Comedians are supposed to test social boundaries. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Roseanne, et al, the greats poke at norms. In the hands of a talented satirist -- think Bill Hicks pulling back the layers of capitalism, for instance -- comedy pushes us forward. But at other times, and usually when the talent is far more tepid, the routine takes the form of a public breakdown -- Michael Richards using the N-word -- or, more often, reveals the performer as a wit-free bully -- Tracy Morgan lambasting homosexuals.
A recent standup routine by Daniel Tosh is proving to be the latter. The gist, as posted on tumblr by the friend of an audience member who felt Tosh's wrath (read the post here) at a Friday show at L.A.'s Laugh Factory, is that the "Tosh.0" host allegedly riffed about "rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny ..." The woman was, the post goes on, provoked to shout out, "Actually, rape jokes are never funny!" and that's when, she says, she received Tosh's rather unclever, and decidedly creepy, response to her heckling.
The account continues: "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…'”
Yes, that's right: He supposedly bullied the woman by taunting her with gang rape.
The post has gone viral, with oodles (actual number) of folks reblogging the account, so Tosh has had to respond. He did, on Twitter, a couple of hours ago, with two posts: "the point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them" and "all the out of context misquotes aside, i'd like to sincerely apologize." (Lack of capitalizations, his.)
I agree that the worst tragedies need comedy. This helps put them in perspective, offering needed relief and, hopefully, allowing us to investigate from multiple angles. The problem is that takes intelligence and Tosh, besides being a lame apologizer, simply doesn't have the skills to take on such a horrendous topic as rape. So it seems he reacted as any mediocre comic would, with anger.