Daniel Tosh “jokes” that woman in audience should be raped at stand-up show

As you might have heard, this happened: 

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 didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

I did it because, even though being “disruptive” is against my nature, I felt that sitting there and saying nothing, or leaving quietly, would have been against my values as a person and as a woman. I don’t sit there while someone tells me how I should feel about something as profound and damaging as rape.

After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”

The woman and her friend left immediately after the remark, obviously terrified. This post pretty much immediately went viral, leading to a trending Twitter campaign of outrage against Tosh. His response?



This resulted in more criticism for this obvious fauxpology, but also a ton of Tosh defenders making more terrible rape jokes,  and calling the woman a “dumb bitch“ and “cunt,” requesting her Twitter handle.The rest of the tweets in defense are regurgitations of the usual argument that “it’s just a joke” and #getoverit, Tosh’s job is to stir things up.

Yes, many comedians take life’s tragedies and make fun of them; they use humor as a way of coping with the awful things that happen to people. It’s actually similar to my own defense that bringing the funny into feminism and social justice makes it all the more accessible and fun, and can be a way for us to collectively laugh at the injustice that we have to deal with on a daily basis.

What Tosh did was not that.

Tosh threatened an audience member with rape. This should not be a conversation about where to draw the line (as much of the media is asking around this).  There is a very, very clear line here. (Read Shakes take.) This conversation should be about holding public figures accountable for the impact they have on larger culture. As we know, rape is already seriously integrated into our culture, and Tosh’s rape threats or transphobic jokes don’t make the world better (or funnier, for that matter), but is simply damaging and dangerous to the millions of people he influences.

Contact the Comedy Central show here. Or Shakes is calling for folks to contact Viacom directly, which owns Comedy Central and touts corporate responsibility.

P.S. Why, Louis CK? 

Related:

What’s so funny about rape? 
Sense and Humor
Melissa’s “Rape is Hilarious” post series
I’m Going to Rape You Later

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27 Comments

  1. Posted July 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Disgusting.

  2. Posted July 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Oh, the lovely victim-blaming comments I’ve seen on this one! They all take the line, without a hint of irony, that this woman knew what she was getting into when she went to see Tosh, and if she didn’t know her friend was taking her to see him, then she should’ve at least known better than to “heckle”. Strangely like…people say to women who actually were raped. What if some of his fans had taken up the mob mentality and advanced on them as they left -as a “joke”, of course- or, heavens forbid, actually decided to rape them because it would be soooo funny? What if she actually was a survivor of rape and Tosh had triggered her past endurance. Is his response still funny? I want to say no, but judging by what I’ve read so far I doubt it.

    I used to have fond memories of watching one of his earlier specials on Comedy Central Presents with my best friend, back when we were 18 and had more time than responsibilities. I suppose I’ll always still treasure our time together, but I’ve definitely gone off him as an entertainer.

  3. Posted July 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I have always found him disgusting. He feels like a personality who was created to cater to those who have never had to go through anything in their lives. Like the only people who could enjoy his comedy are well off, white male, college students or recent graduates who are heterosexual, in very good shape, who only deal with white women who fall under the same category but do not respect them all that much as people.

    Even with a very open minded sense of humor, I cannot see how this guy has fans. He does not even have respect for poor rural white people. He really caters to the most horrible type of person. Who has been sheltered from birth but actually think that they have a right to laugh at those who have actually had to overcome in this world. His success bothers me because I never really thought that there were that many people like that around to support an entertainment career.

  4. Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Tosh has always been that sort of unfunny “edgy” comedians who makes Kidding On The Square jokes to dumb, entitled white middle class young men who think the rape jokes on Family Guy are LOL hysterical. He’s a troll, plain and simple. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, Tosh gotta pop off with BS like that. He’s a boil on the ass of comedy.

    That said, don’t expect him to be ostracized from the comedy world for this. Comedians, especially comedians like Louis CK, Bill Maher, Sarah Silverman, etc, are not going to help build a pillory for this guy, because they rightly know that in the business of making people laugh, especially in the age where you are expected to be edgy and your humor should be dark, it could just as easily have been them. Making a bad joke that bombed and stepped over that line of what is “edgy” (a line which moves around a lot depending on your audience and the date) is a sort of collective nightmare in the stand-up world, and it’s hard to spin up the outrage machine when you know that on an off-night, it could have been you saying something equally horrible.

