When “funny” isn’t funny at all

I’m not entirely certain of the authenticity of any of the rumours surrounding Daniel Tosh and his alleged “rape jokes” at the Laugh Factory comedy show on Tuesday night. I am, however, shocked that content of this nature is even being brought up in a comedy show atmosphere. If you have read the accounts of what happened, you will know that there are conflicting opinions.

In the original blog post, the author (and “heckler”) writes “Tosh […] starts marking some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc.” In another article, quoting Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada, Masada claims that, after an audience member suggested Tosh talk about the subject of rape, and the “heckler” said “No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it,” Tosh said something like “Well, it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys.” Masada contends that Tosh meant it simply as a comment, and not as a joke or personal attack on the woman.

I will admit that I have long been a fan of Daniel Tosh and his comedy show, Tosh.0. However, regardless of the truth behind the accounts, this seems to go too far. This woman very well could have had a traumatic experience in her lifetime in which she was raped or sexually assaulted. The statistics are staggering, after all. One in four North American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime and over 80 per cent of sexual crime victims are women.

What really stuns me is the fact that someone would suggest this as a subject for Tosh’s comedy set. Since when is rape funny? Given what we know about sexual assault, the statistics, and the overwhelming presence of it in our society, one would think you could come up with a better subject to suggest. Sure, the audience member probably blurted it out for shock value and Tosh’s reaction was, perhaps, immediately regrettable by the comedian. However, I have little sympathy for the entertainer.

The best kind of humour is not one which perpetuates rape culture, belittles an already damaged group of society, or makes light of a serious crime. Women (or anyone, for that matter) who have survived sexual assault are continuously on the road to recovery. They may never fully recover from their trauma. Attempting to poke fun at such a severe problem suggests that it is, in reality, not so serious.

In the end, no one (except the audience members) really knows what was said or wasn’t said that night in the Laugh Factory comedy club. However, the manner in which it was handled was wrong. Period. Tosh had the opportunity to react in a constructive way and, despite the conflicting accounts, it is clear that he took the low road. Granted, everyone makes mistakes. Take Jason Alexander and his “gay cricket” jokes, for example. His public apology was well written, eloquent, and sincere. However, Tosh’s attempt to make amends on the social media forum, Twitter, in less than 160 characters, is a sorry excuse for apology, if you ask me.

Perhaps Daniel Tosh should walk a mile in the shoes of someone who has been a victim of rape or sexual assault. Then we’ll see who’s laughing.

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