see and instantly want to punch in the face just for looking as smarmy as he does…before he even speaks. I have no idea if he is like that in real life but that is his onstage schtick. His fans eat that shit up and ask for seconds. I don’t know why any of this surprises anyone. How anyone could go to one of his shows and not expect this is what surprises me.
Agreed. A couple of years ago I went to a Frankie Boyle gig (for anyone who’s unfamiliar, he’s a Scottish comedian who is notorious for making extremely offensive jokes), in which he made a joke about Down’s Syndrome. A woman in the front row, unfortunately, had a kid who had Down’s Syndrome, and while she has every right to get offended, if you go to a Frankie Boyle concert, especially if you have front row tickets, you kind of have to expect it from him.
Just throwing my two cents in there