Daniel Tosh at the Hollywood Improv in 2008. Photograph: Michael Schwartz/WireImage
So Tosh.0 thinks rape is funny. The stand up comedian recently did a show where he decided to explore the humorous side of violently assaulting women. A female audience member disagreed with his viewpoint and expressed herself. According to her, he then shared with his audience his thoughts on her getting ganged raped right then and there. I phrase all of this in this manner because, from what I have read, there are different viewpoints on what was said and how it was worded. And I will also note here that Daniel Tosh has also publicly apologized for offending the woman.
I have read some online comments on this incident and have found myself needing to express myself on this issue. My initial reaction was outrage at this comedian’s idea that rape could be funny. That’s right up there with finding humor in the molestation of children. I. Just. Don’t. Get. It. As a woman, I find it degrading and belittling to trivialize the subject. For far too long women have had to “suck it up” and deal with the shenanigans of men or be labeled “soft” or “too sensitive” when we spoke up and pointed out they were being, well, assholes.
But I had to check myself, and my reactions to this story. I fully applaud this woman for speaking up and letting Tosh know that not everyone found his bit funny. I think she had every right to basically heckle him; I believe it comes with the job. But I also have to support Tosh and his right to express his own opinions in his act. I have no idea how far into his act this part about rape came up; and I have no idea if the woman found others parts funny, parts that others might have actually found offensive. But comedians push the envelope all the time. That’s what they do. That’s why we like them and laugh with them. They break the boundaries of political correctness for us because in our everyday lives we can’t always afford to do it ourselves.
But this right to say what he wants, or any other comedian, in his act, comes with culpability and responsibility. Sometimes lins are crossed. Just take into consideration Michael Richards and Tracy Morgan. They both offended a lot of people. But we the audience members also have to remember that being offensive isn’t a crime in this country. While I pondered this Tosh finds rape funny incident I did some searching on free speech. I came across two good articles on this topic. One by Ken Paulson at the First Amendment Center, and one by Anna Stolley Persky at dcbar.org.
We seem to have forgotten lately that unless we say something that creates a clear and present danger for others, or we are actively encouraging and planning the overthrowing of our government, we can pretty much say what we want in The United States. That’s no laughing matter. There are many places across the globe that will put you in jail for merely stating a harmless opinion. We have also forgotten that just because we have the right to be an offensive asshole, it doesn’t mean we should be one.