Daniel Tosh: Hate.1, Laughs.0

14 Jul

Just Not Funny!

Thank you to my friend and LGBTQ ally Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write this article. Allow me to start by admitting that I have never found Tosh to be funny. White male privilege is very seldom funny to me, unless the man has amazing talent at weaving it into something we might call wit. I would just as soon call George W a wit as I would Tosh.

I realize that comedians like to think of everything as fair play when it comes to humor and there is a very natural and understandable reaction against censorship.  What I would call attention to is what I would call bad form, or when one’s privilege overtakes the comedy and thus loses the laughable moment. For example, Tracy Morgan crossed a line when his joke involved killing someone who is gay. Tosh also crossed a line with his contemptible misogyny in defending rape jokes.  Really? Rape is something funny? Racism is not funny, as Michael Richards found out and justifiably lost his career.  Where is the line? Is it possible to cross the line? When someone describes his work as Tosh does:

I’m not a misogynistic and racist person…But I do find those jokes funny, so I say them.

it’s pretty clear he’s lacking both in awareness and a good comic sense.

I believe there is a line of what is acceptable, but I also believe that someone with enormous self-awareness and great aplomb can cross that line.  Curtis Luciani does a fantastic job of articulating self-awareness and what is bad form:

1) Rape is way, WAY more prevalent than you seem to think it is. Are there more than five women in your audience? You do the math, and then you run the little fantasy scenario that I just put together in your head, and you tell me how it feels.

2) I ain’t buying any of that “If I can make jokes about genocide, why can’t I make jokes about rape?” Horseshit, unless you made those genocide jokes during a gig at the Srebrenica Funny Bone. You got away with making a joke about genocide because your odds of having a holocaust survivor’s kid in the audience were pretty fucking low.

And if you did happen to have one in the audience, and he heckled you, walked out, and wrote something nasty on the internet… would you be more likely to be a human being and say “Wow. I can understand why that person’s authentic response to what I was doing was so emotional and negative. Maybe my genocide material just isn’t good enough to justify the pain that it inflicts. Maybe I need more skill in order to pull this off.” Or are you gonna be a lousy piece of shit and say, “Yeah, I apologize, I guess, IF YOU WERE OFFENDED.”

Your job as a comedian is to take us through pain, transcend pain, transform pain. And if you don’t get that, you are a fucking bully, and I’ve got zero time for bullies.

Well said, Curtis.  One job of a comic is to help people laugh at pain and transform it into something comical.  When one causes harm, shame, or stigma it is no longer “comedy” but pathetic bullying rooted in hate.

13 Responses to “Daniel Tosh: Hate.1, Laughs.0”

  1. prideinmadness July 14, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    I was furious when I found out he did this! I thought Tosh was a funny guy and I liked watching his show! I’m not watching it ever again and I hope this hurts him in some way!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt July 14, 2012 at 9:57 am #

      At the very least, I hope it changes his career path and causes him to do some serious reflection.

      • prideinmadness July 14, 2012 at 10:41 am #

        I posted your post to Twitter which also shows up on my Facebook and a high school friend just left a long comment excusing it because other offensive things are make into jokes. Does no one seem to understand that many things just should be made into jokes? We seem to believe that things can’t change….ugh

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt July 14, 2012 at 10:44 am #

        Dear heart, thank you for sharing my story. How sad and unfortunate that your high school friend just does not get it! I suspect they did not read the end of the article and lack a great deal of self-awareness. Good for you though. Your voice will end up helping and saving many people!

  2. Jay July 14, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    I’m something of a First Amendment absolutist, so I’d formulate things along the lines of “Sure, you can say that. But should you? Its your decision, but be aware there might very well be (nonviolent) consequences.”

    I think of the Danish cartoons controversy of a few years ago. I admire the bravery of that Danish newspaper–in my formulation of values, the right to satirize and mock supersedes the right of Muslims not to have their sensibilities offended. People died in the resulting brouhaha, but in my opinion knuckling under to threats of VIOLENT consequences is very dangerous to the fundamental Western value of full and open public discourse. The value of the right to criticize, to mock, to satirize, and to offend, is hard for me to overestimate.

