Daniel Tosh Jokes About Rape; Shockingly, No One Laughs. Is It Ever Okay To Be Funny About Rape?Michelle Konstantinovsky

Given my television junky tendencies and predilection for stupid viral videos, it’s surprising I’ve never gotten into Tosh.0, Comedy Central’s online-themed pop culture commentary hosted by comedian Daniel Tosh.

But thanks to this pretty stringent “rape jokes aren’t all that funny” policy I have in place, Tosh’s show probably won’t be making it onto my DVR list any time soon.

Quick recap: Tosh appeared at LA’s The Laugh Factory recently and according to an audience member who rehashed her experience on Tumblr, Tosh made “some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny,” which prompted her to shout back at him, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

The accounts of what transpired next are a bit different, but not entirely conflicting. The author of the Tumblr post claims Tosh responded, “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…”

Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada, however, told Buzzfeed that Tosh actually didn’t make any of those “generalizing, declarative statements,” and instead asked the audience what they wanted to talk about, and someone suggested “rape.” That’s when Masada said the woman reacted, and “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.”

Whatever actual words were exchanged, Tosh took to Twitter and offered a pseudo-apology yesterday, tweeting, “all the out of context misquotes aside, i’d like to sincerely apologize.”

But before anyone could dare accuse him of being sensitive or sincere, Tosh quickly followed up with, “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.”

Okay, look. Some of my best friends appreciate a good dead baby joke (personally, I don’t, but to each his or her own). But I do respect dark, morbid humor when it’s done right. In my humble opinion, rape jokes can’t be done right. I understand Tosh’s point that there can be levity in even the most profound instances of human suffering, but there’s a difference between comedy and shock value, and it seems to me that taking on certain taboo topics is just a cheap shot.

That being said, Tosh isn’t the first (supposedly) funny person to try to find the humor in sexual assault. In 2008, Jezebel’s Megan Carpenter brilliantly broke down various comedian’s attempts at rape jokes. Notably cited, of course, is Sarah Silverman, who’s been toeing the line of tastefulness for most of her career.

Silverman’s one of my personal favorites. The juxtaposition of her sweet demeanor and ludicrously vulgar mouth is arguably what makes her such a success. But to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever cracked so much as a smile at her rape jokes. So should I feel guilty for laughing at any of her jokes, knowing she doesn’t shy away from making light of rape? And Is it only okay for women to make light of rape, given that they’re most often the victims? Is it an act of appropriation and reclamation that makes it acceptable, and even important for females to tackle this subject matter in comedy? Is that why we’re so appalled by men like Tosh?

Not so fast. Sofia Vergara caused a stir in 2009 when she made a rape joke that crashed and burned on The View. While explaining to the hosts how she, in all her youthful, gorgeous glory could possibly have an 18-year-old son, she laughed, saying she tells people she had him at 13 and, “I was raped!” Ha…ha? Let’s just say Whoopi was not amused.

But back to Tosh. This isn’t the first time he’s gotten in trouble for misogynistic douchebaggery. In May, Mike Pomranz, one of the Tosh.0 bloggers, took a photo from fat activist Substantia Jones and invited readers to submit scathing commentary in a “caption contest.” Hilarious.

So are we up in arms because Tosh is sexist, crude, or just plain unfunny? Are rape jokes a gendered issue, and only okay if someone like Silverman delivers them, or are they off the comedy table entirely?

They may be off my table, but my brand of funny certainly shouldn’t be representative of anyone else’s (not everyone still consistently laughs out loud to episodes of The Simpsons from circa 1993). I’m eager to read your comments, but in the mean time, I’m going to go seek out my own dumb viral videos since I probably won’t be catching them on Tosh.0.