    Another problem is that stand-up comedians don’t understand the difference between a heckler (someone who is just trying to shut down the comedian and insult his act) and someone who calls them out on legitimately offensive statements. But honestly, there isn’t much a difference as far as the person on the stage is concerned because either one can bring a routine to a halt, the most pressing thing is to shut. them. down. Don’t use a hammer when a bulldozer would suffice. So you get shit like this.

    I’d love it if he got his show yanked for this (he ripped off InfoMania for one thing), but even if Daniel Tosh is forced to leave Comedy Central in disgrace, they’ll just hire another frat boy asshole comedian to replace him — this is, after all, the network that brought us “The Man Show.”

  5. Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Ugh, it just perpetuates rape culture. I always feel like saying, yeah but jokes about dead babies don’t perpetuate dead baby culture. Not that I find either funny.

  6. Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I also feel that we should address the fact that this woman feels the need to address and defend her “disruption,” saying that it’s not in her nature to do such things. It’s so sad to me that in the midst of all 0f this, she adopts an apologist attitude when she was clearly the ONLY person in the room with the courage to say what needed to be said. I applaud her and would never question ANYONE’s determination to “heckle” someone for being wildly inappropriate.

  7. Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Heckling would be yelling at the comedian that they suck or they should go home. Responding that “rape isn’t funny” isn’t heckling – it’s the truth.

  8. Posted July 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Here is my letter to VIacom, lets flood their inboxes here:
    http://www.viacom.com/Contact/Pages/default.aspx

    Though Comedy Central describes Daniel Tosh’s humor as “razor sharp” and “incredibly ingenious” I was personally effected by the rape jokes that he told and defended at a recent stand-up show. As a lover of comedy and Comedy Central, I generally hold to the philosophy that it is better to laugh at difficult situations than dwell in them. Saying that it would be funny “if 5 guys just raped her right now” isn’t sharp, funny, or even a joke. As a victim of rape myself, I believe that his words were not only a personal on a female audience member, but promoted rape culture and are threatening to the safety of all women and potential victims of rape. Not only am I calling for a personal apology from Daniel Tosh to the woman he targeted, but an apology to all women for propagating rape. Comedy Central and Viacom should also be obligated to apologize to the American public. Thank you for you consideration and I hope to see that you take serious action.

  9. Posted July 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    “Tosh threatened an audience member with rape.”

    No, he did not threaten her with rape. He never said “I’m going to rape you” nor did he say “I hope someone actually rapes you.” He made a joke of the form “wouldn’t it be funny if…” He’s making fun of a hypothetical. Even if that’s distasteful it is not and cannot be equated with a threat of rape.

    That aside, I’ve no idea what to make of the claim that it is immoral to make fun of certain things. People aren’t merely expressing their distaste for rape jokes; they’re quite clearly making a moral judgment that it is not okay to joke a bout such things, even for comedians.

    I’ve no idea what to make of this.

    Is it distasteful? I think so. Is it immoral? That’s not nearly so black and white.

  10. Posted July 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I was surprised by Louis CK’s defense of Daniel Tosh. However, it makes more sense to me now, taking into context the following: some creators take the position that when it comes to artistic endeavor, nothing should be off the table.

    I don’t think I can subscribe to that view, but I’m no longer asking myself “why, Louis CK, why?”

  11. Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    While I know that rape jokes are covered by free speech no matter how assholish stupid and unfunny they are, how does his following remarks about that woman personally getting gang-raped not constitute a threat? If someone said that to me directly in a room I’d perceive it as a threat and respond as such.

    • Posted July 12, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think people realize that “freedom of speech” doesn’t mean “freedom to say whatever you want AND get away with it without any consequences”, especially if your comments are threatening, hurtful, harassing, degrading, dehumanizing, racist, x-phobic, etc. I think that’s where most people get confused. They think that BECAUSE we have this freedom to say anything that we want, that we can just do it and not expect any consequences because it’ll protect us from those. Freedom of speech only protects your rights to say those things in the first place… But it doesn’t protect you from the consequences of saying those things.

      People keep telling me to stop dwelling on the “what if” of circumstances like this… But WHAT IF his comments really did entice members of the audience to rape her. Maybe not there at the show, but what if any of them had gotten up and followed her and her friends out of there and it HAD happened. Would Tosh have had any remorse at all for the woman? Or would he have turned it into yet ANOTHER joke?

