(so, trigger warning, of course)
I’m not a comedian – I’m too interested in precision to be funny – but I’m engaged to one. We have this adorable dynamic (which I’m sure he’ll get sick of one day and I’ll wake up with a spoon in my eye socket) where he says something funny, and then I correct a detail that he fudged for humorous effect, and then he says, “I’m joking.” (Spoon. Eye socket.) (I’ve suggested he make a little sign he can hold up before he says things. “Joke Ahead. Pedantry Prohibited.”)
But sometimes understanding comedy becomes important in my job, as in the case of Daniel Tosh’s infamous, um “alleged” rape joke. A great deal has been written and reported (including this genuinely interesting Jezebel piece and a magnificently clear allegory about a world where men routinely have their dicks cut off by women), but I have about three and a half cents of my own that I think are worth adding.
Tosh issued a non-apology:
all the out of context misquotes aside, i\’d like to sincerely apologize http://t.co/ptA7kJ2c
— daniel tosh (@danieltosh) July 10, 2012
(In contrast, I offer Jason’s Alexander’s legit apology for a gay joke. To be clear, real apologies don’t delegitimize the person you hurt. They don’t say, “That’s not what I meant and that’s not what I said, but I’m sorry that that’s what you heard,” they say, “Shit, that’s not what I meant but it’s sure as hell what you heard, and I see where you’re coming from, and I regret saying something that hurt you.”)
Anyway. Out of context misquotes? Well. Here’s what happened according to the clubowner, according to Buzzfeed
Masada says Tosh asked the audience, “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.” Then, Masada says, “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.”
Okay. So, again, I’m not a comedian. What I am is a lefty-loony radically sex positive academic vaginawoman with a PhD in Don’t Get AIDS. I’m the opposite of funny. But I’m going to go ahead and have an opinion here, because I’m engaged to a comedian, I have a fine-tuned understanding of power dynamics, and only I have the password to this blog so who’s gonna stop me.
It seems to me that if a comedian asks what the audience wants to talk about or what they want to have for dinner, and the audience says “Rape!” or “Lamb lungs!” doesn’t the comedian have a pretty great opportunity at that point to make fun of the people who think lamb lungs would make a tasty dinner? Aren’t there some hysterically funny things to say about the kinds of moronical dickwads who find humor in the culturally systematic targeting of women, using sex as a weapon (or people who think the organ meat of baby sheep makes nice meal)? Answer: not if you ARE one of those moronical dickwads.
So I can only conclude that Tosh must actually be a moronical dickwad who JUST MIGHT enjoy eating the organs of tiny, darling baby sheep. Just sayin’.
Can there be funny rape jokes? I think so. Rape jokes that make fun of rapists can be funny, the way slavery jokes that make fun of slave owners can be funny, but slavery jokes that make fun of slaves can’t (that’s a deliberately chosen comparison). And I think they can be funny when you present yourself as the victim, especially when you are generally perceived as a member of the dominant group. Make fun of the dominant group and you create positive change. Make fun of the targeted group and you reinforce the prevailing dynamic. If the prevailing dynamic is okay with you, then you’re, ya know, a moronical dickhead.
So. That’s what I think. As a person whose job entails trying to reverse rape culture (oy) and as a person who’s marrying a person who makes jokes for a living, and as, ya know, a person, I think rape is never funny, but rape jokes can be funny when they make fun of rape culture and rapists. But “wouldn’t it be funny if that chick got raped” and “that chick probably has been raped,” those just make fun of targets of systemic violence, which creates cultural permission for violence.
Three and a half cents, all for you.