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  1. It’s no ones responsibility to protect you from getting offended. Have we become so overly politically correct that even comedians are censored and scrutinized for exercising their right to free speech? That said, people pay money to see the show, not listen to someone get offended and confront them about it DURING the show. Whats also funny is the hypocrisy. Male rape is joked about, nothing is said. Females can make rape jokes, nothing is said. People can make jokes about male genital mutilation, murder,etc and nothing is said. But rape is when theres an uproar? Mind you, some people use HUMOR to get over bad experiences. Not all, but SOME. A family member of mine was raped, and she laughs at some rape jokes as long as they are actually funny. This whole PCness is getting a bit out of hand.

  2. Sometimes the jokes are not as upsetting as the culture of people who repeat them. I went to met up with a friend to keep her company recently and there were a bunch of guys finding this type of humor entertaining, taking the so-called humor to an extreme; with two girls sitting quietly and five guys repeating these type of jokes, not only was it uncomfortable but I was sick to my stomach. (I left at this point, quietly and respectfully because I was actually afraid and could not comprehend how they thought that their conversation was in any way appropriate). There is no happy go-lucky feeling to these types of jokes and they are not solving the issues they claim to make light of. Being around the culture of people that thinks this type of humor is funny was terrifying, maybe not all people who think rape jokes are funny are as agressive and creepy as this crowd, but it seems to me like a very slippery slope.

  3. The entire situation has become hear say at this point, only the audience of that night will truly know what was said. I love Daniel tosh I think he’s hilarious, and I’m aware his jokes can and do offend others, but what comedian hasn’t? If comedians were to play it safe and try to never hurt someone’s feelings then comedy would be dead. Of course different people have different taste in what is funny and what should never be said beyond closed doors, but the entire audience was not in an uproar over his set, only one woman felt the need to assert her opinion on what is acceptable for a joke. If an individual was in a movie theater and started talking about how inappropriate a scene was then the audience would boo her and she’d be asked to leave, no one at the show asked the woman for her opinion and if she so clearly was disgusted by tosh than she should have just left on her own. No need to ruin the night for everyone else. For every person who does not find crude humor entertaining there is someone who does. Daniel had no obligation to apologize but he did, how many other comedians have done that? So for everyone forming their opinion on a stranger based on one isolated incident about an unclear story, just take a step back and relax, there are worse and more dangerous people in this world, just don’t buy tickets for Daniel’s next appearance. I’m going to see him perform next month :)

  4. Tosh is a bully who uses comedy as his “get out of jail free” card. His only “jokes” are about putting others down and being scathing to people in adverse situations. Maybe there are people who find these jokes funny, and I suppose it isn’t my place to tell others what to laugh at, but I personally can not understand the inablity to empathize with other people like this. Possibly I would laugh at jokes about these things if they weren’t done in a way that further insulted the victims of these terrible crimes. What I find almost unforgivable about this brand of comedy is that it is bullying. Tosh is sending a message to the youth of this country that jokes like this are not only ok to make, but they might get you a laugh and, if you’re lucky, fame. When kids make jokes like this in school, they are considered bullies and should be punished for it. Yet, as a society, we have taken a grown man who makes these jokes and given him a public platform in which to make them, and a hefty paycheck to boot. Maybe what bothers me so much about him is that there isn’t even a glimmer of sincerity to him and I genuinely have a difficult time telling myself he doesn’t really believe the things he says in his “act”.

  5. To even joke about rape is abusive, it is social victimization. We are responsible not only for our actions but our words, that is the reality. Americans seem to think it is their right to say and do whatever they want because it is their “personal freedom”. The fact that anyone would joke about rape or find it tolerable leads me to believe that we are entirely anesthetized and disconnected-I see it as a fatal condition of our society.

  6. The fact that he was making a rape joke in the first place bugs me, and I don’t find them funny, but I don’t think less of you if you do. However, when this woman spoke up, heckled, whatever (If you weren’t there I don’t think you can pass judgment on her, we won’t know if she heckled or not), for Tosh’s almost immediate reaction to be suggesting how funny it would be for her to be raped? That is DEFINITELY not ok, no matter how you spin it. I don’t know how you could look at a human being and suggest that it would be hilarious for them to be raped.

