(With Daniel Tosh’s recent woes are we becoming too sensitive as a society when it comes to comedy?)
Recently, Daniel Tosh from the TV show “Tosh.0” has been in the news because he took heat for making a rape joke at the Hollywood Laugh Factory. Apparently there was a rape victim in the audience that cried out during his set “rape jokes are never funny” to which he replied “wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now?” Ok, so he may have gone a little overboard while trying to control a heckler but was she right in yelling out something at a comedy show? And what kind of pass does a professional comedian get for making a joke?
A comedian’s job at a base level is to control your emotions to the point where he can make you laugh. At a live show this is accomplished by coming out with a certain energy and keeping it at that level for his set. This is done with a combination of cadence, voice inflection, meter, confidence etc. What a heckler does is basically upset that delicate balance and tries to make the show about him or her. That’s selfish. No one paid to hear the heckler they paid to see the stand up comedians. Why do you think it’s ok to yell something out in a comedy show but not ok to yell something out a Broadway show or classical music performance? It’s not. When a heckler interrupted his performance Daniel did the first joke that came to his head to regain momentum and win back the crowd. Unfortunately it was in very poor taste but so is a heckler that interrupts a show to make it about them. While she wasn’t in strict definition a heckler she was interrupting his show and he went on the defense. A comedy show isn’t a baseball game, it’s a live performance so be respectful to the performer and refrain from yelling out things.
As someone who writes a Twitter feed that is 90% comedy I know that it’s impossible to write a joke without offending someone. Here are a couple jokes I’ve written that have offended people:
- Pancakes will always be the less talented autistic brother of the waffle.
- I wish I were half as proud of anything as fat people are when they eat a salad.
- Don’t let my truck fool you, my outfit will be gay.
Currently, I have about 800 people that follow me on Twitter and several more that receive my feed on Facebook. What are the chances that out of those people someone is, or knows someone that is autistic, obese, or gay? Pretty damn good. And you know what? I know those people too. Even the last joke was a direct slam at myself and people could be offended by it. But seriously, what do you expect from a guy that has a twitter name @foodlatio (now changed to @BackleyChris). If you are easily offended by jokes you are welcome to “unfollow” comedians or just don’t go to their shows. With any joke that was told since the beginning of language there is someone that can be offended by it if they try hard enough (by the way, “why did the chicken cross the road” jokes are offensive to chickens). At what point do we suspend our feelings and realize that we are merely being told a joke at a comedy show? If you ever watch stand up comedy black people are making fun of white people, white people are making fun of black people, Asians are making fun of themselves, and everyone is making fun of the Mexicans. I bet that sentence even makes some of you uncomfortable. Why? None of these comedians are seriously racist, it’s just comedy. But as Daniel Tosh later indicated “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”. There are hundreds of proven health benefits to laughter and comedy is meant to be unifying. That’s why people pay their hard earned money to watch these kinds of shows. The comedian intended no actual malicious harm to you as a person; their intent was to make you laugh (and sometimes they do fail). Everyone loves to smile and everyone loves to laugh so in the context of comedy we all need to just take a deep breath and stop taking ourselves so seriously. We need to celebrate our differences as people by pointing them out and then making fun of each other constantly.
That was a joke, or was it?
[Photo: A bookstore on 3rd St. in Los Angeles]