Got a lot of requests about this. I didn't want to write about it because there is really no upside. But the more I read other people's comments, the angrier I became. So here we are.
A certain comedian that I used to work for got into "internet trouble" yesterday. I call it internet trouble because it's a story that spreads online, and feels like it's just a way for bloggers to get web traffic. Are they really offended by any of this? I doubt it.
But anyway, if you haven't heard, the basic story (from the heckler's point of view) goes like this:
He's onstage at the Laugh Factory doing his act, and doing a bit about rape. A woman in the audience yells "Rape is never funny!". He responds, "wouldn't it be funny if she got raped by 5 guys right now".
Again, this is from her point of view. It may have gone differently, but whatever.
A shit storm was created. The internet did its outrage thing. People reposted the blog and wrote their own posts about how rape is never funny and the comedian was out of line and a jerk, etc.
First, let me state the obvious: lots of comics do rape jokes. And some of those comics are women. Sarah Silverman being the obvious example. And there was an episode of "Girls" that hinged on Lena Dunham's character telling a rape joke. So let's not pretend like there's this one guy out there doing rape jokes.
You know what else people joke about? 9/11. The Holocaust. People who have been kidnapped. People who have been murdered.
These are horrible things. Certainly, things that are no laughing matter. But we joke about them. Some of those jokes might offend you, others might not. But as a comedian, it's impossible to figure out which are the jokes everyone is okay with.
So if you're offended by a joke, well that's just too bad. Other people might not be, and the joke is for them. Also, they're just words! Who cares?
All comedy is a risk: the audience might not laugh, they might laugh the
wrong way, they might think it's corny, or lame, or offensive,
whatever. It's hard making people laugh! And there's always the risk
that it can go horribly wrong, this is why comedians are maniacs.
My question would be to this woman: are holocaust jokes ever funny? Because if they are, then you obviously hate Jews. Have you ever laughed at a JonBenet Ramsey joke? Then you want little white girls to be killed.
You see what I'm getting at here. She doesn't like rape jokes. Some people do. That doesn't mean they condone rape. It just means it made them laugh. Oftentimes, jokes are told about awful things. It doesn't mean the person is glad the awful thing happened.
So her yelling out at a comedy club at a comedian that rape jokes are never funny is kinda ridiculous. Okay, not kinda, it's totally and completely ridiculous and bullshit behavior. It's not your job to tell everyone else what is funny, they can decide for themselves.
If you're gonna take jokes this hard, you probably shouldn't go to a comedy club in the first place.
A member of the Comedy Police at the website Think Progress has been blogging about this. She writes:
If you’re going to upset a lot of people, and defend upsetting a lot of people, you have to have more than a pedestrian joke to offer up. You have to have a point, and you have to execute it with a high degree of precision.
No, you don't have to. You don't have to do anything. You're on stage, trying to make people laugh. It's hard. This isn't TV or the movies, this is a comedy club. They're trying to get laughs. They're trying to work on their material. They don't HAVE to make the joke suitable to you. This blogger is just like the heckler! "Your joke has to suit my needs!" No, IT DOESN'T!
Now, saying "wouldn't it be funny if she was getting raped right now" isn't a great thing to say to someone, but this didn't take place at her job. It wasn't on the street. It wasn't on the bus.
It was at a comedy club! After she was heckling. Even worse: heckling with a poor argument (see above). Did she expect him to say something nice in reply? "Oh, that's a good point. Rape jokes aren't funny, please allow me to remove it from my act, ma'am".
Have you ever been to a comedy club when someone is heckling? It's the most annoying, uncomfortable experience. We didn't pay to listen to an audience member, we paid to hear the person on stage. And if you don't like what the person on stage is saying, please leave. Comedy clubs don't have locks on the doors. They also aren't rated PG.
Again, comedians are up there fighting for their life. They don't have the luxury of going home, sitting in front of their computer, and crafting an appropriate response. His poorly chosen response came after about 2 seconds of thought to a person who had challenged him in front of a club filled with people. Sorry if it wasn't politically correct.
I understand the insensitivity of it. I understand that she's a woman and rape is horrible and she felt intimidated. That sucks. But that is the risk you take when you shout at a comedian on stage. You're gonna get a response. It wasn't the one you wanted, but guess what? It was never going to be.
One thing is for sure though, arguing about comedy is never funny.