  7. Lots of what this idiot comedian says isn’t original or funny. Most of it is about hating women, how weak women are, and how stupid they are. He’s the glowing example of a misogynist. To say “OMG NOW WE ARE GONNA FIND EVERYTHING OFFENSIVE” is a straight out cop out. No, rape has always been an offensive thing to joke about, because unlike racist jokes, rape victims dont find their situation funny. Jokes are meant to be fun and make you think, not to viciously attack a victim of a crime.

  8. I think a lot of this has to do with how de-sensitized we are regarding the meaning of words. IE: “Ugh, taxes totally raped my paycheck” or “That exam totally raped me” Many, not all, people simply throw words around with disregard for what the word actually means and what weight it carries. Do I find Tosh funny? Yeah, for the most part, I’m a fan. I try to be very rational when it comes to jokes about serious subjects but, like others have said, if you don’t think it’s funny, that’s it. Sure, the wrong person could hear a rape joke and be deeply offended, but the same could happen if I had a family member struck by lightning and killed and someone told a lightning joke. The option to take offense is in almost everything, but it’s your choice how to take what’s handed to you.

  9. I think the real shame is that anyone thinks he is funny in the first place. Perhaps we need to pay a little more attention to “what makes us laugh” and acknowledge that often times it is racism, sexism and other dehumanizing isms that allow you to laugh at “a hypothetical scenario” where a person is raped, murdered or tortured. I am tired of people saying , “well I don’t like the rape jokes, but you are too sensitive.” or “Don’t go to his show.” Why isn’t anyone more concerned with the fact that people WANT to go to his show, that there are people who do appreciate his “humor”. Tosh really isn’t the problem, the problem is that he has a fan base that worships at his feet. He is a symptom of our wonderful society. But don’t worry ladies, these are just rape jokes… By the way we don’t need hypothetical rape scenarios, it occurs enough.

  10. I have to agree with Jennifer on this one. Out of all the comedy shows I’ve been to, not once has there not been some type of offensive joke that crosses the line. That’s just what happens at comedy shows, especially when it’s Tosh. If you don’t like it, then don’t go to the show! Also, can I just point out that this woman heckled Tosh in the middle of his show, and then she gets super offended when he says something back? I mean, it seems to me that while what Tosh said back to this woman was offensive (not threatening or abusive), he was just defending himself because she interrupted his flipping routine! What did she expect? I personally don’t find rape, dead babies, homeless people, tsunamis, sexual abuse, or anything else to that nature funny at all, and I probably would not have laughed at any jokes made about these matters. But come on… it’s a Daniel Tosh show.

  11. For me, there are two things that disturb me about this story: The first is that this girl voiced her (completely legitimate) objection to the joke, which takes a fair amount of courage, and the way he choose to respond was to shoot her down, and even possibly if her account is accurate, hurl aggressive sexually violent abuse at her. I know comedians have to be tough to deal with hecklers but that seems to be very poor judgement to me.

    My second issue is about the context of the world in which the joke was told. I don’t think you can ever say “this should never be joked about because it offends people”, that’s a recipe for disaster, but we live in a society with a pretty terrible track record on rape. Rape is under-reported, successful prosecutions are much rarer than they should be and a culture of blaming the victim still exists in some cases. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think rape humor is funny or boundary-pushing because it seems like a lot of people these days already treat rape like a joke. It’s not the responsibility of a comedian to bring attention to the issues, or change peoples’ minds or anything along those line, basically all they need to do is make people laugh. But if you’re making people laugh by playing up to some of societies worst misconceptions, or re-enforcing our nastier ideas then you’re a deeply thoughtless person and I really don’t think you’re funny.

