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.

Weird week update

I must disclose first and foremost, that this June is a month of relaxation for me. My sister’s visit from India means we’ll do most of the touristy things along with meeting family and seeing some understated NYC places that are familiar only to people who’ve lived here, breathed the air, experienced the essence of the city, or attempted a perfunctory glance of nymag.com.

Meeting family in DC

No visit with family is complete without beer, political arguments turned into shouting matches and ridiculously early bedtimes. My uncle and aunt took us bro and sis to the national arboretum, of which we saw a small part, namely the bonsai exhibits (there were trees as old as 500 years grown to an impressive height of two feet! Wait what? You know, bonsai is the Japanese art (or is it science?) of growing small trees and re-potting them so they live to impressive ages).

With some family members, you find yourself hunting for topics to talk about simply because while there is no dearth of love between people, conversational gelling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I am usually particularly handicapped in this department. With my uncle, however, there’s no such handicap. Usually our peaceful conversations that begin about the weather escalate to shouting matches that are tie-broken by a scream of “Zip it!” from my aunt. Thank god for her, because we are usually quite out of new material by then and are spouting opposing rhetoric at each other hoping to hose our adversary down with condescension and categorical theses instead of arguments.

Weinergate

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Just in case we might have run out of topics to talk about, our friendly New York Congressman Rep. Anthoy Weiner (D) showed us the true zenith of surname oriented jokes. In simple words, he tweeted to the public (accidentally of course) a picture of his crotch area (clothed) as opposed to sending it as a direct message to a 21 year old girl. No crime, so far. As usual with politician sex scandals, people start to gather and question the regularity with which these guys put their feet in their mouths (not literally, that would need some serious Yoga). Some of course, go on to make sweeping generalization about men.

My opinion on this is as amateurish as it is unsolicited. Good politicians are go getters, and it takes a certain pushiness to climb up to the top of any ladder. The characteristics that propel people to such heights also seem to correlate with predilections of deviance. As such, in a highly competitive society, the people that get ahead are those who think outside the box, interpret the rules differently, and any more cliches I could use that those winners wouldn’t ever. Of course, their real smartness lies in keeping their indiscretions secret, and never ever using a cent of public funds for any such activities. In the latest news, while various Democratic politicians are taking turns to throw Weiner under the bus, a stark difference between the Clinton era and today is revealed. A difference that is heartening, I might add. While Clinton was nearly put out of commission for getting oral appeasement from an intern, Weiner might just get away with a leave of absence for treatment. My whole sense of pride that comes from being a New Yorker (almost four years now!), stands to be blasted to smithereens at the edge of a cliff if the people of my current city start calling for Weiner to resign. What we need to respect, and this sounds like such a given that I’m exhausted just typing it, is that it is his personal life, and that he didn’t use government funds to do this, nor did he let his affair affect any political decisions he made. He did not use his position to obstruct any sort of investigation into his private life (something Clinton has been accused of doing).

(Update: Anthony Weiner has since resigned, the pressure from fellow Democrats being too much. I guess times haven’t changed that much since Clinton, except that people might have to resign for smaller sexual indiscretions than earlier!)

Tracing Morgan?

Courtesy: entertainmentrundown.com

Tracy Morgan, who plays Tracy Jordan in the super-hit NBC laugh-riot 30 Rock, recently made some seriously anti-gay remarks during a stand up act (yes I understand how stupid the use of serious and comedy in one sentence sounds, I am not back-spacing, forget about it). He said that the president should stop being soft on bullied gay kids, and that he would stab his own son should he be gay. I am paraphrasing of course, but you can see how this set of statements couldn’t be mangled no matter how poor the translation.

People like Chris Rock have made it clear that the freedom of speech is especially relevant to unpopular speech, and this should be protected as well. Other comedians like Wanda Sykes have openly chided Morgan for these statements. I don’t think this should be turned into a referendum on free speech simply because Morgan got carried away. It happens. Comedians all over are pushing the envelope of edginess in order to shock people into laughter, and the only test they’re supposed to satisfy is, “It better be funny.” This is why George Carlin and Chris Rock get away with some of their routines, while Joel Stein and Michael Richards get universally chastised. Some of these people are funny, and others aren’t. Comedy is a rough business, and sometimes they don’t laugh. You keep going, pushing the PC barrier harder and harder, till you realize that there’s nothing funny about your train-wreck of a bit, and that you’re gonna pay for this. While this Tracy business will blow over, it just makes me respect even more the comedians who are edgy and steadily funny. Tina Fey, the head honcho of 30 Rock has helped dispose of this issue with her recent comment.

That’s it for the week update. Maybe I should make this a regular thing?

