We live in a “rape culture,” dontcha know

by Brian McKim & Traci Skene on July 10th, 2012

On the one side of this world, we have comedians and the people who “get it,” people with a sense of humor. Comedians say outrageous things, they say goofy things, they say profound things and, it is hoped, all these things they say are funny. And the people with a sense of humor understand the deal.

On the other side of this world (not literally, but figuratively), we have people utterly lacking in a sense of humor. They quite often profess to be intelligent, caring, empathetic, etc.

And recently, a person in the second group (for reasons that are unknown, and, we suspect, unknowable) wandered into the Laugh Factory and watched a performance by Daniel Tosh.

And this person went home and told her friend about her experience and her friend then blogged about it.

And now we have another huge blowup where a comedian is being branded as “mysogynist.” And worse.

It all starts with a blog posting with a secondhand recounting of how some idiot girl/woman goes to the Laugh Factory…

So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

(The whole posting is hysterical, actually. Go read the whole thing if you haven’t already. It’s absurd. And Tosh comes off sounding pretty humorous.)

At this point, though, it gets really funny!

After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, “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…”

We can see Tosh delivering this with that grin. And we understand, 110 per cent, why he said it. And we think it’s rather humorous. It falls under the category of exaggeration. With a touch of outrageous.

Of course, idiot girl doesn’t quite understand. She’s “stunned!” She finds it “hard to process!” She knows she needs to “get out of there!”

The horror! Quick! Hurry before you get gang-raped!!! IN A COMEDY CLUB! Yes!! It happens all the time! The horror! And, just like the higher incidence of domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday, we suppose that there are thousands of women raped at about 1 AM every Friday and Saturday night throughout America, because of all those rape jokes told in comedy clubs throughout Standup America!!

Holy mother of God, this woman is stupid.

She leaves. She complains.

Now in the lobby, I spoke with the girl at the will-call desk, and demanded to see the manager. The manager on duty quickly came out to speak with me, and she was profusely apologetic, and seemed genuinely sorry about what had happened, but of course we received no refund for our tickets, but instead a comped pair of tickets, although she admitted she understood if we never wanted to come back. I can imagine the Laugh Factory doesn’t really have a policy in place for what happens when a woman has to leave in a hurry because the person onstage is hurling violent words about sexual violence at her. Although maybe I’m not the first girl to have that happen to her.

No… we imagine they don’t have such a policy. Mainly because… IT’S A FUCKING COMEDY CLUB! And only people utterly lacking in a sense of humor would interpret Tosh’s comments as “hurling violent words about sexual violence.”

Anyway, like we said, the account gets blogged about, with the preface, “This is something that happened to a friend of mine in her own words.”

And it gets reposted again. And again. And again.

And the subsequent reposts are prefaced with statements like…

Sexual assault is a violent and demoralizing crime that happens to far too many people on a daily basis. The struggle to reclaim one’s life after such an attack is nothing short of Herculean.

Sexual assault is not something that one ‘gets over’ or ‘gets past,’ but is simply always there. More often than not, it is incorporated into the fabric of one’s being, which is forever altered. Reading the story below, outlining two women’s experiences at the Laugh Factory, made me sick to my stomach with outrage, fearful for the women involved, and disgusted that no decisive action was taken against Daniel Tosh.

Sexual assault is never a joke. It is serious crime that still rages through society worldwide. Unless we continue to raise our voices, change cannot happen. Today, I chose to raise my voice.

And then tweets go out that say things like…

And, sadly, Tosh is eventually  forced to apologize.

We’re disturbed by the whole incident, but not surprised. (Among the many disturbing elements of the story is that the Factory offered comps for a future show! For God’s sake, DO NOT let this moron back into your comedy club again! This is exactly the kind of person that is BAD FOR BUSINESS! An utterly humorous cretin who yells out in the middle of a set!)

We’ve been warning our readers about political correctness for 13 years or so. It seems that few grasp the seriousness of the situation. We see incident after incident where “concerned” and “enlightened” and “empathetic” people mount rather impressive campaigns to squeeze an apology out of a comic. And we’re appalled at the damage that is done to artistic freedom. And equally appalled at those who don’t see that damage. Or if they do, they almost immediately forget about the incident and carry on as if nothing happened. (We realize that Tosh’s apology was probably forced by Comedy Central. But the public spectacle of a comic apologizing– again!– is not a good one. It’s disheartening.)