      There’s a fine line between making something bad into a joke and making a joke that could very EASILY be seen as enticing and encouraging violence and could be considered violent threats against someone, inadvertent or not. (IMO, when it comes to things like rape, you really have no right to do unless you’ve been a victim of it)

  12. Posted July 11, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    I think Louis CK’s approach is basically the fellow cop approach: don’t criticise another cop no matter what disgusting thing they did. Circle the wagons, shoot out, not in. Stand-up comedians didn’t do as much defending Michael Richards because Richards is not a stand-up comedian (there was ocassional explanation of how Richards shot himself in the foot due to lack of stand-up experience, but little straight out defense).

  13. Posted July 11, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    “Wouldn’t it be funny if-”
    Somebody other than Tosh was on stage? Why yes, it would.

    George Carlin said that you can get away with any bad taste joke if it’s funny enough. Except this isn’t remotely funny, or a even a joke. Oh, right, things become “jokes” when a minor celebrity says or does something they should feel ashamed of, but just want to get the outrage off their backs.

  14. Posted July 12, 2012 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    It’s a profound story that I am itching to share but please give me a venue and a date. Thanks in advance.

  15. Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Personally, I have never found Daniel Tosh funny. He laughs at his own really poorly delivered “jokes” and the videos he has on his show are mainly of people getting really hurt, and he makes fun of that.

    So he makes fun of people getting seriously injured and thinks that it would be funny of someone got gang raped.

    He needs to be fired. Ray William Johnson (who does =3 on Youtube) deserves his job and always has.

  16. Posted July 12, 2012 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    Great post on tumblr about this in response:

    “Here’s the thing.

    You know why we call edgy humor ‘edgy’? Because it’s out there on the edge. You know, on the razor’s edge, on the edge of a cliff. Another word that used to be used for it was “risky”.

    Risky humor.

    Humor that takes risks.

    And good comedians understand this. You take an absolute hardline rule: you never make jokes about rape, they’re not funny. You never make jokes about racism, they’re not funny.

    You take that as a baseline in the same way that you take it as a baseline that you never stick your finger into an unlabeled jar of chemical reagents and then lick it to see what it is. Maybe it won’t kill you every time, but the rule is you assume it will.

    You take that as a rule, and then, if you’re feeling edgy, you try to navigate your way around that. Knowing that the rule is there, knowing that it’s there for a reason, knowing that you’re taking your life into your own hands, you try anyway.

    And maybe you find a way to do it that’s funny and not horrible, maybe that exists… I haven’t checked, I’m not going to say there isn’t… but there are definitely more ways to fail than there are to do it right.

    And if you try?

    Well, you’re living on the edge. Guess what happens if you’re on the edge and you stumble? That’s right, you fall.

    And if you end up falling and landing on your face, that’s on you.”

    More here.

    • Posted July 13, 2012 at 1:08 am | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing this tumblr post. It sums up exactly the thing I couldn’t put my finger on about these pseudo-edgy/transgressive types (knowing enough real ones). They want to be “offensive” but at the same time expect no one to actually get offended, to get applauded. Also, they’re frequently speaking from the power position, not the underdog or outcast one, as with a lot of more subversive material.

  17. Posted July 12, 2012 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    This is absolutely disgusting. Only a person steeped in privilege can say something as horrible as that and think it’s a joke. He threatened her with gang rape, and thought it’s funny? What, really? And there are tons of people defending his right to say such BS. Makes me lose my faith in humanity even more.

  18. Posted July 12, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    He knows what reaction it would cause. All that attention is going to translate into elevated ratings for the next airing.

  19. Posted July 12, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    There’s a lot wrong with this, but it all follows the rules of current culture, right? Imagine that a man, or better yet, a group of men stood with her.
    And we don’t know whether or not some men did walk out. But, I’m seeing woman strong enough to challenge the culture. I’d love to see men with enough courage to challenge it with her. I could consider the type of person who enjoys Tosh’s humor, but you can’t tell me with an audience that big that there was NOT ONE DUDE who thought the “joke” was absolutely terrible.

