Tuned In

Louis CK Talks Daniel Tosh Rape-Joke Furor on Daily Show, Gives Classically Louis CK-ian Response

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Last week, if you follow pop-culture news, or general-culture news, or probably beekeeping news, you probably heard the controversy over Daniel Tosh and rape jokes. In a way tiny nutshell: a blogger reported going to a Tosh comedy show where he made a remark about rape jokes being funny, being able to joke about anything including rape, &c. (As far as I know, there’s no recording of the show.) She yelled out from the audience, “Actually, rape is never funny.” Tosh said something to the effect of “Wouldn’t if be funny if she were raped by five guys right now?” (There’s dispute over the wording, but he later publicly apologized.) The blogger blogged about it, and the Internet exploded.

One thing or another kept me from writing about it until it seemed way too late, but for the record: (1) You should be prepared to be offended at a comedy show, but Tosh was still being a jackhole. (2) Rape is never funny. But a joke about rape can be. (Likewise the Holocaust, disasters, assassinations. Infanticide = never funny; A Modest Proposal = funny.) (3) Comedians, in general, can joke about rape. But Daniel Tosh, in particular, seems really, really crappy at it.

Anyway! One of the many sidelines to this debate was a tweet that Louis CK posted during the furor, saying that Tosh’s TV show, Tosh.0, always makes him laugh. The tweet was interpreted as his taking Tosh’s side. But as Louis CK said last night to Jon Stewart, he was actually on vacation in Vermont and unaware of the controversy, until he went online a couple days later and found: “So I’m a defender of rape now! … I’ve been called a rape apologist because I said ‘Hi’ to a guy.”

Then he talked for about five minutes about the Tosh controversy and rape humor generally. I don’t want to slice and dice his response into soundbites because it’s best listened to in whole. But whatever you think of his larger argument, this passage is key: “To me, all dialogue is positive… If somebody has the opposite feeling from me, I want to hear it, so I can add to mine. I don’t want to obliterate theirs with mine.” In particular, he said, his reflexive response that “any joke about anything bad is great” was challenged when he read a blog post about how the possibility of rape “polices women’s lives” and narrows their possibilities.

You may disagree with his take on rape jokes. (He’s made some himself, including searing, horrible, and God-help-me funny riffs on child rape and raping Hitler.) But there’s something in that answer that also defines his FX show, Louie, currently on a tear in its third season. What’s distinctive about Louie—and I credit this insight to Mrs. Tuned In, catching up on the show the other day—is how it builds stories about people who are open to new encounters, new perspectives and new opinions in a way most sitcoms don’t explore.

The show is like a ribald travelogue of one guy, Louis CK’s alter ego, going out into the world and meeting new people. Sometimes he gets in conflicts (“Bully”). Sometimes he makes friends (last week’s “Miami”). Sometimes he does both (“Come On, God,” where he connects with his antagonist from a cable-news debate about masturbation). But the upshot is always that new experiences and new perspectives make you grow.

In the “Miami” episode last Thursday, Louie stepped outside his comfort zone on a Florida trip and made such a connection with a young Cuban-American lifeguard that he didn’t want to leave. His new friend guessed that he was probably gay—I read it more as a kind of Brideshead Revisited intense bromance—but the bigger point was that Louie was in love with discovery: being open to it may get you in trouble, may make you embarrassed, but it almost always makes you better. Or as his new pal put it, in Spanish, “Say you don’t know and then you learn everything.” It may be a corny sentiment, but it’s clearly not an obvious one these days.

It’s possible Louis CK may have stepped into something in explaining himself, saying that feminists “can’t take a joke” or that comedians “are big pussies.” (He’s a comic, and hyperbole is his gig.) And he deflected his call for reflection with a punchline: “And I can still enjoy a good rape joke!” But the idea of wanting to hear other points of view not to attack them but to improve your own, of growing by leaving your comfort zone, might make a lot of people better audiences and better comedians.

61 comments
JohnAllman
JohnAllman

>> She yelled out from the audience, “Actually, rape is never funny.” Tosh said something to the effect of “Wouldn’t if be funny if she were raped by five guys right now?”

That wasn't a joke about rape at all.  It was simply a play on words.

One of the meanings of the word "funny", besides "humorous", refers an unlikely, ironic coincidence.  He used the word "funny" in that sense, perfectly accurately.  I would have laughed myself at the punning comedian's witty riposte to the heckler.

