In case you don’t follow these sorts of things. Daniel Tosh had an incident at a comedy club in LA that involved “Rape Jokes” and the Internet is all a buzz about it.
Humans, comics in particular, say extreme things because they are funny. It’s the surprise in a joke that makes us really laugh. I’m not talking about polite laughing or laughing because that’s where you’re supposed to laugh and everybody else is laughing so you should laugh too. I’m talking about really laughing, uncontrollable laughing that you can’t stop. When you really laugh there is an idea in your brain that wreaking a little bit of havoc on your thought process in a wonderful way. To do that, you need a surprise (at least the first time you hear a joke). We say extreme things, hoping we will find the thing that will misdirect you and surprise you and blow you a little bit out of the water so that your brain will be caught off guard and you will, hopefully, laugh uncontrollably.
I don’t have any “rape” jokes. I have an “anti-roofies” Joke that I guess you could put under the broad heading “rape joke” but only if you were missing the point completely.
So I’m not writing this to defend my act.
Rape is not like the “N” word. People called other people the “N” word to hold them down and to make them less of a person. Some would say, sticks and stones and some would say ‘it’s just a word’. But our society used the “N” at such a scale we have collectively shunned the ‘word’. The actual word didn’t do anything, we did, but that’s how it goes. It’s like if someone went around hitting people in the head with Thor Doll. At first we would be like “Hey! Stop doing that!” But then the injuries start to add up and people are getting brain damage and the manufacturer is like “that’s not what we made that for!” but people just keep hurting each other with it. We would take the Thor Doll off the market and we would freak out whenever we saw someone with it. And that’s a drag. It shouldn’t have to happen, but we didn’t handle that toy very well. That’s the “N” word. We don’t ‘need’ the “N” word and we hurt people with it so, it had to go. On the other hand, if people went around hitting people with hammers, we would just keep arresting the people who chose to use the hammer the wrong way because, we need hammers. Hammers are tools that serve a function. Rape is a word we need.
Rape isn’t an epitaph. You don’t call someone a “rape”. It’s a verb. One person ‘rapes’ another person. It’s a horrible thing. The deal with us is, first we say “you can’t do ‘rape’ jokes”. Then we make “rape” a dirty word, so it won’t be ok to even say “rape” (I refer you to the word “retard”). So then when people say “rape” our reaction will be to say “Don’t say that.”
Officer “What happened”
Victim “I was….”
Officer “It’s ok, you can tell me”
Victim “I was raped.”
Officer “I’m a Christian, we don’t use that kind of language.”
I hope that’s an extreme fictitious example that would never happen in real life. I don’t think it is. We live in a world where a State Representative this year,(not in 1950, not in the middle ages, this year) was silenced for saying “Vagina” http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0612/77445.html. Apparently in Michigan “Vagina” is very much a dirty word. If we shut down “rape jokes” you will be shutting down the good with the bad and you will be taking a word that people need (it’s a hammer), out of play.
Rep. Lisa Brown, the State Representative who dared to say “Vagina” was elected by the citizens of her State to Represent them. She got shut out of the State House Floor during a debate on abortion. She said “Vagina” in a discussion about Vaginas. Do you know what the medical term for “vagina” is? It’s vagina. See what I’m saying? That’s what people do.
Now, in defense of dark humor, We humans have always used humor to address the horrible. It’s a coping mechanism. Jews, during the Holocost made jokes about THE HOLOCOST. It’s what humans do.
…And I would say: ‘Guys, eat and you will see what kind of flame will come out of us Yes eat, and what a flame’! Why? If we are fat it will help the Muselmanns to burn, since we have a flame, we will help, You understand?
…Two Jews meet in Warsaw and one of them is eating perfumed soap, the other asks: ‘Moyshe, why are you eating soap with such a scent’? He answers: ‘If they turn me into soap, I might as well smell nice’.
…’Entering through the gate is exiting through the chimney’ (“Humor as a defense Mechanism in the Holocost”-Chaya Ostrower, January 2000, http://web.macam98.ac.il/~ochayo/absractn.html)
Now, there is definitely the issue of who say’s what. If a Jew in a concentration camp says “I’m going to eat this to see what color the flame is when they burn me.” First off, that’s funny and that dude is plucky as hell. It is very different if the Guard says the same joke.
Women make rape jokes. I’ve heard plenty of them. Somewhere good, somewhere not. In reading up on this, I found a woman who called herself out on her own flippant use of the word rape. She was reviewing a movie that she said “raped” her. She made the joke because it was shocking and funny. That’s why people make rape jokes. They are shocking, and some of them are funny, even when women do it. Some of them aren’t. Even when women do it.
I think no matter what “we” decide, everything will always be on the table and there will always be a comic out there who can find a way to make the horrible funny(if we are lucky), and there will always be an audience member who doesn’t like what the comic is doing. There will also always be a comic who handles delicate situations really poorly. And there will always be people who love nothing more than juggling. This isn’t a new phenomenon.
People love comics when the push it right up to the line. Audiences want you to push it as far as humanly possible, but don’t cross the line. Once you cross the line they turn on you. The trouble is we constantly move the line. It’s a danger of the job. This will blow over. It’s probably just internet chatter that has no shelf life, like so many things. And Mr. Tosh and the Women who wrote the blog about him, will go on with their lives. But the bigger debate,“what can an artist talk about and what can’t they talk about” won’t go away. That’s good. It’s healthy. We live in a time where we can debate with huge numbers of people instantly because of the internet. That’s amazing. Artists should think about what they say. They should be knowledgeable and responsible. Or maybe not, maybe it would be funnier if they where awesomely irresponsible and kind of dumb. People really like that too.
At any rate, I hope you find comics that make you laugh. There are almost as many kinds of comics as there are kinds of music or types of movies. If you don’t like one style, try another. Life is scary and hard, laughter is really good for you. Please continue to support live comedy.