Stop Me if You've Heard This One
©2012 Ross Williams
Here’s the scene: Daniel Tosh, a stand-up comic with a popular television show of his own on Comedy Central, tosh.0, is appearing at a famous Los Angeles area comedy club where ticket prices for his show are likely to be considerably higher than they would be for someone who does not have his own television show, is performing his type of humor for an audience who – like most audiences everywhere – want to get their money’s worth ... and who also know, generally, what they’re buying.
Tosh’s humor is not for everyone, it is rather blunt social satire, and he is a type of comic known in current vernacular as a “shock comic”. He says outrageous things for the reaction they get. But because the things he says are actually outrageous, the reaction of the audience [who knows his work] is to separate the outrageousness from reality, compartmentalize, and laugh at the outrage while not even beginning to consider that the outrageous statement might have been sincere.
Not all people can do this. Which is why “shock comedy” is not for everyone. But it doesn’t nullify the validity of the form any more than slapstick – which is physical comedy built around actual or perceived infliction of pain and injury – is a valid form of comedy not for everyone. I myself cannot stand The Three Stooges, the preeminent American slapstickers.
But I don’t go around denying the validity of it as a form of comedy. To do so would be pretentious of me.
There was a pretentious audience member seeing Daniel Tosh for – apparently – the first time in her life that night. And she started a controversy that other pretentious people picked up and carried. We shall call the pretentious audience member “Idiot Feminist”; here is the interaction between Daniel Tosh and Idiot Feminist.
DT [doing his routine]: ...for example, rape jokes are always funny.
IF [heckling]: Rape jokes are never funny.
DT [responding to heckler]: Wouldn’t it be funny if she were raped by, like, five guys right now?
A comedian who allows hecklers to heckle unimpeded is no longer doing his routine, and the audience doesn’t get what they paid for. Comedians have put down hecklers forever, and the comedian’s audience knows that if anyone heckles there’s going to be a response of some kind from the stage, and it may not be polite [but it will be intended to be funny]. Each person in the audience further understands that if the heckler is him – or in this case her – the unkind response will be directed at him. Or in this case her.
Ya pays yer buck, ya takes yer chances. Heckle at your own risk.
The interaction between Idiot Feminist and Daniel Tosh ended at that point because – to quote the Idiot Feminist’s own blog entry upon the subject – she noted that everyone else was laughing about it and she felt a-skeered that this mob, laughing at absurdity writ large, was a gang-rape waiting to happen.
Seriously. She felt in danger of being raped. I hope she’s under a doctor’s care for that paranoia.
At any rate, I read about this in the news, I googled the incident and found both the Idiot Feminist’s indignant description of it [including the almost word for word exchange between them above] , the typical mincing mewlery of the head of RAINN which posits that some subjects are just too horrible to make jokes about, and several instances where common people were jabbering about it.
In one of these online jabberfests, google returned a portion of a statement that had been made. It was thus: “...anyone who sees something funny about gang rape is a pig.”
Of course, such a declarative statement is outrageous to make. After all, quite a number of people listening to the ironic statement made by Tosh to his Idiot Feminist heckler thought it was funny. Besides, many people think there’s something funny about Nazism, the evil that destroyed a generation, virtually obliterated Europe for another generation, decimated the Jewish and Gypsy populations, and inspired the deaths of millions of people of every other hue and stripe.
Oh, and made the atomic bomb.
How can I say Nazism is funny? Because Hogan’s Heroes is funny; because The Producers is funny, because any number of other treatments of Nazism, or which use Nazism as a backdrop, are funny.
And I replied to the person – whom we shall call Idiot Feminist II – along this line. Not to mention, torture and torturers are both funny, inasmuch as “NO-O-Obody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” and Mel Brooks’ inimitable Torquemada routine from History of the World, Part I.
If mental retardation weren’t funny to millions upon millions of people – mostly in America, no doubt – Adam Sandler wouldn’t have had any movie roles under his name except Fifty First Dates.