Tim Grant
Tim Grant

Comedians tell jokes. They have been doing it for a very long time to the amusement many including myself. In the interest of staying fresh, which is difficult because of how long it has been done, sometimes they say things that are shocking or even our nations current favorite word...say it with me..."OFFENSIVE." Here is a thought. What if you get a grip and try'n remember that they are jokes. I don't think Daniel Tosh really wanted that woman to get raped. I believe the woman heckling him while he was trying to do his job knew that as well but saw a chance to get on the news so she went for it. Maybe not, who knows. I also don't believe Dane Cook thinks anyone in that theater in Aurora wanted to get shot because Dark Knight Rises was so very mediocre and failed to meet so many expectations. Are these insensitive comments? Sure. However, many people find that funny which explains the success of the aformentioned comics as well as most of today's comedy industry. It's a tough world so maybe some of us need some tough humor to get us through the day. If you don't like it, watch PAX TV or Nick at Night. But get off your high horses and let the rest of us enjoy ourselves.Thank you for your time.

HGIB

heyheybooboo420
heyheybooboo420

i find some rape jokes funny, just as i do many other offensive jokes. when we start policing what a comedian can joke about publicly we are starting down a dangerous path. people need to calm down. there's offensive people everywhere, not just in comedy clubs. and i don't think anyone has advocated rape throughout this 'ordeal',if it even warrants that label. its a joke. take it or leave. its called pushing the envelope. i experienced rape as a child and can still find humor in some of those jokes,however uneasy it may feel at times. every joke isn't going to be funny to everybody. again,if you don't like it,don't laugh. and what do you think a comedian is going to do if he/she gets heckled? deflect with humor and put it back on you?...unbelievable! c'mon people, relax. side note, have female friends/family who laugh at rape jokes and sexist jokes, i'm from the south, and have black friends who laugh at racist jokes, and some who say racist s*it. my bolivian brother-in-law sometimes makes fun of hispanics. if you want things like this policed, then goose step on over to china or north korea. otherwise, read 1st amendment.

peace,love,ROLL TIDE

heyheybooboo420
heyheybooboo420

i find some rape jokes funny, just as i do many other offensive jokes. when we start policing what a comedian can joke about publicly we are starting down a dangerous path. people need to calm down. there's offensive people everywhere, not just in comedy clubs. and i don't think anyone has advocated rape throughout this 'ordeal',if it even warrants that label. its a joke. take it or leave. its called pushing the envelope. i experienced rape as a child and can still find humor in some of those jokes,however uneasy it may feel at times. every joke isn't going to be funny to everybody. again,if you don't like it,don't go, don't laugh, or leave. and what do you think a comedian is going to do if he/she gets heckled? deflect with humor and put it back on you?...unbelievable! c'mon people, relax. side note, have female friends/family who laugh at rape jokes and sexist jokes, i'm from the south, and have black friends who laugh at racist jokes, and some who say racist s*it. my bolivian brother-in-law sometimes makes fun of hispanics. if you want things like this policed, then goose step on over to china or north korea. otherwise, read 1st amendment.

peace,love,ROLL TIDE

Jeff Smithpeters
Jeff Smithpeters

Louis CK is increasingly staking his claim not only to be one of the best comedians of all time but one of the better artists, too.

lucelucy
lucelucy

P.G. Wodehouse is funny.  Tosh is not.  Although he'd make a great Wodehouse character - a distant cousin of Catsmeat Potter Pirbright, of the American Pirbrights, which branch has been lopped off the old family tree since a scion has gone into show biz.

So no.  I don't watch the show.

l0bl0
l0bl0

I'm not the kind of person to say that a certain type of joke is never funny, because I believe a skilled comedian can make any situation humorous with the right set up. However my problem with Daniel Tosh's "joke" is that he didn't just tell a joke that involved rape, he said to a woman in the audience that it would be funny to see her be sexually assaulted by five guys in front of him. I don't call that a joke at all. And anyone who found that funny is disgusting. He doesn't know her history or what she's experienced and she could be a rape survivor herself, and if she is then he just called her trauma "hilarious."

Shoot the Critic
Shoot the Critic

I agree, and seeing the interview with Jon Stewart made me also think of Louie and another thing that makes it great - it doesn't ever "close" with a moral message or pretend to  know something about how to live. Sometimes he makes general observations that are very insightful, but mostly he "dialogues" without coming to any limiting conclusions. He couldn't even say, "I'm not [gay]" because he's not really sure what he is or what he's feeling towards Ramón. It's why we love Louis C.K. - Shoot the Critic

Susan Lowe
Susan Lowe

Everything that Louis CK said was bullshit as is this column. Any adult male who doesn't understand that women's lives are defined by the threat of rape is an ignorant asshole. Rape is an every day reality in women's lives. Comedians didn't make jokes about the Holocaust or tsunami victims as those tragedies occurred happens (ask Gilbert Gottfried how his career is going.) and white comedians don't say "nigger" because they know that they won't get gigs (Who's Michael Richards) and, possibly, they'll get their asses whipped. But feminists are humorless because they object to jokes about a soul-destroying act that happens to hundreds of thousands of women and children (and a few men) every day?

