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“Rape, Context, & Comedy” – A Partial Defense Of Daniel Tosh.

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So, about that whole Daniel Tosh incident…

Something about feces coming in contact with a fan. The phrase escapes me…

As someone who loves stand-up comedy and will one day get on stage to try it out, I have some thoughts on the matter.

What Tosh said was wrong. What Tosh did wasn’t wrong.


Rape isn’t funny. Rape jokes aren’t funny if the target is a being. But jokes that illuminate, dissect, & destroy the target of rape culture ARE funny. Just like how joking about 9/11 isn’t funny, but joking about the context of it is. Check out this awesome piece by The Nation writer Jessica Valenti.

It comes down to how we use humor to deal with pain. How we use misdirection & call-backs to deal with loss & grief…in a way that recognizes & honors the hurt while it promotes the healing.

That’s a really tough line to walk.

And she had every right to call him out and hold his feet to the fire. But her choice of medium was what worked against her and made this event blow up in all the wrong ways. Because here’s the thing…

You don’t heckle a comedian. You don’t answer your phone when you’re in a movie. You don’t leave your phone on full-blast when you’re watching a symphony. You don’t touch the paintings hanging on the wall. You don’t cop a feel on the statues. You don’t try to knock over the sculptures. You don’t sing-a-long with a soloist.

Some call it performance etiquette. I call it empathy. I’ve been on stage before (as a violinist) and those who’ve been on stage know just how scary it is and how vulnerable you feel. When someone boos, dismisses, or heckles you, you have two responses: flight or fight.

And with how society deals with actual rape, parts of society blamed her for not knowing ‘what to expect’ when she walked into a comedy show. Like how victims of rape should have expected it to happen when they wore that mini-skirt. Or dress. Or turtle-neck. Or [insert random article of clothing].

That’s one heaping pile of bullshit.

She knew she was expecting something offensive that would be funny. She wasn’t expecting a really bad joke. ¬†Calling him out was the right thing to do, but using the medium of heckling wasn’t.

It comes down to response and context. Was his response appropriate? Yes. Was the context of his response appropriate? Hell no.

Hopefully we can learn two lessons from this. 1. Have smarter jokes. 2. Don’t heckle the performers.

Varun Ambrose
July 13, 2012.

Written by Varun

July 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm

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