Eulogy – Part II

(This is the concluding part of a two-part series. Please read Eulogy – Part 1 before you read this.)

He yawned loudly. Somehow he always remembered to cover his mouth when he yawned. Even in private. She had reformed his bohemian ways a long time ago: her eyes large as saucers and an admonishment of ‘be polite’, with her hand gently covering his mouth. He wryly wondered how she expected him to improve such behavior while she doled out such delicious punishments. Nothing like that now. He was still drawing a blank. There was nothing he could think of that was profound enough to be said at a podium, but impersonal enough that it could be shared without causing any embarrassment.

His family had been extremely cooperative and understanding. His wife had stopped scowling at him, and had interrupted him only once to announce that the Fedex package he’d made her track would arrive only on Monday. Damn! The stuff that R had left for him would probably have steam-rollered through his writers’ block.

When I need you, I just close my eyes and I’m with you, and all that I so wanna give you, is only a heartbeat away…

What a freakish Karan Joharesque coincidence that the radio would blare out this song while he was thinking about her! She had sung this song to him once in expression of her love. True romantic that he was he had pointed out how the tune of the song was exactly like tumse milke, aisa laga tumse milke…. Her reply, of course, was less than charitable.

“Idiot! That song is a copy of the English one.”

“Oh! I thought you had composed the lyrics of this one for me, and simply Anu Malik-ed the tune!”

Anyone else at any other time would have assumed that the song was merely being alluded to, but the sheer spontaneity of R coupled with her literary promise allowed no such conclusions. If anything, one was more inclined to believe that she had extemporaneously composed the whole thing.

Again, that moment was too trivial to be shared. Also, no one else would understand what he felt there. Without any warning, his writers’ block dissolved and thoughts words started flowing in his head. He started scribbling furiously like he did during history exams whenever he was afraid that the answer would simply evaporate from his head.

He read and re-read it to make sure it was just the way she would have wanted it, which was an irony in itself. From then on, it was like someone had pressed a fast-forward button; the next moment of coherence he experienced was at the podium, in front of her weeping family, the staid-expressioned extended family, and the various acquaintances to whom this was merely another social call. It was an out-of-body experience as though he could float over the happenings and actually observe the man in the blue suit giving a sweet eulogy.

“The fact that you’re all here in no way means that R meant equally to all of you. In fact, knowing R as I did, I’m sure some of you are here to make sure she’s really gone.” There were small knowing smiles among the family and friends, and looks of pure horror on the acquaintances’ faces.

“R and I were very intimate at one point of time and drifted apart rather cynically. We were never in touch and surprisingly her probate attorney contacted me with her wish that I give this eulogy. This surprised me in two ways. One: I did not think I meant so much to her after all this time, and two: she was an extremely private person who had opened up to me very slowly. The thought that she would want a speech inspired by one of her most intimate life-periods to be made in front of (quite frankly) pure strangers would have been ludicrous to me fifteen years ago. I suppose she changed a lot in these years, but then, you know her more than I do now. What I do know, is what she was then. I would like to talk about something from that space-time.”

Her eleven-year old or so daughter was staring at him at this point with those very eyes…

“Of all the moments we shared, and we shared some great ones as friends and many more as a couple, the unlikeliest choice for this occasion would be the time we parted ways. For some reason, as I thought about what epitomized her personality; this somehow allows me to convey the most while saying the least.

It was a warm night in Manhattan. (Those things come once in a while!) I remember her eyes burning a hole in mine. She had the ability to appear ice-cold while seething and fuming inside. She said, ‘I love you and a part of me always will. This is just not working out. No matter how much we are attracted to each other, and how much we miss each other when away, we can’t seem to allow the other to breathe freely when together. I am unhappy in a quiet desperate way without you, and I am kicking and screaming while crying myself to sleep when I’m with you. There just seems to be no solution here. I love you a lot and want more than anything else for you to be happy. Neither one of us is happy when we’re together, and no matter how much we pretend otherwise, we both know that our relationship is volcanic and tempestuous, sans stability. Now that we’re parting ways, I am going to feel like I made a ridiculous mistake, and that being without you is like slowly choking to death, but this is a feeling I can overcome, and I will move on. I am sure it will be even easier for you.’

She said that and walked away slowly. I knew she would not turn back to look at me even once. The amazing part of this woman was not that her resolve never weakened. It was that she anticipated those moments and took precautionary measures. I just kept watching her leave until she became a humanoid speck on the horizon and then nothingness. Her last words lingered like an eerie echo. ‘…I will move on. It will be even easier for you.’

Friends and well-wishers, as we say goodbye to a truly exceptional human being, all I can say is, ‘She was wrong.’