I asked, since “anyone who thinks gang rape is funny is a pig”, if anyone who thought fascist barbarism was funny became a barbarous fascist as well. And the reply to this was “Of course not! Because it’s different!” Yeah? How?
Dig it folks: tragedy is funny. It is our ability to compartmentalize the tragedy from the absurdity in it that separates us from the lizards. It is a function of our upper brain. If anyone cannot make the separation it indicates that his upper brain isn’t working properly – which is a symptom of several forms of mental illness, apart from paranoia.
One of these forms of mental illness is voluntarily acquired; they refuse to separate absurdity from reality. It is Idiot Feminism.
The same Idiot Feminism I endured in grad school when I made the mistake of making a statement to the effect that “a lady I knew...”
I was immediately corrected by two ladies – about 15 years older than me – informing me that the proper term is “woman” because “lady” is used as an insult – “always”. And “woman” can never be an insult. Oh, “always”. “Never”. Right. Another outrageous statement. They went on to humorously explain to me that the terms by which I choose to refer to them [or anyone like them], such as “lady”, alters who they are; it makes them whatever it is they are called.
I played along with their joke: “So if I were to call you a six-string Alvarez guitar ...” [I had, and still have, an Alvarez 6-string] “...it would make you an Alvarez guitar?” I asked incredulously.
They quipped back, “You’re missing the point!!”
I joshed, “You don’t have a point. You’re making shit up to be indignant about that has no reality outside the confines of your fevered imagination.”
Okay ... so this last sentence is just a paraphrase ... I said something like that, bringing up the importance – indeed the criticality – of context, and intention, and perception, and perceived intention, the responsibility of both the speaker as well as the listener to not make presumptuous conclusions based on their own bias filters. The rest of it is pretty accurate though. At some point in the discussion, the professor stepped in and indicated that because some of the class was upset by the use of “lady” and preferred “woman”, would we all kindly use the term “woman” to refer to a lady.
Okay, I can do that. And for the rest of the evening I pissed off those two smug women in the back of the class by referring to them as “woman”. When they said something facile – which was often, as they were Idiot Feminists – I would interrupt [I don’t generally interrupt, but allow someone to complete their statement, even if it’s idiotic] with “Woman, that’s wrong!” “Aww, geez, woman! Really? You’re going down that path?” “Leave it to a woman...”
By the end of the second hour of the seminar on Gender Studies, the two were livid while most of the others [minus the prof] were stifling laughs at the pair being shown to be incorrect about their “lady” indignation. They approached me at the vending machines in the lobby and huffily demanded that I stop insulting and berating them.
“But ... but ... I thought ‘woman’ could ‘never be an insult’. Isn’t that what you told me? I coulda sworn it was.”
They allowed as how yes it was, but it wasn’t the words I used, rather it was the tone I delivered them and the context surrounding them.
Oh ... so I was right after all, I said.
Yeah, well, I knew I was right, most of the rest did also, and now – after this object lesson – so do the two of you.
I didn’t ask for an apology from them, either in the third hour of class in front of all those they had berated me in front of, nor in private by the vending machines. Nor did I get one. They just dropped it, which is fine with me.
They pretty much left me alone with my terminology after that, apparently satisfied that when I corrected someone it was because they were wrong and not because they were a woman ... or a minority ... or some other inferior specimen who needs to be put in his place. All things they can grasp from context if they actually turn on their upper brain and use it as designed.
The problem with internet [and other written] discourse, though, is that much of the tone and other contextual markers of face to face interaction are missing, and most people [I exclude myself from this] make assumptions about intent based on their own biases and ignorances.
And Idiot Feminists are chock full of both.
I replied to two of the more inane denunciations of Tosh’s shock comedy on this website purportedly devoted to “honest dialogue” among “varied points of view”; my comment which suggested that Nazi humor and rape jokes were two forms of the same “tragedy forms the basis for humor” dichotomy that our upper brains are built to handle was “hidden” by website moderation. Apparently it is a semi-serious faux pas on this website to actually have honest dialogue among varied points of view ... which is built ... um ... for that exact reason. The local orthodoxy shall not be questioned.
