So, I’m floating around the socialmediaverse the other day when I suddenly see that someone’s posted a link to a piece by Sady Doyle about Sam Morril (a stand-up comic) on Global Comment (a web magazine). Below is a link to the full text of Doyle's article. Not So Funny: Sam Morril’s Rape Jokes and Female Comedy Fans
The woman that initially posted the link to the above article online got a reply directly from Sam Morril rather quickly. His response wasn’t out of line and it sparked some good conversation, but that was as far as it went.
Through reading this exchange, I gathered that Morril makes a lot of rape jokes. The other women participating in the online conversation were all rightfully offended by his rapey jokes. These ladies also specifically commented on how sometimes it can be difficult to be a woman and be into comedy. I fully agree with them on that; however, this is likely the only point upon which we agree.
As a feminist and avid fan of stand-up comedy, I too wanted to provide my input on this matter. So, I dumped my unfiltered thoughts onto my keyboard and then promptly deleted them. I figured I should probably read the full text of Sady Doyle’s article before documenting anything.
With that, I clicked over to Doyle’s article and settled in to read her account of Sam Morril’s stand-up act. Doyle notes joke after joke made about rape, domestic abuse and the like. She also details another woman’s run-in with Daniel Tosh.
Apparently, last year a woman who vehemently disagrees with making light of rape in any way, heckled Daniel Tosh during his stand-up act. According to Doyle, Tosh retaliated by threatening the woman with rape. Doyle goes on to detail her disgust upon learning that comics across the country were coming to Tosh’s defense. She says, “…This is how it goes, between female comedy fans – especially feminists – and male stand-up comics. Let’s be entirely clear here: These are grown men who get paid money to stand in front of an audience and say, quite literally, whatever they want, as long as they think it’s funny. And yet when women talk back, especially if it’s not flattering, we’re “idiots,” pigs, better off raped, or better off dead.”
It was at about this point in my reading that I noticed the tension that had built up in my jaw. My initial thought was that Sady Doyle was wrong because no one should be talking back during a comedy show to begin with. It’s called heckling and it makes you the asshole. This was also about the time that I started questioning my loyalty to the Feminist cause.
You see, I’ve been a life-long fan of stand-up. I’ve loved laughing, at all the “wrong” things, for as long as I can remember. Hell, Richard Pryor taught me to curse, Bill Cosby taught me that there’s a time and place for everything and Ellen DeGeneres taught me that a spaz doesn’t need to hide her spazziness to make it in this crazy world. Comedy got me through the shittiest of times and because of that, I will always respect the power of a sincere laugh. I’m also a feminist though and comics make fun of women a lot, which sucks. It sucks because I worry about my rights as an American woman and I don’t want to support people or things that make a mockery of my beliefs.
All I need are a few good laughs. What I want is to know that I will always have the right to choose what I can do with and to my own body. I also want to make just as much money as the guy next to me, who does exactly the same job I do. I want to know that the world has finally accepted that any jerk cannot just roll up on me and rape the shit out of me, whenever he feels so inclined. I want the people of the world to accept that even if a woman goes out butt-ass naked, she’s still NOT asking for it (No, you are NOT irresistible, we do not want the D. Get the fuck outta here with that shit.).
Now, if you’re not an avid comedy fan, you might not see the conundrum. As previously stated, in comedy, women are frequently looked at as a punch line. We get ‘fucked’ metaphorically in that we’re the weaker ones, so we get called names and we’re put down. Sometimes, we’re even physically abused in jokes, just to get a laugh. It’s pretty messed up, I know. I’m also pretty sure a lot of the comics, that tell these jokes, know it too. I’m willing to bet that some of them make these jokes to underscore the hypocrisy and bring light to these important issues. No all, but some and that’s all we need. Ultimately, I feel that comedy isn’t just about the laugh even if it’s mostly about laughs.
While it does suck to get made fun of, beaten up and humiliated as a gender for laughs, it sucks far more not to be able to turn heavy shit into light-hearted laughter. I don’t know about you, but laughing at the fuckedupness of the world helps me to not slit my wrists. Additionally, if I couldn’t let off some steam by telling a joke or laughing at one, I’d likely have been certified insane by now.