He climbed down the podium tearfully and walked straight into his wife’s embrace. It was a beautifully conducted funeral.

The next day Fedex brought over the package that should have arrived on Saturday. It contained an old love letter he had given her, and a neatly printed-out letter he had never seen before. Written above the heading, in that scrawl he had loved so much were the words, ‘This is the eulogy I want you to give. It is nice enough, and has nothing personal. I have loved you all these years.’

He laughed through his tears at the control-freak he now missed so much.

THE END

PS: Snafu celebrates its 100th post! I hope to keep writing, and writing more frequently. A warm thanks to all readers.

Eulogy – Part 1

“Sit up straight.” he still heard her voice in his head. R had had a booming voice—feminine, but strong. He chuckled at how she would have responded to this description. Come on, he scolded himself, you’re a writer; this should come naturally to you.

He had fought with his wife early that morning. Twelve years into a marriage, fights and quarrels were commonplace, but this one was weird off the bat. Unlike other fights, in this one, he knew she was right even though he kept fighting with her. The reason was obvious when you thought about it. Everything started the previous evening, around 6 pm.

He winced as soon as he heard someone knock on his door. He had warned his secretary, “No calls!” Well, if she had still let someone through, it had to be important. Damn it! He didn’t want anything important to disturb his Friday evening reverie. “Come in”, he said, hoping his unwelcoming tone would make things obvious to the intruder.

A wiry, bespectacled man entered wearing a hand tailored suit. It was exquisite. The man kept it short. He was a probate lawyer for R. Probate and R in the same sentence could mean only one thing. How did it happen, he asked. Automobile incident was the lawyerly reply. Why could these legal bozos never say simple words like road accident? So, why was this attorney here? Well, R had left him some special things and a dying request. “What things, and what request?” he asked and immediately regretted the order of his questions.

The lawyer responded that the items were in a box which would be Fedexed to him the next day. She requested that he give her eulogy. This Sunday? Yes. In two days. Shouldn’t be too hard for a writer. The lawyer left with as much discreetness as he had entered.

The sun came blazing through the open window and drenched his table in golden luminescence. He was doing that circling thing with his pen again. An observant friend in school had pointed out that he moved his pen in circles only when pondering something about rotation or uniform circular motion.

He strained his eyes to concentrate. He was sitting with a pen and paper for an hour now, with no words yet. The only words he had come up with were, “words cannot describe the impression she made on my life.” She was an ex, but more than that. He had been in three relationships before his marriage, each one with their own versions of pain. This one was strange. There was a didactic tone to this one. She taught him: something the others had not done. This was without doubt the most educational relationship he had been in. He could not say that: how was anyone to understand what that even meant? He could not even explain to his wife the importance that another woman held in his life. Understandably, she had pouted for about two hours before ‘allowing’ him to give the eulogy.

He remembered that evening in Manhattan. He hated walking in TriBeCa but she dragged him as always.  She had a keen eye, and spotted what looked like a presidential dollar coin on the sidewalk. As she tried to pick it up, there was a scream of April fool! as she realized that the coin was stuck to the ground. He laughed spontaneously and she did too, but as the joke grew on her, a tear started to roll down her eye. He realized that a reprimand was coming. She was the one person he knew who could combine maturity and  petulance into one mood. As he pacified her, he realized that this high-maintenance female was exactly what he wanted and she made him happy. He couldn’t write about this either. Too trivial an incident and no way someone else would see the meaning in it.

What to do then? He sipped his coffee and closed his eyes. Maybe a nap would do him good. The evening might be better. After all most of his best works were a product of a tearing hurry caused by an impending deadline, and the more desperation the better.

Eulogy Part 2

Giving in

I opened the door and went in,

With a guilt inexplicable within;

To get something I knew I wanted

By giving in to temptations undaunted.

The old lady saw me and smiled.

She knew I vacillated a while,

Knew how much I resisted coming,

And yet she knew what was forthcoming.

There was a finality in her glance

As if she knew I had no chance

Of limiting myself, of tethering myself,

Or ever winning a debate with myself.

She had an expression of disapproval

As if, since last time, I’d grown a soul

And decided against this path again.

She would oblige me but with disdain.

I told her what I was looking for

She sent me to a corner unseen before

I went obediently and stood aside

To let hedonism and resistance collide

With a clear winner, as always

Favoring satisfaction over malaise

I took what I wanted, the heathen pleasure

I felt satisfaction beyond measure

During my vulgar enjoyment of my fill

(Must every desire we fulfill?)

When I was done I considered me

With utter revulsion and some pity

I had self-control and discipline

But, for this I knew I would give in

I exited the place with irritation

(This was of course an aberration)

I swore in life, I’ll do anything

But I’ll never go again to Burger King