I didn’t see or hear about it until Martha Plimpton’s Tweets in response to the story made news. Apparently shock comedian and Comedy Central golden boy, Daniel Tosh, went on a tear about rape at a live show and a woman in the audience took offense. After she made comment from the audience, Tosh went on, no doubt with his ever-present smug grin, to respond: “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?”
As you can imagine, a few took offense.
But as culture is wont to do, righteous offense is followed by justifications and pontifications and a follow-up opinion piece in the Huffington Post by blogger and media mogul, Chez Pazienza, Daniel Tosh vs. The Age of Outrage, took up Tosh’s cause, shaking a finger not only at the offended woman (who had a writer compadre take to the Net to express her outrage), but at the panty-waisted Culture At Large which is clearly too thin-skinned and pussified to get the importance and hilarity of this cutting edge humor:
“Comics stand as the vanguard of our right to free speech — the canary in the coal mine, so to speak. They’re the ones we count on to be able to push the envelope, challenge our sensibilities, even offend us occasionally because it’s necessary for us as a culture.”
Chez, this may have been true in the days of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and Sinbad, to name just a few of our best comedic canaries, but in 2012, when anyone with a mouth, a keyboard, and a video camera can blather any sort of “humor” online or cable, the noble duty of which you speak has long since been washed away in the tsunami of cultural evolution (devolution?).
Comedians are not only NOT necessary to “challenge our sensibilities,” they, in fact, rarely do these days. Anyone who’s been around smart-ass teenage boys has heard it all already. Instead of cutting satire and true wit, now we get Jackass movies, endless vagina and/or penis chatter, lots of trash talk about smacking bitches, and, of course, the always “sensibility-challenging” rape jokes.
Too many comedians, male and a few females, are caught in the over-saturation found in every form of art these days and, as a result, are frantically treading water to stay anywhere near the top. With the interminable competition of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, StumbleUpon, etc., they appear desperate to one-up themselves, other comedians, and anyone else in view, by raising (lowering?) the bar on sophomoric potty-mouthing and “look at me I’m being offensive” kind of humor. Just check out any number of well-known comics on Twitter who can’t wait to regale us with discussions of bodily fluids, masturbation techniques, and perceptions of known or unknown genitals…always hilarious. The overreaching has become banal and predictable; the transparency in their effort to be the grossest, most scatological, most disgusting and, certainly, most offensive, has set up a race to…what? What finish line are we going for these days? What will be outrageous enough? Comedy porn? Hilarious snuff films? Reenactments of actual rapes?
Daniel Tosh, like many other contemporary comedians, has built his style to appeal to sniggering teenage boys and men young enough to have missed the heyday of Howard Stern. His humor is goofy, in-your-face, and over-the-top, delivered with an imperturbable smirk and knowing wink. Sometimes he’s truly funny, sometimes he’s not; often he’s intentionally offensive and the boys and their preening girlfriends guffaw and giggle regardless. It’s the mode of the day. We’re in the Age of Shock and Snark.
But despite Mr. Pazienza’s delusional assertion that all this offensiveness is good for the cultural soul, it’s more likely contributing to its coarsening; scraping off layers of social decorum, societal empathy, and even a higher standard of humor and intellect, leaving raw the rankest, most loathsome elements of humanity easily found in the humor-couched hate-speak and verbal violence spewed by commenters everywhere.
Good humor does and always has played a vital role in pricking consciousness, picking scabs, and shining light in darker corners of humanity, but gleefully poking sticks at the snakes of offense for no reason other than the satisfaction of a bite back takes no great wit or wisdom. Hollering from the stage about how funny it would be for an offended audience member to get raped by five guys may be a knee-jerk reaction to heckling or a calculated move to get lots of buzzy attention but, either way, it’s unimpressive humor. You can get anyone’s attention by smacking them across the face; that doesn’t mean you’re clever, cutting edge or, God forbid, funny. It means you’re a lazy comedian.
Rape. Yeah. Hilarious.
Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.