So I yelled out, "Actually, rape jokes are never funny!" -Quote from an anonymous woman who heckled Daniel Tosh during his set for talking about rape jokes and then lived to blog about it.
Sorry, Jane Doe. Comedy is subjective and any joke can be funny. Note the word "can." Any joke can be funny, but not any joke is funny. Any joke has the potential to be hilarious to you, but more importantly, the joke has the potential to not be funny to you, but to SOMEONE ELSE. I think that people often forget that fact when watching comedy. Just because it is or isn't amusing to you, doesn't mean everyone feels the same way.
What led up to the exchange between comedian Daniel Tosh and a female audience member at the Laugh Factory is another example of comedy being subjective. Of course, following the exchange, she blogged about it (a girl after my heart), and as things on the Internet are wont to do, the blog post picked up steam and went viral. If you haven't read her post, you can click here. Basically, Tosh was talking about how he thinks rape jokes are funny and Jane Doe didn't agree with him, so she heckled him with the aforementioned quote. To which he responded with the following: "Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by like, five guys right now? Like right now?" Then Jane Doe and her friends left the show. Yeah, that situation turned awkward.org/donations real quick. When I heard about it, I was immediately reminded of Dave Chappelle's bit about Michael Richards (aka Kramer) and his n-word tirade at an audience member who heckled him during a stand up show:
Except in the case of this situation, I'm maybe 3.7 percent female and 96.3 percent comedian. Because on one hand, Tosh jokingly about gang rape happening to someone is tough stuff, but on the other hand, I'm a comic and like all comics, I loathe hecklers, so when I read that an audience member interrupted his set, I immediately felt like she should've gotten tackled like Kristen Wiig's character did in Bridesmaids when she was drunk on the plane.
But in all seriousness, what happened between Tosh and the audience member needs to be unpacked a little bit. There are several issues here: 1) context, 2) heckling at comedy shows, 3) knowing what type of comic you're going to see before you go see him/her, and 4) the right to attempt to be funny and unfunny.
1) Context. If this woman was at Bed, Bath and Beyond price comparing loofahs and Daniel Tosh rolled up to her and was like, "Btdubs, you should look into getting gang raped," the way I tell people they should look into joining Groupon, then I'd get my Joey Lawrence "Whoa" on and be like, "What's going on here, Tosh? You're out your damn mind." However, that is not the context of the situation that went down at the Laugh Factory. He was clearly setting up what would be his rape joke, when she felt it was necessary to be rude and heckle on behalf of all women and human beings because she doesn't agree with him and because, as she wrote in her blog, she "felt provoked." Um, you weren't. The context of his initial comments were not about you, so to have this "I needed to stand up for everyone" stance is just a way to indulge in self-martyrdom. Don't get me wrong. I understand not liking everything that comes out of a comic's mouth. Not everything is going to be funny to everyone. I also understand feeling upset by the subject matter. You're entitled to your feelings. However, in the context of the situation, he would have never said anything to her if she had not interrupted and heckled.
2) Heckling at comedy shows. People heckle for all kinds of reasons: they don't think the comic is funny, they want the attention on them, they're bored, they're assholes, etc. However, the unwritten contract when you go to a stand-up show is that you don't heckle the comics. You can tell the manager your grievances about the comic, you can walk out of the show, you can vow not to go back to the club or support the comic in the future, buy you absolutely do not heckle the comic. Just like if I eat a restaurant and I don't like the food, I don't storm into the kitchen and the chef, "Who in Ratatouille hell taught you how to cook?" I simply do not go back to the restaurant. Unfortunately, I see a growing trend with comedy in that the audience feels entitled to interrupt, to let the comic know what they don't like. Again, you don't have to like the comic and/or the material, but you have to respect the fact that s/he is working. While you're at a comedy club to relax, comics are there because it's their job. And interrupting a comic during a performance is, on some level, meant to take attention away him/her and put it on you. Granted, when I'm heckled, I don't always go for the jugular like Tosh did during this exchange. But I do understand that he, whose act is primarily built around shock and awe with a wink would make a comment like this. Which brings me to my next point...
