Pish-Tosh

Daniel Tosh: Happy Thoughts

Put in context, that smile is scary. (Wikipedia)

I was at this open-mic once where a guy asked, “Ladies, would you let a vampire eat you out on your period?”

Funny? Not at all. Not to me.

Distasteful? Perhaps.

Permissible? Of course.

But when Daniel Tosh was joking about another surely distasteful topic—rape, he was interrupted by a heckler who yelled, “Rape jokes are never funny.” You know, because there exists a compendium of rape jokes, and she’s read them all.

He said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?”

Here’s the girl’s experience in her own words.

So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didn’t appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

The blogosphere and Twitter exploded calling Tosh everything from ‘not-funny’ to ‘threatening rape.’ As one would expect, he tweeted an apology.

It would have been fine if he had just generally joked about rape. What he said in response to the heckler was bad. It was almost a threat—however empty; in a way he was reminding her of her vulnerability. He should not have said it.

Tosh’s statement has been justified by some on the basis of free speech. That’s a ridiculous argument. No one doubts the legality of what Tosh said. We are only suggesting that as a civilized person, he shouldn’t have celebrated the prospect of a gang-rape.

But that doesn’t mean he was prescribing rape as a means of control. It was just a reaction. Consider his situation. You’re on stage, being judged every few seconds. Your style of humor is outrageous, and that is prone to backfiring. You’re setting up your joke, saying rape can be hilarious, the tension builds, you’re getting to your punchline, and a sanctimonious idiot from the crowd heckles you—and that’s what this woman was, make no mistake. She didn’t deserve what Tosh said, but let’s not, in our rush to castigate him, excuse her for what she did. It’s a comedy club. Not the Iowa caucus. If you don’t like what you hear, you walk out. You don’t weigh in. Heckling a comedian is a dick move, and you force him to smack you because it’s a top-down situation. If a comedian loses control of the room, he can’t be funny. You can’t expect someone to go easy on you when you’re screwing with his job.

“It might not have been the reaction he was expecting, but he had to expect a reaction” — Vincent Vega, Pulp Fiction.

A comedian’s insulting response is based on many things. If he can’t see you—which he can’t if you’re beyond the first couple of rows because of the stage lights (don’t ask me how I know)—he can’t joke about your height, weight, clothes, or anything else that’s politically correct. He has a split second to come up with something to rub your nose in the ground, and sadly, what came to Daniel Tosh at that moment was an unfortunate set of words. Should he apologize? Yes. Is he the villain of the piece? Come on!

English: Daniel Tosh at Boston University

Look at that innocent face (Wikipedia)

Let’s consider something else here. George Carlin once responded to a heckler with, “Will somebody please put a dick in that man’s mouth? Cause that’s what he wants.” People just laughed. Could he have said that to a female heckler and gotten away with it? Similarly, if Tosh had said about a male heckler, “What if that guy got raped by five guys right now? Like right now?” Would it have been this inflammatory? No. Nor are all those castration jokes I’ve heard getting big laughs in comedy clubs. But it’s wrong to point that out. It would dilute the indignation of those treating this story as a referendum on rape jokes.

So while this woman has our sympathy, let’s not make her out to be some martyr. She hasn’t dedicated herself to the cause of women. She’s just someone who interrupted a comedian because she didn’t like his act. And now that Tosh has apologized, perhaps we should forgive him.

Draft skeletons in my closet

6:30 pm

I’m sitting down to write something. And it’s gonna be the shit.

What to write about? Nonfiction—no that requires a lot of reading, too late to start now. How about a nice story? That’s right. When I get up, I’ll have a novel…that inspires tears…from Hemingway…in a fetal position cursing god for making me more talented. I need characters, plot arcs, story lines, a central theme…

You know that non-fiction idea is looking better and better—the heart wants what it wants.

7:00 pm

What do I begin with? Lesser men choose titles, rough measures of article size—but I’m not a wimp. First, the font. Because the only thing worse than getting kicked in the nuts is writing a treatise on macroeconomics that’s a Nobel shoo-in only to learn that Stockholm despises Helvetica. (Why do you think they bumped me for Krugman?) Too many choices, but I’ll know it when I see it.

7:15 pm

I keep going from Georgia to Courier New to those special typewriter fonts I downloaded from dafont.com and all the way back to Georgia. Times New Roman? What am I, an animal? But I admit that Times New Roman tempts me like Jon Hamm probably does to Ted Haggard. No, I need the right font. Courier New is the best—everything I write looks serious. Like a philosopher who’s finally decided to make metaphysics his bitch.

Or does it? What if I just look pretentious like those people who drink Chardonnay and say things like avant-garde and milieu?

7:45 pm

I imagine myself as a heroic Thomas Jefferson punching declarative statements on a typewriter before realizing that Jefferson died forty years before the typewriter was invented.

So everything he wrote was by hand. How did he get past the first sentence? How come no one crushed his spirit by saying, Your ‘s’ looks like an ‘o’? (Yes, I’m looking at you mom.)

8:00 pm

No, Courier New won’t cut it. Who am I kidding? I routinely end sentences with prepositions, and I recently declared my closet desire to shamelessly split infinitives, and I used ‘who’ instead of ‘whom’ in the previous sentence. I need a non-prescriptivist font, preferably one that doesn’t smell too Victorian. (Not that I know what Victorians smelled like, but I hear they showered sporadically.)

I can’t think straight until the words staring at me look alright. That’s how Christopher Hitchens did it right? May his soul rest in…wait, what?

8:15 pm

Maybe the font is fine, what about the screen brightness? I don’t want it too bright, do I? A soft light that prevents eye-strain without making me squint is what I need. But first, some music. Nothing but the soft gentle stirrings of Adele to boost creativity. Did I say Adele? I meant Metallica, with beer, and a shotgun.

9:15 pm

Alright, so that episode of Breaking Bad was awesome, but I really need to write now. Hell, no way I’d have been this inspired if I’d started typing away without … you know … inspiration. Hey, how about this for a story — a guy with a low-profile life in Smalltown, USA gets cancer and decides to cook meth…no wait…I’m getting close now, the idea is not far away. Come on…

9:30 pm

I can’t be creative on an empty stomach. I need some Chinese. All that stops me from being Tom Wolfe is sesame chicken with pork fried rice. Great, no cash, meaning I have to tell my credit card number to the post-doc at Hunan palace who likes to repeat every digit loudly, his accent disappearing with every number. But he forgets the chicken wings every time.

I guess I’ll resume after dinner.

11:00 pm

That’s it. I’m not getting up until I write something of value. I almost sympathize with people now—how empty and bourgeoisie their sundry lives will seem after reading my outpourings? But should I write now? My mind isn’t the sharpest after bingeing on Chinese. The people deserve better; I’ll start writing tomorrow early morning, fresh. By 8 am, I’ll be emailing the New York Times.

9:00 am

Is Courier New really the right way to go?

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