Aside from making a series of jokes about rape, Daniel Tosh has encouraged his stupid, young male viewers to touch women on their stomachs without their permission and send him videos of those violations of a person's bodily integrity. When the female audience member objected to the rape jokes (has he never been heckled before?), his response was to suggest that she be gang-raped. Considering the number of truly stupid men who follow Tosh and the booze that was undoubtedly being consumed, Tosh shouldn't be on tv, he should be in jail.

Finally, what's with using "pussy" to describe ignorant and cowardly men? It's nothing but another putdown of women because, God knows, there's nothing more offensive to a man than to be thought to be feminine in some way. I have a couple of more fitting words for dumbasses like Louis CK to use when he's talking about a fellow dumbass. I suggest "dick" or "prick", both of which are more accurate.

RontheEvilCanadian
RontheEvilCanadian

"But Daniel Tosh, in particular, seems really, really crappy at it."

That's because he wasn't making a joke. “Wouldn’t if be funny if she were raped by five guys right now?” is not humour, it's a childish retort, and I don't blame that woman for being offended.

"He’s a comic, and hyperbole is his gig." Yes, he is, and yes, it is, but that is not an excuse to be an idiot. Mainstream comedians have mostly done away with racism, barring self-depreciation. We rightly get angry when we hear a white comedian "joke" about how darn stupid those black people are. Maybe it's time to examine why misogyny gets a pass. And yes, "joking" about a specific woman (a fan of yours, no less) getting raped is misogyny.

ipfletch
ipfletch

I'm pretty much of the default mindset that rape jokes aren't funny, but this whole Tosh thing brought back to me a line from Sarah Silverman from years ago:

"I was raped by my dentist- which is so conflicting for a Jewish girl."

I'll be honest- it got a laugh out of me. A bewildered one, but a laugh nonetheless.

I don't know if I'll ever be Louis CK's biggest fan- I'm not sure I want to be THAT uncomfortable just to get some laughs -and I haven't heard anything from Tosh ever, but that line above stands as proof to me that certain topics can be made funny, although it may only be certain individuals (or types of individuals) who can pull it off.

younf
younf

Louis CK tweets a message in support of Tosh's comedy after this backlash happens, but didn't know what was going on because he was "on vacation"? I don't understand that excuse. His tweet either had extremely coincidental timing or he was supporting Tosh based on at least the preliminary story (which hasn't changed much at all: Tosh told a woman and his audience that it would funny if she were gang-raped).

I feel he gets too much of a free pass from critics. His views and the portrayal of women (and minorities- which is another subject) in his stand-up and on his show is problematic, but because he is "growing" or "open to experiences," it is ok? He's a good guy! He's learning! No. He is well, well into adulthood. He has daughters. He has examined all sorts of societal topics and is praised by fans and critics for it. The rape culture in America isn't new. Sexism and misogyny isn't new, particularly in comedy, which is profession. Women being controlled by a rape culture shouldn't be new information to him. Yes, there should be more for everyone to examine and learn, but the very  basic idea should well be understood, particularly by Louis CK,  that making the victims of rape the butt of jokes is WRONG in a culture where 1 out of every 5 women are victimized, women are accused of encouraging their own rapes, women are told how not to be raped rather than men being told not to rape, and rape is minimized by culture, like when it is thrown around as a joke or a mere inconvenience ("I really got raped on this bill!").

Sorry, he doesn't get a pass for being "on vacation" and a pat on the back for "growing" from me.

Sol Hilfinger-Pardo
Sol Hilfinger-Pardo

Here’s what pisses me off about this response:

 

1. FEELINGS!! Feelings are great, feelings are wonderful.

Feelings are what make us human, what allow us to experience beauty, and love

and all those….snore…. No, ok, I do like feelings, BUT, the way our society is set

up, serious discussions have to be characterized as rational (whether or not

they actually are has nothing to do with it. Was Glenn Beck rational? No. Did

he use words like “however” and “therefore”? Yes.). If you think our society

puts too much emphasis on objective thinking, given that we are subjective

beings, I agree—but that’s a different discussion.  Intellectuals and mass media have long

embraced the cold reasoning that provides the basis for scientific thought as

the be-all-end-all of intelligent dialogue. SO, the moment that the discussion

becomes about feelings, it is no longer among the topics that must be

‘seriously’ considered.

