A good friend of mine recently started her rapid ascent into the comedy scene, and subsequently I have been paying a lot more attention to comedians. I want to gain insight into how I would approach stand-up comedy, and try to convince myself that getting onstage is a smart idea that will not cause society to collapse from beneath my feet.
I was shocked to learn that a commonly held opinion suggests that there is an observable gap in talent between men and women comedians. Women are apparently genetically predisposed through natural selection to only nag menfolk about leaving the toilet seat up and be super serious about nursing babies on public park benches. In other words, women cannot be funny because as the pack mules of our patriarchal society they are NO LAUGHING MATTER. Unless a big swinging dick of a man is onstage poking fun at the foibles of femininity, then we can all guffaw at their inferiority together in the safe context of our respective gender roles!
Since it is scientifically proven that men are naturally funnier than women, I found myself completely taken aback by the swirling crescendo of conversation about rape jokes which has been steadily growing in recent memory. This is of particular concern to me because as someone who gets into a lot of trouble by opening his mouth, the potential for me to get into A LOT OF TROUBLE by opening my mouth on a stage is quite evident.
About a year ago, a comedian named Daniel Tosh dealt with a female heckler in his audience that was not too pleased with the material he brought. He said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?”
What surprised me more than what he said is the reaction and continuing response by many male comedians. They seem unable to neither discuss the subject constructively, nor consider the words falling out of their mouths. I watch their jawline awkwardly tense and relax like a sexually inexperienced person performing oral sex for the first time. It just doesn’t feel good, and you just wish they would stop.
I have realized that my neanderthal brain and its primitive mechanisms are sorely underdeveloped compared to some of my fellow Y chromosomes. I think that my burgeoning misogyny was somewhat tempered during my roaring 20s by a cast of close female friends who kept me in check. I am fully aware that I could be stubborn, mean, and insensitive. Many times our friendships devolved into tearful screaming matches peppered with obscenities and caterwauling shouts of “You don’t understand, you can NEVER understand,” but that is because I am very sensitive and prone to hysterical breakdowns during conflict. I have spent a lifetime blatantly disregarding what is expected of me as a male. I have a hard time acclimating when I learn that other men perpetuate ideals that I willfully and gleefully disdain. I know it makes me incredibly naive, but it is a safe, warm place that is not unlike how I picture a vagina or what I feel when kissing a bearded man.
Comedians should be able to say whatever they want, but they should not expect to go unchallenged. I think comedy has a magnificent way of creating dialogue. The very value of stand-up as an art form is diminished when someone says something and refuses to enter into a conversation by choosing to hide behind the veil of their status as comics. It is really nauseating when a female comic enters the debate and is met with hostility and further suggestions of sexual assault that take the dialogue entirely out of the realm of humor.
Daniel Tosh should have backed down from the conflict, apologized for what he said, learned from his mistake, and improved his material to avoid ever creating that situation again. I say that in the hopes that if and when I do something even more stupid I have the sense to follow my own advice. However, instead of setting an example of how to grow as a comedian, he allowed his behavior to become a battering ram against female empowerment. A bunch of shit covered pigs picked up the bludgeon and are beating down a century of progress under the guise of free speech.
I said I would answer the questions posed by Daniel Tosh.
“Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?”
The answer is “No.”
I would not find it funny to find my mother half-naked on the kitchen floor bruised and bloodied from a brutal sexual assault.
Maybe that image is hard for men to accept and they have a difficult time characterizing rape as a heinous personal crime. Perhaps it might help them to substitute the word murder when constructing a joke.
Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got MURDERED by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?
The answer is, “No.”
This conversation is going to continue until I die and leave my wife a widow because women traditionally live longer, more fulfilling lives than men. However, I am glad that the tide seems to be turning in favor of the people victimized by rape and rape “jokes.” Their voice is the one that demands to be heard, those values are the ones we should be entertaining. It makes me happy to see so many women at the forefront of comedy, and they are the ones I aspire to invoke, impress, steal jokes from, and be honest with me when my belt does not match my shoes.
I will be the first to admit that I am sick and tired of talking about rape in comedy. The idea that we continue to debate the notion that plainly suggesting sexual assault and degradation as somehow good for a laugh, or an acceptable tool to put a heckler in their place, is very tiring and sickening.
The answer is no.
If you want to go ahead and base your comedy on sexual assault, do it, but do not expect to go unchallenged.