    • Posted July 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      I think that it’s very possible a lot of people in attendance DID think what he said was wrong, and just didn’t have the courage to say something, or decided it was best to sit in silence and just deal with it (because, let’s face it, that’s what we as people are taught to do when we encounter something offensive to us.). And it’s very possible that if they felt the joke was wrong, then they felt that what he did to her was massively uncalled for, but maybe they just still didn’t have the courage to stand up and say something about it, least they have the same “jokes” leveled at them too. I feel sad for those people who have no courage to stand up for what’s right thought. It’s depressing that they’re so scared into submission that they won’t even defend those who stand with them in belief, especially on something so serious.

    • Posted July 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      You know, maybe if feminists would get men in on feminism and help them fight bias when it comes to custody battles in court, instead of being angry at MRAs for being MRAs…

  20. Posted July 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I read feministing pretty regularly, but this story is blown out of proportion. As Stanhope suggested on RT, NO ONE knows what ‘exactly’ was said. The original blog post is contextless. Not only did Tosh state that he was misquoted (and apologize regardless), the owner of the club also stated that the woman misquoted and miscontextualized the situation.

    “UPDATE: Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada, who claims to have been present the night of Tosh’s show, has told Buzzfeed that the comedian’s exchange with the offended audience member didn’t happen the way she described.

    According to Masada, Tosh didn’t make a joke about the woman getting raped and the topic arose when the comedian asked the audience what they wanted to talk about and someone said “rape.” He says that this is when the woman called out to Tosh, and that he responded like so:

    “Daniel came in, and he said, ‘Well it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys’ — something like that. I really didn’t hear properly.”

    He also alleges that the woman stayed for the entire set and did not complain to management until after the show.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/10/daniel-tosh-rape-joke-laugh-factory_n_1662882.html

    So far, I’ve found over 30 publications that did not take into the situation that the original blog post is not safe in “quoting” exactly what was said.

    As far as the other comedians,

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/comedians-defend-daniel-tosh-rape-joke-twitter_n_1666072.html?utm_hp_ref=comedy

    Perhaps that are some things worth doing a little more research on before we keep perpetuating untruthfulness.

    If you don’t like Tosh’s comedy, great! Neither do I. It’s generally puerile.

    Perpetuating lies to make a point… a little much…

  21. Posted July 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    This headline is misleading because Tosh didn’t say that they should be raped, but rather that it would be funny is she got raped by five guys. I don’t think anyone in their right mind thinks that gang rape is actually funny. In fact, the reason that joke is funny is because rape is actually NOT funny at all. This is the same reason dead baby jokes are funny. Obviously, the mother (or father) who lost a child at a young age is less likely to find these types of jokes funny.

    Stand-up comedy wouldn’t exist if comedians didn’t tell offensive jokes. Some of the greatest comedians of all time were the most offensive (Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, et. al). This alleged “line” that was crossed isn’t at all clear cut. If I were a comedian, I would just make it my rule that I never apologize, and I kind of wish Tosh had stuck to his guns and not apologized. Comedy is inherently subject. Everyone has their own unique set of life experiences, and someone will always be offended.

  22. Posted July 12, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Jokes about -isms CAN be funny because they poke at our ignorance – shine a light on power classes’ sense of superiority. A good stand-up will create some context about an awful topic and send up some jokes where you find yourself laughing. But there is often an underlying theme that challenges our socialized beliefs and ideas. Why do we laugh if we know full well that it’s wrong-headed? We HAVE to be able to laugh about horrors – at least I do. Working in the DV or SA field pretty much require a gallow’s humor, or else. What Tosh does ishave a personal laugh at EVERYbody’s expense and move on to a new joke. He CAN be funny. But mostly he’s selfish and aiming for “OMG”s and “that’s not right”s. He can dance the line and come out looking clean-ish. In my opinion Tosh does a lot more to condone and encourage ignorance than parody, or satire.

  23. Posted July 16, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Tosh is an offensive comic, he goes out to offend people…. of course he’s going to overstep what is wrong. Don’t go to see him if you will be offended by anything because he will eventually find what will offend you and say it. As for the rape issue, it was incorrect, but because it was a joke about raping a woman it has offended every woman everywhere… yet when Dave Chappelle joked in a stand up routine about men raping men all you heard were women laughing their heads off about it. It was funny as could be to them, because it was about men. In society today anything slightly offensive to women is taboo, but if the exact same thing happens to a man it’s ok. Equality for everybody should be on the agenda this day and age.

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