|On Daniel Tosh and Rape Jokes
||[Jul. 11th, 2012|02:25 pm]
Yesterday a friend of mine angrily linked to a blog posting about two girls who went to a comedy club and unwittingly saw Daniel Tosh on stage. You may have heard the story. The short version is that after Tosh took the stage he started talking about how rape jokes are always funny. The girls were horrified and one of them shouted out "Actually, rape jokes are never funny!" Tosh then replied with "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 girls angrily stormed out, spoke to the apologetic manager of the club, and then wrote a blog post which has since gone somewhat viral. My favorite part of the story is that they went despite knowing full well that Dane Cook was on the bill.|
Somewhere, Daniel Tosh is thanking that girl. Oh, he posted a public apology about the incident, but nothing he could have done could possibly have created as much publicity for him and his show than this viral blog post has. Yes, it's bad publicity. But there's an old saying that there's no such thing as "bad" publicity. (Which isn't always true. Witness the less than stellar career of Michael Richards after his famous meltdown.) Additionally, from reading the blog posting it sounds like Tosh was struggling that night and she may have single-handedly saved his act.
Let me explain. She said that Tosh was being very repetitive about what he was saying when he was declaring rape jokes as always funny. That's a sign that the material wasn't working. When a comic is rephrasing things and repeating things he's doing so in the hopes that one of the wordings will hit and the audience will react to it. An unresponsive audience is a comic's worst enemy.
Then, she heckled him. And yes, that's what she did. She may not have thought that's what she was doing, but that's what she did. Even in Tosh's Twitter page when he talks about the apology he refers to her as a heckler. Now, when a comedian is heckled two things happen. First, the comic goes on the offensive. They can't lose control of the situation and most deal with hecklers aggressively. Many are harsh. Some are downright brutal. Second, the audience turns on the heckler. Hecklers always think they're adding something to the show. They're not. The people didn't pay to listen to random drunk audience members spout off things they can only half hear from across the room. This makes the audience belligerent toward the heckler and when the comedian shoots him down the audience loves it. Watching comics tear apart hecklers is a time-honored tradition. (Note that I'm not saying she was drunk or even not justified in what she did, but usually that's the case with hecklers.)
And that's exactly what happened. The audience was primed for the attack and Tosh delivered by saying something so brutal that they just ate it up. People all around this girl were laughing as she fled the club. Once she was gone the show went on without her and the audience, who may have been disinterested and ambivalent before the event, was now fully in Tosh's corner. He probably had a great rest of the show. And don't think he's not going to do this material again. If he got that kind of reaction out of the crowd once surely it'll work again.
That was her mistake. The reaction. As hard as it would have been she should have kept silent. She could have crossed her arms and glared at the stage but she never should have called out. Even if he singled her out in the crowd, spoke to her, asked her direct questions, or whatever, she should have just sat there silently and glared. Had she kept quiet it's possible the struggling material may not have worked at all and he probably would have moved on to other bits. It sounds like the audience wasn't comfortable laughing at the material at first and had she and her friend sat there angrily but silently that feeling may have spread. Instead she bailed him out.
If you don't like what a comedian is doing the best thing you can do is don't laugh. Don't react at all, in fact. If what you're witnessing is so horrible you have to leave the club then by all means go, but do so silently. It's the same way with everything. Don't give them the attention they seek and they will go away. Stop going to see crappy movies and they'll stop making them. Stop paying attention to Snooki and she'll dissolve into a puddle of spray tan.
In short, don't feed the trolls.