Je Suis Rape Jokes

You may remember that a few years ago there was a major hub bub about rape jokes. My old friend Daniel Tosh was heavily criticized for one, and then it exploded into a big debate about what is and isn’t funny, and what is and isn’t allowed to be joked about.

Because I’m not in the Taliban, I sided with the folks who believe everything can be joked about, and anything that makes you laugh can be considered funny.

It seems like my side of that argument isn’t winning. I’ve been getting really annoyed by the sensitivity of the world lately. Especially on twitter. Everything is becoming offensive. You can’t say or write anything without pissing some section of the world off. It makes it hard to be funny and edgy without having the comedy police pound at your door to shut you down.

Then a funny thing happened. I was watching The Golden Globes the other night and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did a whole run of Bill Cosby rape jokes. Wow, I thought, those kind of jokes are okay? That’s weird. People laughed. There was barely any drama about it. Interesting.

And then I was watching the premiere of Broad City last night, which might be the funniest show on TV, and they did a whole rape run throughout the show! I started thinking about all of the shit Tosh and others got in to over similar content, and I was a little fired up. Not a lot, a little. I considered a post about it, then decided against it.

But today, lo and behold, a member of the comedy police wrote about this latest string of sexual assault jokes and it got me really, really fired up! The writer, named Sarah something or the other, decider of comedy, judge of all things funny, didn’t come to arrest the rape joke perpetrators. Instead, she was writing about why the jokes told by these women are great and why we are, in fact, allowed to laugh at them!

Well, thank God. I always check with Sarah something or other about jokes, so it was awesome to get that go ahead from her. It was only then that I chuckled heartily at Tiny and Amy and the Broad City broad’s quips.

Here’s my issue: I don’t have a problem with someone saying “rape jokes aren’t funny”, or “9/11 jokes aren’t funny”, or whatever it is. Maybe you have a sensitivity to that subject, or there’s just something in that arena that could never be funny to you. I get that. If I had been assaulted, or had a relative in the towers, I probably could never find those subjects funny (although I probably could, but just go with me). However, the issue here is:

“Rape jokes aren’t funny…unless people I like are telling them!!!”

And that’s essentially the argument this woman, and others like her, are always putting forward. It’s nonsensical to me. They like rape jokes, they fucking love them! They just want to pick and choose who gets to tell them.

Here’s what Sarah says:

I found the jokes amusing, in part, simply because they were coming out of Abbi Jacobson’s foul feminist mouth and I trust her.

Oh, so you have to trust the person? How do you trust the person? You don’t know Abbi Jacobson! She is a person on television, just like Daniel Tosh is a person on television. You don’t know how they actually are. And what difference does it make anyway? This is comedy. Does it make you laugh or doesn’t it? Is it funny or isn’t? Suddenly you’re looking at people’s resumes before you decide to laugh? That’s not how comedy should work. That’s the beauty of it! It hits you in the gut or it doesn’t, you know right away.

I remember when the initial controversy happened, people like Sarah were writing that it was okay when Louis CK told rape jokes, simply because he’s Louis CK. Here’s one of his:

“I’m not condoning rape, obviously—you should never rape anyone. Unless you have a reason, like if you want to fuck somebody and they won’t let you.”

I’m sorry, but there is no way in hell that if Daniel Tosh tells that joke they’d be okay with it. And that’s all I’m saying. But Jezebel says this joke is just fine because:

Here’s why this joke doesn’t make me feel like shit: Louis CK has spent 20 years making it very publicly clear that he is on the side of making things better. The oppressors never win at the end of his jokes. That’s why it’s easy to give him the benefit of the doubt that this joke is making fun of rapists…

So you have to do public service before doing these jokes! Put on an orange vest, grap a rake and some garbage bags, and do 20 years of rape work near the freeway.

By the way, the next year Louis CK went and did an episode of Louie where he literally tries to force himself on a woman. And that was the joke. Crickets from the Sarah’s of the world. Totally fine with it, apparently. Because it’s someone they like. Louis is approved, others aren’t. Which others? Well, they’ll yell angrily on a case by case basis.

Listen, not every joke is for you. Not every joke is supposed to be for you. That’s okay. But it seems very odd to start picking and choosing which people are cleared to do which jokes. I bet Al Queda in Yemen loved Charlie Hebdo’s jewish cartoons. Laughed their no getting pussy balls off! Those big noses, hilarious! But then they did some cartoons they didn’t like. Such is the nature of jokes.

