Last week, the Internet was all abuzz about Daniel Tosh threatening a woman in the audience with rape. For those unfamiliar with the story, it goes something like this: girl goes to comedy club, where Daniel Tosh is performing; Daniel Tosh makes lots of rape jokes; girl shouts out that rape jokes are never funny; Tosh says, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now?”
Interestingly, much of the controversy about this story is whether or not rape jokes are funny. I’ve seen several posts about Sarah Silverman doing a rape joke “properly,” supposedly from a routine done roughly the same time as Tosh was doing his joke. But I’m not going to talk about that. Nor am I going to argue that this was the “right” or “appropriate” thing for him to say or do. But I am going to offer a look from his perspective.
First off, if you go to a Daniel Tosh show, you need to expect that you’ll be offended. It pretty much comes with the territory. Going to a Tosh show and complaining about any of the content would be like going to a porn convention and complaining about the objectification of women. In the victim’s account of the story, she says she didn’t know who he was, that she thought he was just “some yahoo who somehow got a gig going on after [Dane] Cook,” but even so, it’s a comedy show, and many comedians (Dane Cook included) dabble heavily in the offensive when it comes to their comedy.
This brings me to my second point: never heckle a comedian. One of the things every comedian learns is how to handle hecklers, and one of the best ways to do that is pretty simple: you humiliate them. Make them realize (in a way that’s entertaining for the rest of the audience) that you’re in charge of the show, that they’re not being funny, and that if they continue to shout out you’re just going to make them look like a complete idiot. If you don’t, the show gets out of control.
Many comedians have a standard bit that they use to deal with hecklers, but those don’t always fit — as probably would have been the case here. So looking at it from Tosh’s perspective, he’s on stage, he gets heckled, he’s gotta put his heckler down, and he’s gotta figure out how to do it on the fly, in front of a couple hundred people. So he says what he says.
To be sure, it was a pretty horrific thing to say, and I think everyone agrees on that, Tosh included. He’s since apologized via Twitter, and though his apology doesn’t come across as very … well … apologetic, I think if he had it to do over again he would come up with a different way to handle the situation. Because yes, rape jokes can be funny, but even he seems to realize that suggesting an audience member be gang-raped is over the line.