As the Bob Saget of funny cat videos, Daniel Tosh is basically the Internet incarnate—and so, like the Internet, you're going to get some misogyny and rape jokes in there. Tosh has been called out on this sort of thing before, but this week it finally took on Michael Richards/Tracy Morgan levels of controversy, after a woman posted a Tumblr account of how she attended a Laugh Factory set by Dane Cook—one that, fortunately for her, was apparently free of any punchlines about chainsaw-fucking dirty whores—only to find herself confronted afterward by a Tosh performance that included an extended riff on "rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious," etc. According to her, rather than expressing her displeasure with the material by leaving, she chose to yell out, "Actually, rape jokes are never funny!" Because stand-up comedy shows are an open-forum exchange of ideas between performer and audience, like a modern-day Greek agora, if you will. Unfortunately, Tosh did not feel like engaging in an honest dialogue about this, even though she was merely expressing her personal values:
I did it because, even though being “disruptive” is against my nature, I felt that sitting there and saying nothing, or leaving quietly, would have been against my values as a person and as a woman. I don’t sit there while someone tells me how I should feel about something as profound and damaging as rape.
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…” and I, completely stunned and finding it hard to process what was happening but knowing i needed to get out of there, immediately nudged my friend, who was also completely stunned, and we high-tailed it out of there. It was humiliating, of course, especially as the audience guffawed in response to Tosh, their eyes following us as we made our way out of there. I didn’t hear the rest of what he said about me.
Once this blog post began sort-of making the rounds, Tosh tried immediately stepping out in front of it, tweeting, "All the out of context misquotes aside, I'd like to sincerely apologize… 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"—adding a link to the post, and thus inadvertently turning it into a much bigger story. Since then it's mushroomed into something approaching an all-out comedy Civil War, dividing the community among those who agree with Tosh that nothing should be considered off-limits when it comes to telling jokes—and that, actually, comedy shows should not be interactive dialogues—and those who believe that Tosh is being rightly derided for a history of offensive humor and treating the always-thorny issue of rape as a punchline, in the very, very loose sense that "Hey, what if this girl got raped?" can be considered a joke. And like so many stand-up comedy controversies, it's a muddy, murky fight over ideals, with volleys of misogynist frat-boy privilege on one side, and the humorless narcissism of the average heckler on the other side—and no, you cannot have opinions that fall somewhere in between, because that's not how Internet fights work.
Anyway, for what it's worth, Tosh has already been defended by the Laugh Factory owner, who's called into question the veracity of the woman's account (although, it must be noted, not very convincingly). He's also gotten some tweets of support from fellow, occasionally-treading-the-edge-of-tastelessness comedians like Doug Stanhope and Louis C.K.—who, you may remember, once mined a very similar situation for laughs on Louie (albeit with a far more clever response than Tosh came up with). And the woman who originally made the complaint has said in a follow-up post that she's now mollified by the apology and its attendant outcry and "doesn’t wish to press any further charges against Daniel Tosh," which should be a relief on our already overtaxed Comedy Court system. So really, all that's left now is to hash this out in the court of public opinion, which is what we're all doing today. But first, a funny cat video.
And we're back. In conclusion: Unfunny rape jokes are unfunny. Don't heckle—just leave. Tosh needs to work on his comebacks. Funny cat videos are funny.
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