Now, I’m not comparing Sarah to the Kouachi brothers, but I am because I find it “amusing”. Probably because I “trust” myself. The principle, though, is similar. Comedy, satire, these things are meant to push buttons. And when you push buttons, people will get pissed off or find it offensive. And sometimes maybe it is. But if you keep everything safe, you’re not doing your job.

Okay, time to get off my high horse. This topic really pisses me off though. There’s something oddly racist about it. Racist is obviously the wrong word, but it feels like one of the “ists”. Jerkist, maybe? But you know what really isn’t funny? Writing long articles about jokes and why they are or aren’t funny.

32 thoughts on “Je Suis Rape Jokes

  1. Watched Broad City and there’s no way any guy could tell the same joke. Not even Workaholics which is on before them.

  2. I agree that a comedian can joke about anything that they want to joke about. The nature of comedy is that it is sometimes offensive. However, I do think that some jokes are too offensive to be funny and SOMETIMES one element of whether or not a joke is too offensive to be funny is the context of who is telling the joke. I would probably not have found Daniel Tosh telling the Fey/Poehler rape joke funny. Why? Because, to me, that joke coming from Tina and Amy was big fuck you Bill Cosby. It wasn’t a joke at the expense of the victims. Coming from Tosh it would have felt like a joke at the expense of rape victims. A joke is not funny or unfunny/offensive or inoffensive in a vacuum. Some rape jokes are funny, lots aren’t and that may, in part, depend on who tells the joke.

  3. I always thought that as long as the punchline aimed up, it was okay. For instance, if you were giving a talk at a dinner full of rich people and you made jokes about the janitor that would be not cool but if you made jokes about the richest person there, it’s okay. The thinking being that the people with the power can take it. The one exception to this rule is that you can tell a joke that aims lower but it has to be fucking, unquestionably hilarious. But maybe there aren’t any rules. I do think that if a man makes a rape joke, it should be the funniest joke I’ve ever heard or don’t tell it. Mediocre rape jokes add insult to injury.

    • i’d be willing to bet that the funniest joke you’ve heard would be somewhat mediocre to me, and vice versa. what’s funny to me isn’t necessarily funny to you or anyone else. how is one supposed to know? you can’t. these “rules” are all nice in theory, but once you start parsing the details it becomes impossible. it’s unknowable, so i’d rather live in the world of jokes – from dumb to smart to offensive to really offensive – and not the world of no jokes at all because someone might get offended.

      • Really you’re talking about censorship and ultimately I do agree with you that all jokes should exist rather than no jokes but complaints are sometimes valid too. I think a lot of women are tired of ignoring the hatred towards women in the world and this negativity towards women shows up in comedy often too. Culture (comedy, art, sports, media, music) is where a lot of important social issues get worked out and I guess I’d rather hear all the jokes but also all the complaints as well and then decide for myself who’s voice is legit.

        This makes me think about Tipper Gore and how silly her war on Prince seems today but then also Long Duk Dong and how cringe worthy and unfunny that character seems today. In my mind, anyone who creates something and puts it in the world has a responsibility to do good work. And that is subjective and not everyone will agree. Regardless, time tells it’s own tale and I guess we’ll see where mediocre rape jokes are in 10 years.

      • I hear you. and i respect your opinion. And obviously we’ll probably always disagree. but a lot of this is just plain bullying. it creates a chilling effect on free speech. and it feels completely arbitrary, in this case “women = good. men = bad”. or “daniel tosh = bad, louis ck = good”. i’m not sure i understand those lines being drawn or why. i’m still waiting to hear why louis ck saying a joke is hilarious, and daniel tosh saying the exact same words isn’t funny or acceptable. daniel has to watch his step, louis ck has free reign. why? because people on the internet have “approved” louis? well fuck you, i prefer daniel. and yet he is bullied into an apology by the online mafia.

        you say that women are tired of the negativity, you know who else is tired of the negativity? muslims! and i bet a lot women this week were saying “je suis charlie”. point is, everyone has their thing! and “their thing” should always be protected and who the fuck cares about everyone else’s thing. so pretty soon no one can say anything. i never hear much of an uproar about 9/11 jokes, or holocaust jokes, those things seem a lot worse than others. why? cause your thing is more important!

        it’s not a big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, clearly it isn’t, but it does bother me. i delete at least 20 joke tweets a week for fear that someone will be “offended” and come after me for it. and it’s fucking annoying. THEY ARE JUST JOKES, WHO CARES?? does everything have to be taken so seriously? heath ledger was right!

        and i honestly don’t understand the difference between long duk dong and what margaret cho did on the golden globes.