 

Also, positing that women think that “my feelings should be

everyone’s primary concern” a) makes women completely narcissistic and

uninterested in the shared human experience; and, b) women suddenly become the

irrational, hysterical beings Victorians feared so much. We are driven by our

feelings, and nothing else.

 

2. Who said this had anything to do with feelings? I think

Curtis Luciani said it best when he wrote: “Offended hasn't got

anything to do with it, moron.” (http://austin.culturemap.com/n...

I’m quoting him somewhat out of context—he goes on to talk

about how Tosh’s comments caused pain, rather than transcended it—but it’s

still catchy. When ‘women’ (as a whole, mind you) are characterized as running

around in this discussion whining that their feelings have been hurt, suddenly

the discussion is being led by a bunch of infantile ninnies. Saying that women

are complaining of offence and hurt feelings not only makes them fragile and

unable to face the cruel realities of the world around them, but also

infantilizes them. It makes us seem like children, and children don’t have

serious conversations. Also, they have to be protected. Oh la.

 

Yes, I’ll admit, I have had an emotional response to this

controversy. But it’s not primarily hurt, or even anger. It’s disappointment

and sadness. That at the end of the day, Louis C.K. was willing to acknowledge

that one woman had something valuable

to say (“I have read some blogs about things that have made me enlightened

about things I didn’t know. This women said how rape is something that polices

women’s lives.”), but the rest are written off as over-sharing self-centered emotions,

rather than contributing to a discussion.

 

3. Finally, C.K.’s men come out smelling like roses. In his

portrayal of the typical failings of a men and women discussing Tosh’s humor

(or lake there of), women are their usual egotistical banshees, as described

above. If we are so irrational and childish and sensitive and whinny and

annoying and should really “shut the fuck up,” you’d have to be a Saint to

actually stop and listen to us—and that’s exactly what he’s telling men to do:

be Saints, humor your lady friends, take one for the team that is malekind. So

his prescription is, women: get back in your place and do what you should have

done for the past 40 years, i.e., shut up; and men: embrace your inner Mother

Theresa and save the children.

 

[Also, is anyone else confused as to how men can listen to

women if we’ve already shut up?]

 

This is how I feel

about this.

 

 

J_M_C
J_M_C

Duplicate post. Deleted.

notarapist
notarapist

it's safe to assume that daniel tosh is obviously a rapist and everyone who walked away from that show found themselves thinking that rape is okay and should be acceptable.

please, people. focusing your attention on comedians who make offensive jokes about rape instead of actually educating people about rape will not solve anything about the real problem. in the end, tosh briefly created a hyperbolic situation where a woman gets raped (which, by the way, is NOT a threat). he's not the first to make a rape joke. censorship is evil. george carlin once told a heckler he hoped his kid died in a car fire. death is worse than rape.

glass97
glass97

this article isnt very good. they just skimmed over the story and entirely had a complete miss as far as loius ck's interview. 

DunkingDoughNuts
DunkingDoughNuts

I think the key to take away from comedy is that it's subjective.  Some people find rape jokes funny because they've never been personally affected by rape, and the same goes for Holocaust jokes, racial jokes, etc.  Maybe in 1947 Holocaust jokes were looked upon the same way as this rape joke is seen now, but now in 2012 it's okay to joke about the Holocaust right?  Even though millions were brutally tortured, starved, killed, etc.?  

Comedy is comedy; it's not supposed to offend you, it's supposed to make you laugh.  You should watch/listen and try to keep an open mind, or else you WILL be offended, guaranteed.  Otherwise, perhaps this type of comedy just really isn't for you, which is also fine.

Tosh, in particular, has made a CAREER off of being edgy and joking (often in poor taste) about things other comics might stay away from, so perhaps it's also best to know who you are seeing if you already know you are more inclined to be offended by a type of comedian.

Jessica Stewart
Jessica Stewart

I find it disturbing and disgusting that it is now acceptable to have a public debate about whether comedians can publicly  joke about rape. I will never think rape is funny. Victims of rape will never think it's funny. People who love victims of rape will never think it is funny. You know who might find rape jokes funny? Rapists.  It's fine to know a joke about rape that you think is funny because you're fortunate enough to have never been raped or know anyone who has been raped, but keep it to your damned self. What is wrong with these people? This isn't funny. It's a violent crime that humiliates and shames its victim in the most personal and intimate way possible. That isn't fodder for jokes. It isn't acceptable in public.

