On the rare occasions that I watch Tosh.0, I don’t really mind it when host Daniel Tosh gets particularly abrasive. Sometimes your weekly clip shows need that acerbic touch; God knows Joel McHale occasionally gets nasty on The Soup. But this story circulating online, about Tosh joking about the hypothetical rape of a female heckler at his stand-up show, does border on the disturbing.
The account comes from a Tumblr called Cookies for Breakfast; the anonymous user had her friend, also unnamed, relate the story. The accuser and her friend decided to check out Dane Cook‘s stand-up show at LA’s The Laugh Factory; she noted that Tosh seemed more like an amateur because of his awkward stage presence. But then…
So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”
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.
…I should probably add that having to basically flee while Tosh was enthusing about how hilarious it would be if I was gang-raped in that small, claustrophic room was pretty viscerally terrifying and threatening all the same, even if the actual scenario was unlikely to take place. The suggestion of it is violent enough and was meant to put me in my place.
Obviously this woman felt personally threatened, like some sort of mob mentality might rear its head at Tosh’s joking suggestion and she would actually be in danger. To his credit, Tosh apologized late yesterday, tweeting the following:
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
About those allegedly out-of-context quotes: The Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada told BuzzFeed that the anonymous accuser completely blew things out of proportion. Here’s his take:
“[Tosh asked,] ‘What you guys want to talk about?’ After someone in the front said ‘rape,’ a woman in the audience started screaming, ‘No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it.’ Daniel came in, and he said, ‘Well it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys’—something like that. I really didn’t hear properly… It was a comment—it wasn’t a joke at the expense of this girl.”
Considering that the Laugh Factory was also the site of Seinfeld star Michael Richards‘ infamous racist tirade back in 2006, Masada is careful to emphasize what a non-situation this is. Comedian Louis C.K. has also put his support behind Tosh, tweeting, “Your show makes me laugh every time I watch it.”
It’s uncertain whose word is more reliable, since the incident wasn’t captured on videotape. So we have to sort of talk in hypotheticals. If Tosh threw out a threat of rape against a heckler, that’s not cool. But if she overreacted to a more general joke about rape, that’s objectionable but not as disturbing.
Photo: Comedy Central