  4. I’m working on a sitcom about a government office that monitors comedy appropriateness. The main character is the Director of ‘Too Soon?’

    White Asshole says: ‘Why can’t I say ‘nigger’? Blacks say ‘nigger’ all the time! It’s not faaaaaaaair!’

    But White Asshole can say ‘nigger’ all he wants. He just can’t say ‘nigger’ without people thinking he’s an asshole. Comedians can make any joke they want. But sometimes people will think they’re assholes. Fair enough.

      • Yeah, but you can just call them assholes, and balance is restored.

        I mean, say I don’t call Louis CK an asshole when I’d call Tosh an asshole for telling exactly the same joke, because I think Tosh hasn’t earned my permission–and he needs it, clearly. Then you call me an asshole for calling Tosh an asshole based on some weird monomaniacal shit like that. Everyone’s happy.

        It just seems like, if you wanna tell a rape joke, go ahead! That’s okay. Maybe someone will call you an asshole. That’s okay, too. Both things are fine. Tell whatever joke you want. You don’t have to be Amy Poehler or Tina Fey or some other cunt.

      • if just saying “asshole” was it, that would be great. but it isn’t. ask gilbert gottfried. and then people start censoring themselves out of fear, and then things get a lot less funny.

        who knows, this could be the reason that comedies suck right now. no one wants to be called an asshole by anyone and lose audience.

  5. I’ll give you another one: the fact is the Margaret Cho thing about North Korea was sort of racist. But no one says anything because it’s Tina Fey and Amy Poeller. Everyone’s (well Entertainment Weekly’s) favorite “cutting edge” comedians. Not that the bit wasn’t funny, actually more stupid than funny, but Mickey Rooney is blasted for his caricature in Breakfast at Tiffany, but this caricature is ok?

  6. I’ll be sure to yell, “Go fuck yourself, consensually” the next I time I’m pissed at someone.

    Saw the Twitter back and forth with Sarah Salsa (thanks, Seinfeld) and the use of “mansplain” was sexist and derogatory to you and anyone who wants to interpret her writing (aka “art”). It’s not open to interpretation apparently and her brush off because you are 1) a man and 2) disagreed w/ her was odd for someone beating a gender drum.

  7. The reason is because a rape joke coming from a man will always be subject to more scrutiny and sensitivity than one coming from a woman.

    Personally I don’t like rape jokes regardless of the delivery because there’s nothing funny about rape in any context. I’ve been a loyal follower of your blog for years and found myself gasping at your occasional mentioning of rape in a flippant way. You haven’t done it a lot but when you do, it’s tough to read and kills my smile. I come to your blog to laugh, so that’s a bummer when it’s stifled by a subject that is disturbing and not funny at all.

    I’m not sensitive, and I have never been assaulted, but I personally don’t know a single woman who would find a rape joke funny under any circumstance. You’re usually spot on with your humor and I’m not sure why this is a subject you’re exploring. Please move on. Rape = not funny.

    • appreciate the comment and thank you for reading, i really do value you that and your opinion. but honestly, this is the kind of thinking that’s sending me to retirement. what about OJ jokes? 2 innocent people got their heads cut off, yet i can’t think of anything that’s been joked about more.

      wait, let’s put this in terms we can understand. the bachelor. (this example isn’t that funny but i’m just inventing this right now, go with me…) if there was a really creepy looking guy, who was staring at the bachelorette from afar and getting drunk and acting strange. hard to imagine, i know. let’s say his name is jake pavelka. and i describe this and i write “jake asks to get her alone, probably so he can take her to his rape room”. what if instead i wrote, “jake asks to get her alone, where he plans to murder her for kicks”. is only the rape one wrong? isn’t joking about murder at least as bad?

      what about prison rape? wasn’t there just an entire will ferrell/kevin hart comedy about that? you don’t know a single woman who think it’s funny, yet the gals from broad city just did a whole episode about it and now women on the internet are writing about how hilarious it was.

      you don’t like it, others do. there are other subjects you love, others don’t. impossible to please everyone. all i know is what makes me laugh, and sometimes it’s an andy dufresne and the sisters reference.

      again, appreciate everyone on here and their thoughts. this subject hits close to home, probably because i write “edgy” jokes for a living. but i (sort of) understand other points of view, i just disagree.

