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Tyler explained to me, “You have to understand, some women still have a hang-up about penetration.”
Well, I must have been suffering from Delayed Punchline Syndrome, because it wasn't until I was on a plane, contemplating the notion that freedom of absurdity transcends gender difference, that I finally did respond, in absentia: “Yeah, but you have to understand, some men still feel threatened by turkey basters.”
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Although Tosh is a consistently unapologetic performer for the sardonic material he exudes on his Comedy Central series—which features a running theme of rape jokes, even including one about his sister—for this occasion he decided to go the Twitter route: “All the out of context misquotes aside, I’d like to sincerely apologize.” He also tweeted, “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.”
According to Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory, Tosh asked the audience, “What you guys wanna talk about?” Someone called out “Rape,” and a woman in the audience started screaming, “No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it.” Then, says Masada, “Daniel came in, and he said, ‘Well, it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys’—something like that. I didn’t hear properly. It was a comment—it wasn’t a joke at the expense of this girl.” Masada claims that she sat through the rest of Tosh’s performance, which received a standing ovation, before she complained to the manager.
Fellow comedians defended Tosh with their own tweets. Dane Cook: “If you journey through this life easily offended by other peoples words I think it’s best for everyone if you just kill yourself.” Doug Stanhope: “You’re hilarious. If you ever apologize to a heckler again I will rape you.” Louis C.K.: “your show makes me laugh every time I watch it. And you have pretty eyes”—except that he wrote it after watching Tosh on TV, but before he learned about the Laugh Factory incident. Nevertheless, he was excoriated and accused of being a “rape apologist.”
But C.K. himself is no stranger to sexual-assault jokes. Onstage, he has said that he’s against rape—“unless you have a reason, like you wanna fuck someone and they won’t let you, in which case what other option do you have?”
Conversely, on the second episode of his series, Louie, on the FX channel, he reversed such roles. After leaving a bar with an especially aggressive woman, Laurie (played by Melissa Leo), he had inadvertently met earlier, she performs fellatio on him in her pickup truck, then insists that he in turn perform cunnilingus on her. And he refuses.
So, she attacks him physically with unabashed viciousness, mounts him, and he gives in to her demand. In other words, Laurie rapes Louie. No joke. To watch this scene was positively jaw-dropping. It served as a reminder of how often comedians—and their jaded audiences—find prison-rape jokes not only to be funny, but also, as in the case of Jerry Sandusky, an act of delayed justice resulting in laughter that morphs into applause.
Meanwhile, reacting to the Tosh tirade, Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, stated:
“If free speech permits a comedian to suggest a woman in his audience should be gang-raped, then it certainly permits us to object, and to ask what message this sends to survivors or to perpetuators. Tosh’s comment was just one extreme example of pop culture’s dismissive treatment of sexualized violence, which desensitizes audiences to enormous human suffering. Internet outcry is encouraging, but popular media needs to push back too.”
And the original blogger posted another message:
“My friend and I wanted to thank everyone for there [sic] 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 is surprised to have gotten any form of an apology and doesn’t wish to press any further charges against [him].” What? Press charges? Rape is a crime. Rape jokes aren’t. They are the risk of free speech. The blog post concluded, “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.”
Wait till she finds out Dane Cook suggested that she kill herself.
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