Andy
Andy

The thing that has to be understood when discussing offensive jokes is this: Rape is dismissed easily. Things like the Holocaust, infanticide, theft, these are all things that have victims. But they are pretty much universally recognized as something worth feeling bad over. I have never heard a (non-Nazi) person say "Well, the Jews were obviously asking for genocide" or "Well look at the was you were dressed! Of COURSE your wallet was stolen!"  These things, however, are said regularly and often about rape victims. "Maybe you shouldn't have been drinking," "It's your own fault for dressing that way," "I don't care if you seem flirty without meaning to, you were asking for it." These are all things I've heard said to rape victims. It happens commonly. MUCH more often than with murder, genocide, theft, or any other crime. So it's no wonder that in this world, many people feel like a rape victim waiting to happen. It's the fear, especially present in survivors, that someone will try to rape them, and if they try to talk about it, they'll be dismissed as "some slutty dresser" or "oversensitive" or "exaggerating."

You almost never see that with men. If I, as a male, went around in shortshorts, it may look strange, but I would not fear for big strong men (or women, for that matter) looking at me and possibly deciding to rape me. And not every victim was dressed a certain way. I know a victim who was pulled off the street at night, and she was wearing sweatpants and a baggy hoodie. Nothing showed at all. And yet, she was raped.

So yes, while such belittlement and acceptance of rape continues to exist in our culture, I will not find rape jokes funny. It perpetuates the idea in the minds of some that rape is actually okay. Actual scientific studies have shown that most rapists think that most other men are rapists who are just lying about it, either to themselves or to others. Rape jokes help perpetuate that feeling. Makes them feel safe. They can look at a rape joke and go "See? Rape is no big deal! This guy gets it!"

I for one don't want rapists to feel safe. I want them to experience the fear they put their victims through, the fear that can stick around for a whole lifetime.

And before anyone tries to belittle me or write me off... I am a white american-born male who has never been abused in any way, has reasonable finances for my lifestyle, and doesn't belong to any minority. I am the very picture of white male privilege. It would be very easy for me to ignore all this and get on with my life. and yet, I don't. My experiences helping others have shown me that what I've said in this comment is true.

The Hoobie
The Hoobie

I do like CK's  tendency to give other people the benefit of the doubt and to start from  the point of view that they may have something to contribute and/or may not be 100% in the wrong from the get-go. (Patton Oswalt, maybe take notes.) Because of that, and because people are complicated, I suppose I can countenance some of the other stuff he said in the interview. But kind of warily.*

But wow, did Twitter just shoot down a greased pole to hell in the wake of the Toshtroversy. The many smart women I follow on Twitter had some thoughts about the issue, which brought out all the subterranean Tosh bros and the people who just generally seem upset by the act of Tweeting-while-Female or Reviewing-while-Female. So people like Alyssa Rosenberg and Martha Plimpton were RTing some of the horrible @ replies they were getting, just for the public record. (And just yesterday Christy Lemire was getting called the c-word on Twitter, for, you

know, daring to have a less-than-glowing opinion about the new Batman

movie.) See, I'm torn here: I think Lemire, Rosenberg, and Plimpton absolutely should expose these cockroaches to the light of day by RTing their garbage. But I'd ban tweeps like that in a nanosecond if they were to tweet vile sh*t like that directly to me. And when my feed fills up with horrible, horrible RTs, and the only way to not see them would be to unfollow these fine women, I just want to cry.

I know, I know, "Stop clutching your pearls, lady; welcome to the Big Bad Internet." But Jesus, it's just exhausting. Exhausting.

*I am naturally wary of men who say that women should shut the eff up. I blame the rape culture of our society! (<---Are these sentences a joke? Eye of the beholder, I guess.)

anon76returns
anon76returns

Tosh just isn't funny.  Every time I see one of his ads before a Daily or Colbert on the net, I get offended.  Not because he pushes the envelope of good taste (though he does), but because he does it in such a lazy, predictable way.  As you say James, you can take just about any horrible event, deconstruct it, subvert it, whatever to make it funny.  To judge by his ads (because I'm sure as hell not going to subject myself to watching the show if he judges that those ads highlight the "good stuff"), Tosh is either unwilling or incapable of doing any of that.  Just saying "poop" (or "rape", or what have you) does not make a good poop joke.