Stoffa: Rape jokes are part of comedy

Gabriel Stoffa

Apparently comedy isn’t supposed to address serious issues.

Daniel Tosh made a joke about rape — or about pranking his sister by replacing her Mace with Silly String, depending on your view — during a comedy set July 6 at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, Calif. After the joke was made, a female audience member got up and heckled Tosh, saying rape jokes are never funny. Tosh responded with a joke about how it would be funny if the woman was suddenly gang raped.

Ignoring for a moment that what the woman claimed happened isn’t what Tosh, Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada or others in the audience claim happened, look at the issue of comedy itself.

Comedians take issues in life, usually fairly serious events, and make light of them in order to make people laugh. Laughing is healthy and helps to overcome the sad and horrible things surrounding many day to day events. The topics for comedy range from very G-rated to a solid XXX rating — watch the film “The Aristocrats” if you want to see vulgar and terrible comedy at its best.

If a topic is taboo, standup comedy is where it can be addressed without the politics and ensuing bickering that accompany anything of merit being brought up. Comedy is free speech working at its best.

However, folks are making a mountain out of a molehill with this incident. Articles are popping up across the Web talking about what a terrible person Tosh is. even has a petition up suggesting Tosh be removed from Comedy Central’s programming — with some 30,000 signatures last time I checked. It, along with many other uninformed folks on the Internet, are claiming Tosh’s joke made the women in question flee in fear due to Tosh’s response to her heckling.

Where is the movement to ban Sarah Silverman’s comedy, she has made plenty of rape jokes; or George Carlin, Rosanne Barr, Ricky Gervais and dozens of other comedians that have pushed the line. Why not try to eliminate their routines from from the reach of the delicate public?

Oh wait, this is where the hypocrisy comes in. Much like when Chris Rock makes racist jokes about black men and the audience cheers, comedy is all about the audience and if the person presenting the joke is considered to be “allowed” to use certain words or topics.

Had Tosh made a joke about dropping the soap in a prison shower, I’ll bet dollars to dimes that woman wouldn’t have stood up and said rape jokes are never funny. I’ll also bet that if Tosh were a woman, this whole incident wouldn’t have even made the news.

It all has to do with the woman in question wanting attention because she didn’t understand Tosh is obnoxious and comedy isn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows. She made the mistake of taking a swing at an issue during a comedian’s routine, and comedians are notoriously excellent at being able to swing back at outspoken audience members with ferocity on the level of Mike Tyson.

For example, death can occur in terrible ways, and it damages all those that knew the person; it is fairly damaging to the person who died, nyuck, nyuck, nyuck. Thousands of comedians have made jokes about terrible deaths and death happens to everyone, but apparently death isn’t as bad as rape, as I don’t see a slew of Internet outcry when Jewish comedians make genocide references.

You can take any issue and put it in place of rape and it all makes sense that someone might be offended. But offending one person or 1 million makes no difference so long as the person presenting is making a joke and that the audience understands that it is a joke. And I’m damn sure everyone at the Laugh Factory that night understood Tosh was involved in a comedic performance.

Making a joke about rape is no more responsible for rape than is wearing a “slutty” outfit in a “bad” neighborhood. So why get your panties in a bunch over a comedian renowned for bringing levity to awful things?

Honestly, why was the woman even at Tosh’s show in the first place? Has she never been in public before and heard an off-color remark? Does she walk down the street confronting every person who says something obscene?

And why are people rallying to her cause? Isn’t there a better way to fight rape than to lash out at a comedian? Aren’t there enough idiots out there making statements that aren’t jokes about rape?

If anything, the woman should be apologizing for being rude during a performance.

Again, the woman just wanted attention and folks out there on the Interweb need to realize Tosh isn’t doing anything wrong by making a rape joke. If you don’t like that brand of comedy, don’t listen to it.

Tosh brings clarity to the whole issue in his Twitter response: “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.”

And Patton Oswald brought the comedy right back with his tweet: “Wow, Daniel Tosh had to apologize to a self-aggrandizing, idiotic blogger. Hope I never have to do that [again].