      • None of your examples bother me, just the rape jokes. That’s it, one and done. Perhaps it’s because I’m a woman, maybe because I have daughters, I don’t know. I like most twisted and f’d up dark humor. Love Tosh.O! Rape just never falls into the humor category for me.

        As you said, you can’t please everyone. But with what I presume is a predominantly female blog readership, I can’t imagine most of your followers are loving your rape jokes either. I say this from a place of being a humongous fan of yours and loving 99% of your musings. Not hating on you at all.

      • i get what your saying, and i know you’re not hating. however, i’m not sure pandering to my audience is the best solution. if my readership was mostly frat bros, then i should do tons of rape jokes? because that’s what they like?

        you may not know this, but i also have a huge muslim following. and they say that they’re not fans of my terrorism jokes. they say i should just do the stuff they like. okay, i don’t actually have a huge muslim following, but the point is, you want your issue not to be mentioned. but that’s the thing, it’s your issue. other people who read this might have their own stuff they don’t like. if i stop and think about everyone’s, i’ll have nothing to write.

        i don’t want to just do the things everyone wants to hear, and if i start picking and choosing what subjects are “untouchable”, well, it kinda goes against everything i believe in when it comes to comedy.

        i still don’t understand why rape is worse than murder, but i guess i’ll never know! 9 hours till the next Bachelor episode!!!

      • I agree with your sentiments. And I think the example you just gave is not offensive. The rape room joke is simple, short, clean, and most importantly, funny (to me – but I know comedy is subjective).

      • Totally get your point. Don’t pander to us! Back when you did and stopped posting juicy dating stories because people complained, that sucked. I loved those stories. Are you taking pre-retirement requests? If so, please throw a few more crazy girl stories up on the blog. I promise I won’t protest. 😉

  8. I commented on a specific joke in an earlier thread, but I wanted to make a general comment too, that to me, your frustration in this post seems completely justified. I agree with what you’re saying, and stand with you in what you’re saying. I’m sorry the world is being like that to comedians. I’m sorry for the frustration it’s causing you.

    Sometimes I can hardly believe how many times you write a post and I just sit and nod along with how logical it sounds. Over the years, there’ve been so many instances where I felt like you articulated perfectly things I think in my head, and I yell “YES!” at the computer. 🙂 I’m really gonna miss your blog oh so much when it’s gone.

  9. Fully agree Brian with your point of view. We are all walking on eggshells these days, and quite frankly a lot of it has to do with how the country is being run from the top, sorry to say that, but let’s just keep it real here.

    Christ, I’ve been watching Celebrity Big Brother UK, and that fucking idiot Mario “Perez Hilton” douche is ensuring that he can act like a disgusting moron (faking orgasms in his underwear against the bedroom window in front of all), but once others start pushing back, he cries and asks the producers to censor those “bullies” and boot them out the door…..

  10. Stupid long weekend. Made me miss out on most of this conversation.

    I just want to add this. Out of all the people who get offended by these jokes and write long blog posts about them… how many actually go to comedy theaters and watch stand up? How many can say they’re really fans? There’s a lot going on in the world of comedy. Comedians are always on the front line of what is and isn’t acceptable.

    The only place where I get a little iffy is around Tosh’s line in the club that night about how funny it would be if that woman who complained about a rape joke got raped on the way out. I do think it is funny, but I also know that there are a lot of gross, disgusting people out there, and I can’t help but worry that one of them might think in their deranged mind “Tosh is right. That woman should be raped.” So when you’re specifically aiming a rape joke at someone, that’s thin ice, but other than that, let them rip.

  11. Sorry, I’m late to the party here. I agree with the above commenter. I’ll laugh at rape jokes if they’re funny (I think a lot of comedians rely on “shock value” to make their material funny, and that just doesn’t work for me), but I’ll cringe when a rape joke is directed AT someone. Barring that, I don’t think rape should be a protected issue. Funny is funny, whether it’s a rape, religion, whatever.

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