The question has been tabled: Can comedians make rape jokes?
Daniel Tosh, the star of the egregiously politically incorrect Comedy Central show Tosh.O, made such a joke at the expense of a female heckler during a standup set at the Laugh Factory in L.A., prompting torrents of criticism and debate after an anonymous audience member wrote about the incident on her Tumblr in a post entitled “A Girl Walks Into A Comedy Club.” Her post begins, “This is something that happened to a friend of mine in her own words,” and goes on to describe the incident:
“Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny… I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never 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…” 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.”
Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada, who claimed to have been present at the show, told Buzzfeed that the Tumblr post was not accurate. He claims that Daniel did not bring up the topic of rape, an audience member did. Additionally he made a more mild joke than the woman describes in the post—mild enough that the woman stayed for the whole set, rather than leaving like she claims in the post.
Tosh has oscillated between apologizing for and defending the joke on his twitter account since the post was picked up by the press.
He first tweeted:
all the out of context misquotes aside, i'd like to sincerely apologize j.mp/PJ8bNs—
daniel tosh (@danieltosh) July 10, 2012
But then wrote:
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—
daniel tosh (@danieltosh) July 10, 2012
Since then, comedians, activists and assorted twitterati have come forward to either attack or defend the comedian.
Here’s the roundup:
Hey @DanielTosh, I usually think you're funny. But joking about gang rape isn't funny man. Ever. Rape is not a joke. But now you are.—
Sophia Bush (@SophiaBush) July 11, 2012
@danieltosh I can't wait to hear your "lynching is funny!" bit. Or would that be a little TOO dangerous?—
Martha Plimpton (@MarthaPlimpton) July 10, 2012
(@shannonwoodward) July 12, 2012
@danieltosh your show makes me laugh every time I watch it. And you have pretty eyes.—
Louis C.K. (@louisck) July 11, 2012
If you journey through this life easily offended by other peoples words I think it's best for everyone if you just kill yourself.—
Dane Cook (@danecook) July 11, 2012
Daniel Tosh can't make a rape joke but Eminem can have hit songs about it? PS. AIDS jokes are funnier @DanielTosh—
Stevie Ryan (@StevieRyan) July 11, 2012
If Tosh can't say "rape", Tracy can't say "retard" and Jo Koy can't say "fag" Then black comics can't say the N word ( I CANT EVEN TYPE IT!)—
Jay Mohr (@jaymohr37) July 12, 2012
Comics are pigs for making rape jokes, but Christian Bale is a great actor for American Psycho. Everyone can go fuck themselves.—
Jim Norton (@JimNorton) July 12, 2012
Silver lining to the @danieltosh mess: The Laugh Factory's been forced to change its name to The Your Feelings Factory.—
Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) July 11, 2012
Don't know what Daniel Tosh did but I hear he once said a rude thing about my tits so I'M AGAINST HIM (aka may have dated him in college)—
Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) July 12, 2012
What’s your take? Let us know in the comments or just air it out on twitter like everyone else.
UPDATE: Monday night, Louis C.K. appeared on The Daily Show to explain that he did not actually mean to defend Daniel Tosh. He was on vacation in Vermont when the incident blew up and did not know about Tosh’s rape joke when he posted that tweet:
“I was on vacation…I was in Vermont, and I was watching TV in the hotel room. And Daniel Tosh’s show comes on, Tosh.0. And it’s making me laugh. It’s a funny show. So I wasn’t reading the Internet at the time because that’s how I go on vacation: I really hate the Internet, so I just stop reading it. But I’m watching TV and Tosh is making me laugh, so I wrote a tweet to say ‘Your show makes me laugh.’ And then I put it down, and then two days later I come home and read these bloggers and The Hollywood Reporter saying, ‘Louis C.K. Defends Daniel Tosh Amid Rape Joke Controversy.’ I had no idea. He got in trouble for making these jokes about rape, and I didn’t know about it, so I’m a defender of rape. That’s what everybody says now…I’m being called a rape apologist because I said ‘Hi’ to a guy.”
Don’t worry, Louis C.K.! After last night’s Daily Show appearance, we forgive you and love you more than ever. For the comic’s actual views on the matter, see the entire clip here.