In any event, the Daniel Tosh Affair made the Idiot Feminist television show The View, operated as a cabal of five women ... including three who were at one time in their careers stand-up comics, one quite famously: Whoopie Goldberg. The three Idiot Feminist comics averred that, no, no subject is outside the range of a good comic doing good comedy, but they quibbled that Tosh’s “Wouldn’t it be funny if she were raped by, like, five guys right now?” constituted good comedy. Idiot feminists always stick together: they asserted Daniel Tosh bombed on his heckler response.
The audience hearing it, however, is the only real true measure of the idea, and that audience, save for one paranoid woman and her friend hightailing it out of irrational fear, indicated it was. You don’t need to agree – so don’t watch tosh.0. I don’t agree about slapstick, so I ignore The Three Stooges.
“I was raped by my doctor, which is a bittersweet moment for a Jewish girl...”-
standup comic Sarah Silverman demonstrating, as if it really needs to be said
... again, that Idiot Feminists are idiots.
Everybody is trying to be a victim in our society. Victimhood lends instant credibility. Tragedy exists and victims are made. That’s not the point of any of this. Historically, comedy is used to get beyond the tragedy, to force our brains to confront the tragedy, to compartmentalize the tragedy, separate it from the reality that still has to be dealt with. If an individual cannot transcend his own tragedy and see the humor of ... 9-11, of Katrina, of a terminal disease, of Nazi brutality ... okay. You’ve been traumatized. We probably expect that out of you ... an individual.
But to collectivize tragedy, to lump victimhood into a whole demographic group by proxy, is not tragedy nor is it victimhood. It is politics, and it is ideological megalomania masquerading as “sensitivity”. Any woman who claims to be victimized by being confronted with the absurd statement “Rape jokes are always funny” when she herself has not been raped – as this woman in the audience had not – is leeching off others’ tragedy for the purpose of initiating her own pseudo-victimhood.
How condescending can you get? I have been “victimized” a time or two in my life, just like everyone else has, and quite frankly, I resent others claiming to know all about it. Although I doubt I’d interrupt a comedian during a set if he touched a raw nerve; I understand what comedy is trying to accomplish.
But apart from condescendingly cheapening others’ tragedy, claiming false victimization is exactly the purpose of shock comedy in the first place. Whether the hyper-sensitive dingbats wish to believe it or not, society at large is growing weary of the legion of victims all laying claim to larger and larger chunks of other people's sympathy. The phrase “sympathy overload” was coined a decade or more ago to describe it.
Racism makes victims, sexism makes victims, ageism makes victims, terrorism makes victims ... yes. Your point would be ...?
That everyone you confront with your victimhood has to give it the same purpose and relevance in their lives that you give it in yours? How phenomenally arrogant of you. Of all the -isms that create victims there’s one whose victims don’t often get to own their victimhood: politicism. Every time a subject gets politicized – as rape has been, as gender inequity has been, as racial stereotyping has been – anyone who is simply sick to death of hearing about it has no realistic outlet. They could be – and frankly most of them likely are – just as sympathetic to the “cause” as anyone else is, but it’s not their issue, they’re tired of being confronted by it continually, harangued by ideologues, and it’s simply not in their nature to grab the next ideologue by the shoulders and scream into his face “SHUT THE FUCK UP! I’M TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT IT!”
What are they to do?
They listen to comedians like Lisa Lampanelli, like Sarah Silverman, like Daniel Tosh, who satirize the victim mentality our society has acquired, allowing sympathy-overload to be compartmentalized, and thus better tolerated.
Frankly, Idiot Feminists need to thank Daniel Tosh for the service he provides them. Without Tosh mocking for the rest of us what we all too often don’t have the time or talent or cojones to mock ourselves, he helps lessen the likelihood that some victim of politicized sympathy-overload will snap and strangle the next simpleton who opines on the latest demographic to be identified as “our most vulnerable people”...like women.
Take my wife, please.