    But I’m a First Amendment hard-case. Reasonable people can and do disagree.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt July 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

      As usual, eloquently stated. I don’t know if I’m the purist you are regarding the First Amendment, but I truly believe what is typically attributed to Voltaire: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” which is the basis for our First Amendment. I would also underscore that there are certain consequences when exercising the First Amendment. I, for one, would not be heartbroken if Tosh’s career took a nose dive as a consequence. Nice coincidence that today is Bastille Day.

      • Christine Noble July 14, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

        Well now, we all have our First Amendment right to express our outrage by taking our money and time elsewhere, encouraging our friends and loved ones to do the same, and letting Tosh’s financial supporters know we intend to do so.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt July 14, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

        Exactly. Free Speech can have some severe consequences.

  3. James Queale July 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    I agree with Freedom of Speech, but that doesn’t mean that people are free from other people’s free speech to criticize their views.

    I should stay away from stories like these, considering the pain I have from my wisdom tooth extraction. But, I can’t help it, I enjoy your blog.🙂

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt July 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

      I’m glad you chimed in here. Now please go take care of yourself. Hope you have some decent pain killers and a milkshake.

  4. nevercontrary July 14, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    I know that all comedians are out there saying you should be allowed to make fun of everything. I disagree wholeheartedly. Can a cook serve you anything? No it would not be ok if you served me some person chopped up in chili. Can a teacher teach anything? No, I cannot run around teaching children how to break into houses and set them on fire. I could go on all day. Just because you are a comedian and think you are above the rest of us, does not mean you can do whatever the fuck you want to. Grow a backbone.

    • Jay July 15, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      But cannibalism is illegal. I suppose someone serving chopped human flesh might attempt a legal defense that they were engaged in satire or some other form of free expression, but that defense would fail and they would go to jail.

      A teacher of criminal forensics might conceivably give instruction in burglary and arson techniques (you gotta know how it is done to identify it) so that is more of a gray area. A grade school teacher who decided to teach those skills would face a job suspension or firing, but probably not criminal consequences.

      Certainly there are limits on freedom of speech and expression. The classic of (falsely) yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater comes to mind. Child pornography and snuff porn are, quite reasonably, criminal offenses. But causing a panic in a crowded place creates an immediate danger to physical safety, and child molestation, rape, and murder are illegal whether or not it is captured on film.

      Employers are free to limit speech rights in the workplace–a racist or sexist joke that’s in poor taste in someone’s home can justify terminating someone’s employment if told in the workplace.

      But is telling an offensive joke CRIMINAL? Arrest this man–he offended me! No.

      Protest to Tosh’s employer. Boycott advertisers on his show. Write comments on blogs and write newspaper editorials and letters to the editor. Picket comedy clubs that book him. All is well and good and entirely within YOUR rights of free speech and free expression.

      And I have a backbone, thank you, and do not appreciate the suggestion to grow one. If you argue that your right to not be offended is more important than someone else’s right to free speech and free expression, then I will (nonviolently) demonstrate that backbone by fighting you tooth and nail in any political, legal, and public forum that you care to name.

      • nevercontrary July 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

        Goodness. I am sorry my opinions offended you so. They are simply opinions. I did not mean to imply that what he said was criminal. I simply was trying to say that even though yes you have the right to say whatever you want. That does not mean you should say whatever you want. That is all. Telling any person that they should get raped is not funny. If you think it is ok then for you it is funny, but I don’t have to think it is funny or ok.
        I just do not like the argument that because one is a comic means they can say anything and it is ok because they are a comic. Sure everyone has a right to say whatever want but there is a fine line between a joke and hate.
        I find it odd that you think I should not be allowed to express my dislike of a joke yet it is ok for someone to tell some to go and get gang raped. He gets free speech but i guess I dont.

        I also don’t think it is ok to tell someone you want to kill them. I also don’t think it is ok to tell someone they are going to hell for being different. I also don’t think that it is ok to threaten someone. Are you going to be mad at me for thinking those things are not ok to be said either.
        One can believe in free speech and still believe that out of respect and kindness and compassion some things are better if not said.

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