And I have been trying to write something for fun all night but felt no inspiration then realized I wrote a tome in response to her and that felt good and took energy so I might as well post it:
There are a lot of fine lines drawn in my head around this topic because I think about it so much and can’t find a simple resolution. Even in this discussion quoted above, I can find like 5 different points that I want to speak on, so I’ll start with one and see if I can hit them all.
Lately I have come to a distinction between jokes that offend and jokes that hurt. Many people (see: Ian Hundley) conflate the two, believing that the audience’s reaction to comedy is a simple choice made by the audience in that moment; for nearly all subject matter, this IS true! Swearing a lot or sick morbid cringe-worthy humor can dredge up “MY WORD!” responses from those who might be offended, but that offense comes from a cultural holdover, a relic of a simpler time. The offended thinks to himself “this is indicative of a degrading society” and gets angry about that.
Hurtful jokes are a little different. When an audience member is hurt by a joke, he is reminded that there are some things in his own life that aren’t funny, and those things are not a choice. Then, as if that’s not enough, the hurtful joke pushes that member outside the rest of the audience (“Oh, you were raped and so you don’t find this funny? Well, we all do, we all find this joke super normal and not painful at all.”)
This exists because white men drive comedy, both in terms of consumption and production. White men are the least empathetic people in the world. We can afford to make fun of others’ race, gender or history of rape because we are so far removed from it. We simply cannot fathom being upset about these things because there’s no frame of reference. (Even though it’s presumably rife with edgy material, not many people joke about the horrors of war because even white dudes suffer in war.) Daniel Tosh cracks wise about rape, a million Ian Hundleys buy his album, and the people who might be hurt go unheard. That’s the patriarchy/supremacy/rape culture/whatever you want to use to describe our state of affairs.
That’s not to say that comedians cannot approach the subject of rape etc. It’s just that the Ian Hundleys of the world don’t give a shit about comedy’s effect on society so long as they hit their quota of gang-rape mentions, so they defend “free speech” and that’s the extent of their argument. I found that the best comedians always ask “why” about their topics, and, in turn, shape their message. Tosh, after responding to his heckler, had the opportunity to ask the audience why they, as a body of people, are somehow able to laugh at the idea of a woman SITTING IN THE SAME ROOM AS THEM being gangraped— but rather than approach a real question, a dangerous question that may have turned the audience against him, a question that would take some real comedic chops to work with… He took the easy way out.
I don’t ever want to get onstage and remind someone that they are suffering. Especially if dickfucks like Ian Hundley would defend my material by saying that rape victims are “oversensitive.” jesus christ
Note: I’ve never met Ian Hundley, but my friend, in prompting this, quoted a Facebook comment of his which read “Then dont go to a damn comedy show! especially with daniel tosh! If you are offended by a JOKE, Then im offended by your sensitive nature. So we are even.”