We’re reminded of something we wrote back in April of 2008 when Tracy Morgan ruffled the feathers of some very concerned students during a performance at Cornell. According to the account in the student paper, “Morgan kept repeating that the audience was just not feeling him enough and that they were judging him joke for joke,” then shouted to the students, “I know you’re all intellectuals, but I don’t give a fuck!”

To which we added:

Comics should be aware that the bulk of the pressure on us (and on comedy audiences) to constantly “give a fuck” comes not from those groups which are traditionally seen as buzzkills (the Right, Conservatives, Christians, school marms, think the adults in “Footloose”), but from those groups traditionally seen as upholding the finest principals and practices of “progressivism” (the Left, Liberals, free spirits, think the kids in “Footloose”). We caution all comics to look both ways before crossing the line. Just so when you get smacked on the back of the head, you won’t be surprised which direction it came from.

Of course, we’ll be back on Facebook in three or four days and comics will be bitching and moaning about just how oppressive the right is and how bleak, brutal and depressing this country will be when the Christians take over (and how heavy-handed and dictatorial they are currently!). All this moaning misses the fact that the more tyrannical and troublesome rhetoric and action is coming not from the churches or pulpits throughout the land, but from the universities and other strongholds of supposedly enlightened thought. They tried to destroy comedy in the 90s and they damn near succeeded.

We’ve been begging comics to clearly and sharply identify the enemy on both sides. Ideally, we’d like comics to abandon any sort of personal ideology and join together and oppose any and all attempts to silence comedians or curtail artistic freedom, no matter which direction they come from. We suppose we’ll have to continue to do so.

Is there a larger danger here? Possibly.

Here’s the last two paragraphs from Buzzfeed’s take on the incident, which contains quotes from Factory owner Jamie Masada:

Having been in business 32 years, Masada says audience members have been getting offended by the shows at a surprisingly high rate lately. He’s recently deflected complaints from customers offended by comics’ jokes about Barack Obama and another customer offended that a comic told him he was “retaining pizza” after he said he was “retaining water.”

“If this is hurtful– this is a comedy club. They don’t mean any harm,” Masada says. “If you don’t want to get insulted don’t go to comedy clubs.”

So… to recap, we have, off the top of Jamie Masada’s head, in interview with Buzzfeed, fat people, women and Obama supporters getting pissy and claiming victim status AT A COMEDY CLUB!

In Los Angeles, Cali-FUCKING-fornia!

If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. It will happen anywhere. The number of topics that we can talk about will, by (business) necessity, become narrower and narrower. The way we can talk about them will be proscribed. It’s not a pretty picture.

Wake, the fuck, up.

Postscript: The person who originally posted the account had this to add:

My friend and I wanted to thank everyone for there support and for getting this story out there. We just wanted everyone to know what Daniel Tosh had done and if you didn’t agree then to stop following him. My friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) is very surprised to have gotten any form of an apology and doesn’t wish to press any further charges against Daniel Tosh. We also wanted to thank those that started petitions and the like, it’s more than she ever wanted and those that helped make this story so popular it went to the media.

She does plan on returning to comedy shows in the future, but to see comedians that she’s seen before or to at least look up artists before going to their shows.

Petitions? Yipe! Further charges? Wha? Huh? We’re dealing with stone cold morons here. But dangerous stone cold morons, nonetheless. And self-righteous, stone cold morons as well.

An Facebook poster, who shall remain nameless, posted the following, after reading about the inciden:

I call bullshit. If you want to yell crap out at a comic, or any performer for that matter, in the middle of their act… You deserve whatever insulting thing they have to shout back at you. And if you don’t have a sense of humor, how about you just stay home with your six cats and watching reruns of Wings and Murder She Wrote instead of going to a comedy club to see a comic who is knows for edgy material. Do we have to nerf the entire frickin planet for these a-holes???

We are in harmony with the first three or four sentiments expressed. But we seem to have a prime example of one of those creatures (cited earlier in this post) who has read about the whole incident and concluded that the complainant is somewhat lonely and/or unfufilled sexually (six cats) and perhaps older and maybe on the conservative side, thus the reference to Wings and Murder She Wrote. And, although the complainant wishes to remain anonymous (and we may never know her demographic profile), we suspect that the above characterization is waaay off.

BONUS: For some sweet, sweet hate, go to your twitter page and type “Daniel Tosh” into the search window. The above tweet we sampled is civil compared to what’s rolling on the WWW now.