Following the (justified) shit storm caused by Daniel Tosh‘s hurtful and un-funny rape “joke” last week, many people were sad to see what seemed like a tweet in support coming from the generally enlightened comic Louis CK. “Your show makes me laugh every time I watch it,” he said, “and you have pretty eyes.” Oy.
Thankfully, Louis CK went on The Daily Show last night to clarify his intentions behind the tweet…apparently, he was watching TV while on vacation in Vermont and tweeted that without any knowledge of the brewing controversy. Phew!
However, what he had to say was not 100% good, as he made quite a few gender essentializing remarks and implied that feminism and humor are incompatible:
This is a fight between comedians and bloggers…all hyperbole and garbage comes out of those two places. It’s also a fight between comedians and feminists, which are natural enemies…stereotypically speaking, feminists can’t take a joke and on the other side, comedians can’t take criticism, comedians are big pussies. One side says, you don’t like the jokes stay out of the comedy clubs, the other side says, if you don’t like criticism, stop googling yourself every ten seconds…to me, all dialogue is positive.
Who says feminism and comedy are mutually exclusive? Just because someone objects to a terribly executed, un-funny “joke” about something that constantly happens to women, constantly terrifies us, and is constantly normalized by society, doesn’t mean that person is a humorless bitch. Comedy can even be an effective tool for revealing/dismantling patriarchy and rape culture…why do you think I make so many jokes in my articles about Terry Richardson? And you cannot say “stereotypically speaking,” and then say something that is supposed to prove a sincere point, because stereotypes are not evidence.
And there’s more:
If someone has the opposite feeling from me, I want to hear so I can add to mine. For me, any joke about anything bad is great…that’s how I feel. Any joke about rape, the Holocaust…is fine. I’ve read some blogs during this whole thing that have made me enlightened to things I didn’t know. This woman said that rape is something that polices women’s lives…that’s part of me now where it wasn’t there before, and I can still enjoy a good rape joke.
Um, not any joke about anything bad is great. If you are joking about something bad, especially something bad that is currently affecting the lives of your audience members, like rape or racism, you had best make sure that joke is pretty damn clear, and not aimed at the victims. If Louis CK really understood how rape polices half the population’s lives, maybe he wouldn’t be so quick to grant a free pass to make whatever kinds of shitty rape jokes you want.
He goes on to miss the point further, saying that this is an issue about women (who are emotional!) and men (who are jerks!). You don’t have to be a man to understand why this was a nasty and destructive thing to do, and one that runs counter to comedy’s best aspirations; here’s a powerful and thoughtful response written by a dude. Likewise, it’s entirely possible for a woman to be an asshole to other women. Rape culture affects us all.
I don’t mean to single out Louis CK; in the fratty world of comedy, he’s better than most. But if even the most enlightened and intelligent of male comedians has this far to go towards a real understanding of the subject, I’m not sure how much hope I have for anyone else.