  12. I don’t have much of an opinion on rape jokes – I’ve been known to make one from time to time in casual company, and I think I’m entitled to, as a woman who has to worry about it in my daily life (though I don’t think I’m entitled to have everybody laugh in response.) I don’t think he’s particularly funny in the first place, so it’s safe to say I wouldn’t have found whatever his initial joke was to be funny. And I think we all agree that this woman was perfectly within her right to speak up about it. And this is where I’m feeling a disconnect with what other people are saying – neither version of his response sounds like a joke to me… maybe not a full-on threat, but not really a joke. Just a (vile) comment. So I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t really get what people mean when they wax poetic about humour in response to this, because whatever he was joking about in regards to rape before he was “heckled,” his response just seems like he was being kind of petulant about it. Like, do people actually find either of those specific lines (the audience member’s OR the owner’s) to be funny?

  13. What Tosh did is horrible and the response from a vast majority of males (at least from my end of life) is sickening. What I don’t believe the people supporting Tosh in this understand is that it’s not ~just about what transpired. The situation has highlighted this issue in society that is swept under the rug because when women (and men) do speak out about it (or any similar situation), their responses are treated “dramatic” or inane. Our society has a tendency to make light of rape and tends to put the blame on the victims. Women take the topic of rape seriously because it affects them a great deal more than men. Women have to be on constant alert where men don’t have the same concerns. In my mind (and from what I have seen in my corner of the Internet), the issue that everyone is taking with what occurred is the issues that it highlighted. I do understand what kind of comedian Tosh is and yes, there are comedians that have a “rough” humor about them. However, that does not make the issue of rape any less severe — especially in today’s world where women are still fighting for equality in these situations.

  14. If you go to a Daniel Tosh show you have to expect that he has no boundaries. Nothing is off limits. I fully support Daniel Tosh. If you are offended easily, don’t go to his shows.

  15. When people say that you can use humor to cope with tragedy, many of them are missing the point that coping is for people who have been through the tragedy. I agree with Natalie, above, who says that whether these jokes are funny depends on who delivers the joke. When Chris Rock makes jokes about ghetto life, it is funny, but it wouldn’t be funny if someone who hadn’t lived through that made those jokes. I don’t think rape jokes are funny at all, even from Sarah Silverman. I think Daniel Tosh and many other comedians use really cheap humor (fat chicks, lolinfinity!!!) and shock value to get laughs. It’s just really dumbed down, lazy stuff.

  16. One bad joke does not mean that a comedian isn’t funny at all. Just because I once fell off my bike, does that mean that I am a crappy cyclist all of a sudden? We all make mistakes, and at least Tosh apologized.
    Comedians sometimes need to make jokes about serious subjects to draw attention to themselves and be honest, is it really any different to Lady Gaga wearing a meat dress? These people work in entertainment and the more people talk about them, the more money they make. Bad publicity is still publicity.

  17. Dark comedy is about seeing the foolish, the nonsensical, in seemingly totally morbid things. Unfortunately for this young man, the results are in, and majority of the public sees none of that in any act of rape.

  18. I think the most shocking part of this article is that someone actually finds Sarah Silverman funny….at all.

  19. I have thought long and hard about whether or not I ‘support’ rape jokes, and I have come to the conclusion that I appreciate darker humor when there is an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the subject. For example, if someone tells a murder joke, most likely no one in the audience would believe that murder is something to make light of. Therefore, it is deemed okay to laugh about. Rape, on the other hand, is something that we as a society still struggle with taking seriously. We blame the victims, rather than those who commit the crime, and so on. My personal feeling is that until we can take rape as seriously as we do murder and other dark subjects, it is a topic that remains off the table, at least for me.

  20. I personally don’t find rape jokes funny and I also cringe every single time. However, one thing I have noticed is that more people seem to find them acceptable when the person making the joke is referring to a man being raped (prison rape, back woods redneck rape, etc). I don’t think its funny either way, its just something I have noticed.