It’s old news now, but an idea has been nipping at me for some time. There was a surprising dust up involving the comedian Daniel Tosh and a blogger that responded to a joke about rape. There are many details about the two that are almost irrelevant to the story because it became a story about the story. The blogger argued that jokes about rape are never funny. Her post got passed around and suddenly much higher profile comedians than Daniel Tosh like Louis CK and Dane Cook are taking to Twitter to defend Tosh’s right to make rape jokes. Suddenly people are arguing about free speech and the value of the comic’s place to push the envelope, blah, blah, blah.
Really, the whole thing was strangely obtuse. Mostly because there was a singular important piece the theoretical dispute was ignoring: the joke wasn’t funny. And his attempt at the time to make lemonade out of the lemons was to double-down on the unfunny. To me, this is more important to the conversation than the theoretical question of whether a joke is ever funny, because this one, and the spirit with which it was told, wasn’t.
This means that comedians, whose job it is to be funny truth-tellers, swoop in and become douche defenders. Through the lens of unfunny jokes being defended without humor by people who tell jokes for a living almost proves the blogger’s point for her, doesn’t it? That if rape jokes were funny, wouldn’t we suddenly have a whole slew of rape jokes that we are all passing around Facebook as we LOL? I heard one funny joke in the aftermath; it was by Louis CK, and it turned the lens from the violence onto the depravity of the rapist. Doesn’t this one joke itself prove the blogger’s point?
It is easy for people to jump on the platitudes. She said rape jokes are “never” funny and most people can imagine that it is possible to find them funny. But that argument totally misses the blogger’s point. Rape isn’t funny. What is funny is the comedians’ free speech fundamentalism. Because in the end, it all boils down to the fact that the joke wasn’t funny. And neither were they.