The Absurdity In It All…
I didn’t realize when I wrote yesterdays post that the Daniel Tosh story was gonna keep growing like this, which proves only one thing: That I am naive as shit regarding what the collective public will choose to care about at any given moment. But that’s neither here nor there. More to the point, I got a few responses yesterday from people who made me realize that there is a broader issue to be addressed here. One that I will try to tap into now.
Humor is, and always has been, the single most subjective topic in the history of the world. The seven billion human beings on the planet right now each have seven billion unique senses of humor. No two are alike. Humor is also an all-or-nothing proposition. Meaning that if you find something funny, then you find it funny. If you don’t, then you never will. And no one will ever be able to change your mind one way or another. It is the single most useless topic on the planet to argue about. More pointless than religion, or politics, or sports. Simply because each persons idea of what is funny is a culmination of their lifestyle, their upbringing, their surroundings, their experiences, and their mindset. All of those factors come into play each and every time your subconscious has to decide whether something is hilariously funny, painfully boring, or even frustratingly offensive. Having said all that, let’s try to have a conversation about humor.
My main point yesterday was that the idiot woman in the story had absolutely zero fucking business making a scene in the middle of a comedic performance that she found offensive. So far, not many people have disagreed with me on that point. It was selfish, and self-centered, self-righteous and just about any other adjective that starts with “self”. OK. Point made. It was the other point that was made to me by several respondents, as well as many who are talking about the story nationally, that I take issue with. Let me start by giving you a verbatim look at a response “Lauren” sent me yesterday:
The woman should never have disrupted the performance but simply walked out if she didn’t like it. I like Dane Cook and Daniel Tosh and would probably have gone to see them had I gotten the chance. Tosh, however, needs to learn that some things just are not funny. I enjoy watching his show and like him most of the time but sexual assault is never humerous. He lost points on that one.
OK, I will take issue with one sentence from this comment. Well, two. Cause I’m sorry, but Dane Cook suuuucccckkkksss, but that’s beside the point here. My problem specifically is with this sentence:
Sexual assault is never humorous.
I actually have two issues with this one sentence. First of all, it is simply not true. I certainly don’t believe that and my guess, and it’s only a guess because I don’t know Lauren personally, is that she doesn’t really believe that either. Why is that statement so inaccurate? Because we, as a society, find sexual assault funny all the time. All the time. Have you ever found a prison rape joke funny? How about a Michael Jackson joke? Did you storm out of the movie theater when Marcellus Wallace was being raped by a cop and a pawn shop clerk in “Pulp Fiction”? How about when Ned Beatty was being chased around the West Virgina woods being commanded to “squeal like a pig” in his underwear in “Deliverance”? Those last two movie scenes are probably as fondly remembered and laughed about as just about any scene in movie history. So sexual assault can be funny. It just needs the proper circumstances and context. Hmmm, Context. Remember that. It’s gonna be important a little later on down below.
My second problem with Laurens statement is that it is missing two words that are vital, especially to the point I was making in yesterday’s post. Those two words? “To me”. Those two words need to be properly placed at the end of that statement. “Sexual assault is never humorous to me.” That is a very important distinction because, as was my point yesterday, you don’t really get to say what is “never” funny to anyone else. Only to you . See, you get decide what is offensive to you, and I get to decide what is offensive to me. And you don’t speak for me, and I don’t speak for you. That’s the deal. And I’m sorry, but it’s non-negotiable. I will never abdicate my right to decide what is funny, or offensive, to anyone else. It is my decision, and mine alone. And to be honest, I don’t think any subject is “never” funny. With the proper tone and context, anything can be joked about. Rape, racism, religion, death, illness, hatred. It can all be funny, if handled properly and the timing is right. Which brings me to the real point of this lengthy rant.
There is humor in the absurd. Absurdity itself can be, and often is, funny. This has been true in stand-up comedy since its inception. Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Rodney Dangerfield, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, Andrew Dice Clay. The biggest names in comedy through the years have all made their names by turning the absurd into comedy, with no subject being taboo. This practice is carried on today by the biggest and best names in comedy. Jim Norton, Louis CK, Reverend Bob Levy, Artie Lang, Ricky Gervais, Lisa Lampanelli, Jim Florentine and yes, even Daniel Tosh, have all delivered this style into the new century brilliantly. It is the absurd that makes them funny. Does anyone really think that Tosh finds the act of rape laughable? Or that Louis CK “hates” his wife and kids? Or that Jim Norton patronizes transsexual message therapists who piss on his face? OK, I think that one is actually true. But as to the rest of them, it’s all satire, and is meant to be absurd, and funny. Tosh was making an absurd statement because many of us appreciate the comedy in it. Hell, Howard Stern has made himself a millionaire a few hundred times over by being outrageous. Opie and Anthony picked up the slack perfectly once Stern lost the edge and have been consistently killing it for the last fifteen years. It’s called satire, and they do it as well as just about anyone else.
In fact, this very website has been based almost entirely on satirical and often profane humor. I talk loosely about things like race, religion and physical deformities all the time. However, it is always done assuming that you, the reader, understand the distinction between comedy and reality. Its shtick. Some people enjoy it, many, many don’t. And that’s fine. I knew when I started this site that it was never going to become wildly popular, mainly because of the content and how it is presented. I have a particular sense of humor that some enjoy, and many more don’t. The great thing is that no one ever forces you to come here. So the minute you decide to tap out, go ahead and leave. No hard feelings. You go your way, and I’ll go mine.
What I will never do is “tone it down”. And I will drop fucking dead right where I sit before I ever apologize for anything I say in an attempt to be funny. I was heart-broken when Daniel Tosh apologized yesterday. Mainly because it validates every asshole who feels they have the right to not be offended. Oh, I hurt your feelings? Too fucking bad. The only right you have is to change the channel, or turn off the radio station, or cease to patronize my site. That’s it. Whoever told you that your feelings were never going to be hurt in life lied to you. Blame them. not me.
So bottom line is this: Somethings is out-of-bounds for you or “goes too far”? Then walk away. Just keep your mouth shut while you do it…
Oh, and when you heckle a comedian, he is going to be mean to you. because you are interrupting his performance. Comedy shows rely heavily on rhythm and flow, and when some “look-at-me” asshole in the audience feels the need to destroy the flow, the comedian is going to eviscerate him or her. He isn’t really trying to be funny at that point. He wants to shut you the fuck up as fast as possible, and will use any means necessary. Tosh looked at this idiot and decided the best way to cut her off at the legs was to exploit the rape angle. And it worked, cause she left. A few years ago, Michael Richards was being heckled by two black guys in the front row of his show. He immediately responded by calling them the one thing he knew would silence them immediately. “Niggers”. The country labeled him a racist but that wasnt accurate. He didn’t call them niggers because he hates black people. He called those two guys niggers specifically because he knew that would anger them and either shut them up, or cause them to erupt and get them to get themselves thrown out of the club. Either way, they wouldn’t be interfering with his show again that evening. As far as I’m concerned, those two guys and the woman at Tosh’s show got exactly the treatment they deserved.
(By the way, I only pointed out Lauren because she specifically gave me permission to, which I appreciate. There were others that expressed similar opinions but didn’t get back to me in time with their blessing to include in this rant. I have tried, and hopefully succeeded, in treating Laurens response with the respect and attention it deserves. Anyone who has the guts to stand up and debate deserves to be treated respectfully in kind.)