3) Know what type of comic you're going to see before you go see him/her. I'm only going to say this once. It is utterly asinine that people continually go to comedy shows without bothering to see if their sensibilities line up with the comedians. You would think that would be common sense, but as we all know, common sense is not a common thing. It's called Google and YouTube. It literally takes a few moments to look up a comic's video clips. Instead, she and her friends willingly went to a show, completely ignorant of who was on the lineup outside of Dane Cook. She acted as though she and her friends went to see the squeaky-clean and family-friendly Ellen Degeneres live and she was just yelling, "Dicks in my butt! Dicks in my butt!" That's not what happened, and if they had bothered to spend one minute looking up Tosh, they would quickly learn that his whole thing is to be shocking, to be a provocateur, and if you are not into that sort of comedy, that is absolutely fine. I mean, you wouldn't go to a movie, a hair salon, a concert without looking up film reviews, getting a sense of someone's expertise with hair or listening to quite a few songs from the musician/band. However, with comedy, people approach it as one-size-fits-all humor, which is really one-size-fits-me, and they assume that every comedian is going to have the same sense of humor as them. And if they don't, then something is amiss, right? No. Not everyone is like you, not everyone has the same life experiences, and not everyone is going to joke about the same things, so quit being so self-absorbed as to think that your tastes are the standard for comedy, which everyone should adhere to.
4) The right to attempt to be funny and unfunny. The late and great Patrice discussed this on Fox News years ago following outlash on outrageous Opie & Anthony's comments. If you don't want to watch the whole clip or don't have time, you can skip to 3:57:
The attempt to be funny is key here in the Tosh situation. The fact is we don't know if the rape joke he was attempting to do was going to be good or not because he was interrupted. It might have been hilarious. Or it might have been horrible. But them's the rules when you decide to do comedy/attend a comedy show. Even the best comedians aren't always sure what is going to be funny, what is going to work. So that means they're constantly and trying and failing in order to get to get there. And it's almost as if people only want you to attempt to be funny if you know for 1000 percent that the outcome will be funny. That's like saying, "I only want to fall in love with you if I know we're going to be together forever." Well, there is no way of knowing that, but you have to take the leap. And that is what comics do with every. Single. Joke. They take the leap to be funny. To entertain themselves and you. And sometimes they fly. Sometimes they fall. But you can't indict them for trying. You can't remove all potential, all attempts because you might be uncomfortable for a few minutes if it goes wrong. It's not your right to do that. It's not your right to tell comics and Comedy to not be itself for you. Because you don't matter more than the possibility of it going right. No one does.
Btdubs, Jane Doe, there are a few funny rape jokes (if set up in the right context) out there if you're interested. Here's one from Louis C.K.'s Chewed Up special:
Earlier this week, I hinted at the fact that I have two fun announcements to share with y'all so without further ado, here they are:
1) On July 23rd, I'm going to be on TV again. Whee! I'm going to be a talking head again on another TV Guide Network countdown show called 25 Biggest Reality Star Blunders. It airs at 9pm on July 23rd, so set your DVRs to see my face making fun of other faces who've been on TV.
2) And this is legit a dream come true: I'm headlining Carolines, my dream club, on Sunday, August 19th at 10 pm!!!! Look, I know that's late in the evening, but this is a great opportunity for NYC people and #TeamBlaria to finally see me doing a longer set, which in this case, will be 45 minutes. Not to mention, this is my first time headlining a club, so this is a pretty big deal. I'm beyond excited, so it would mean a lot if I saw all of you there, rooting me on. Making reservations is preferred as opposed to just showing up, so if you're coming to the show, please make a reservations by clicking here.
Originally published on Blaria (aka Black Daria) http://blaria.com
Follow Phoebe Robinson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PRobinsonComedy