After a period of contemplation, I deduced that comedy and feminism, two vastly different concepts, can indeed exist symbiotically in my loony bin of a mind. If you disagree, I’m not quite sure how you opened a tiny door into my head, but I can tell you right now, John Malkovich is probably way more interesting, so back away. Don’t worry; I’m no less committed to women’s rights when I’m laughing at Daniel Tosh’s tacky jokes. The laughs just makes me a feminist with a good sense of humor.
What I’m saying is this:
I understand that folks have heard this a million times, but comedy is indeed meant to push buttons. Comedy is there for good times and laughs. The catch is that those laughs are to be had at everyone’s expense, equally. Nothing is off limits. Comedy, much like music, is everywhere and ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
What’s obvious to me may not be obvious to everyone else though, so I think it’s time to clarify why I think Sam Morril’s all aces and the woman who heckled Daniel Tosh, got what she deserved.
First thing’s first. Sam Morril took the time to respond, when someone randomly posted a link to a disparaging article about him, online. He wasn’t rude or curt; he was forthcoming and willing to take a beating to defend his work. I found that to be the honorable thing to do and I respect him for doing so. While I’m not a fan of his act, I would be willing to see a live performance in order to formulate a more informed opinion. I’m not one to like a comic who is heavy handed with the rapey jokes, but that’s just personal preference, you never know.
Now, Daniel Tosh:
How can I defend the guy that comes off as a total asshole with his sophomoric humor and offensive jokes? Well, I suppose I can laugh because he’s funny. Believe me, I want to hate on the guy every time he makes a racist, Mexican joke that gets under my skin, but instead I just laugh and laugh. In case you missed it the first time, I laugh because he’s funny and this is comedy after all.
While we can’t be certain if Daniel Tosh is an actual asshole or if he just plays one on T.V., we can be sure that he’s a stand-up comic. As such, it is his job is to get up on stage and make an audience laugh. Our job as comedy-club-goers is to STFU and enjoy the show. Laugh when merited and show some respect, that’s all the comics ask. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t interact should one of them single you out during their act. Go for it; you might have fun. Nevertheless, you should have the decency to respect the person you’ve paid money to see perform. He / She is an entertainer and this is their show. Upon purchasing a ticket you enter into an unspoken contract. You watch the show respectfully and they’ll do their best to show you a good time.
You wouldn’t voice your aversion to a particular song choice while watching a Broadway musical because that song came off as offensive, would you? No, odds are, you wouldn’t. If a racial slur is dropped in a movie and it offends you, you’re likely not going to complain to management. Why then, would you heckle a comic and drop a reality-bomb of flaming dog shit, smack in the middle of their set? This is what confuses me.
To the lady who heckled Tosh last year:
How disrespectful are you to shit on the person trying to make you laugh? Additionally, you went into a show built around an establishment where the Aristocrats joke is legend and measure of comedic ability, what the fuck were you expecting? Don’t get me wrong, I agree in that rape is wrong. Rape is fucked up and no means no. Nevertheless, rape isn’t what’s going on here, its comedy. Settle down; you needn’t give a plethora of fucks. All you need to do is quietly gather your things and walk out. That way you can (at the very least) respect everyone else who showed up and is having a good time.
I don’t know about you, but I find that the best way to show a comic that I don’t like their work is by not buying tickets to their shows, not purchasing any of their merchandise and refraining from watching any of their T.V. shows or movies. Withholding funds is most effective; you should give it a try.
In other words, unless Daniel Tosh showed up at your work place and started pointing out all your mistakes, you have no right to fuck with his act. It’s rude and disrespectful. If you’re not into it, leave or better yet, don’t go in the first place. Take the five minutes necessary to Google a comic’s name on your smart phone before you buy tickets to a comedy show. Give stand-up comedy and comics the respect they deserve for putting their shit on the line for a laugh. I cannot imagine the courage it must take to face a crowd of drinkers who are looking for funny. I have witnessed many a bomb on stage and man, that is some tragic shit.
To my feminist friends, I don’t think this is a case of men simply shutting silly girls up. Maybe, just maybe we need to calm our tits (yeah I said it) and take a step back. Laughing at what most frustrates me, always makes me feel better so I don’t know why you continue to resist. Sure it’s hard to be a female comedy fan, but the laughs wouldn’t be so gratifying if you didn’t have to work for them. Besides, I don’t think laughing at ourselves makes us any less effective it just makes us more human.