Thursday, July 12, 2012

Daniel Tosh Is a Jackass, But You Might Be, Too

In case you don't follow internet-based controversies surrounding stand-up performances, the short version of the story currently captivating a small portion of the web stems from this tumblr post by a woman who went to a comedy show where Daniel Tosh (host of Please Don't Figure Out Youtube Exists) made some bad jokes about rape, she got upset and yelled out that rape jokes are never funny, and then he made even more unfunny rape jokes that really upset her.

As I've written about here before, rape is a subject that can rarely, if ever, be joked about effectively. And although now there are contrasting reports as to what Tosh actually said, none of the versions are funny enough to justify joking about something like that (to summarize my argument: you should be really careful making rape jokes, and they have to be really funny to work).

So people were quick to jump on Tosh for his misogyny, and then misogynists were quick to defend him, and then several other people who were there contradicted the original story, making it hard to know what happened exactly. But what we do know is Tosh made some unfunny jokes about rape, this women got upset and yelled something, and he made more unfunny jokes.

I'm going to leave aside the fact that Tosh is an asshole and not very funny because it's already been well-established. And whatever version of the story you believe, it's clear he was both being an asshole and not funny in that particular incident. I think we call all agree on that.

But what I want to rant about is the woman in question. As a friend of mine who is a former professional comedian pointed out, she wasn't just an audience member. She was a heckler. Now you can argue that what Tosh said was so offensive that she had to say something, and I'd probably agree with that. But she's still a heckler (it's an empirical question -- if you shout out during a stand up set that the performer is not funny, you are ipso facto a heckler). And when a comedian is heckled, it's more-or-less a professional obligation that they attempt to savage the heckler. Now again, Tosh did a shitty and unfunny job of it, but was doing what any comedian would do.

But were I really have a problem with her account of things is that, while again pointing out that I fully agree Tosh was both offensive and unfunny, it falls into the "I'm a special flower and everyone should follow my rules no matter what" type of complaint. Because if you read her original post, she notes that the headliner was Dane Cook (himself a man with quite a record of violently misogynistic and sexist bullshit) and that she had seen his stuff before and didn't think he was very good.

So right there you already have a huge problem -- you're expecting to go to the show of a known sexist/homophobe (that you yourself have witnessed being sexist/homophobic) and expect it somehow magically not contain any sexism or homophobia. And then when you interrupt the show because it offends your sensibilities, you are shocked, shocked! that a comedian would respond to your heckling with anything other than genuine remorse and discussion of our pernicious rape culture.

So I guess what keeps me from getting fully on board with this woman (not including her ending paragraph in which she goes a little far by suggesting she truly believe audience members were going to rise up and rape her right then and there because of what he said) is not that she's wrong about the guy. I don't think he's funny, either, and I also believe he's a misogynistic asshole. But she clearly also has a problem in making good decisions -- you went to a show of a misogynist asshole you admit you don't find funny, and surprise, surprise, on the bill was another misogynist asshole you don't find funny.

And this is why I think she has some of that annoying special flowerism I spoke of earlier -- you deliberately put yourself in a situation that, if you had put any thought into it, you clearly would have realized there was high potential of you being offended. Then, when this largely inevitable thing happens, you freak out like it was done to personally belittle you and was a completely unexpected interruption of your nice night trying to watch the misogynists be funny (but apparently in a non-misogynist way).

Again, I want to highlight as much as possible this is not a defense of Tosh as a person or comic, or to defend in any way what he said. Nor is it to denigrate people taking the brave step of calling out misogyny when they see it. It's merely to point out something that unfortunately many lefties seem to not understand at all -- the world doesn't automatically conform to your sensibilities, even when you're right.

Also, don't go to Nazi rallies if you're offended by Nazi ideals. It's very likely something said will offend you, and given that you're already generally aware of what Nazis stand for, it's at least partially your fault for attending the rally in the first place (even though I hope it goes without saying you're totally right to be offended by what the Nazis say).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post. Alex Baze said it best when he wrote, "Rape isn't funny. Neither are breakups, illness, fear, death, poverty or anything else comedians do jokes about."