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.