It’s bad enough that Daniel Tosh started talking about how funny rape jokes are. I’ll admit, that’s about the level of “humor” you’d expect from a man whose TV series consists of him showing YouTube videos and saying, “Hey, these people are dumbasses,” but it’s still a level of humor that you normally expect from that one guy in the fraternity who doesn’t realize that awkward silence doesn’t actually mean they’re secretly agreeing with you and don’t want to admit it. It is far, far worse when someone in the audience finally got fed up with how much of a worthless shit of a human being he was and called him on it, he responded by suggesting it would be funny if that person was gang-raped by the rest of the audience. (I sincerely hope that all of you are responding with, “Wait, he did what now?”) These things are terrible, but I will admit that my opinion of Daniel Tosh was already low enough that finding out he was inciting people to sexual assualt did not actually do much to make me think less of him.
I will admit, it made me think quite a bit less of talented comedians like Louis C.K. and Patton Oswalt to find out that they were defending this as an exercise of free speech. Because while the initial monologue is free speech and must be defended as such, his response to the heckler would have to be considered as incitement to violence, which is not constitutionally protected. (You could, I suppose, argue that while his statement was clearly “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action”, it was not “likely to incite or produce such action”. But given that the woman felt threatened enough to immediately leave the building, I would say that Tosh has no more grounds to his defense than I would if I was in the audience and started shouting about how funny it would be if we all started throwing our glasses at the stage. A room full of mildly intoxicated people is enough of a twitchy thing that I’d say any comments inciting them to violence are a terrible mistake.)
But here is the lesson for today: FOR FUCK’S SAKE, people, if you do hear about this, and you absolutely must feel compelled to defend Tosh’s actions as anything other than, “Have you seen this guy? He’s so coked up he doesn’t know what he’s doing half the time! If he has pants on, it’s a good day for him! You can’t take anything that comes out of his mouth as being meaningful; it’s like getting mad at the chimp for throwing shit at you! He’s never going to learn to behave like a civilized human being, and at least putting him on stage at a comedy club keeps him off the streets…”
…then please, do not fucking argue, “Well, she was a heckler, and heckling is such a social faux pas that people who do it deserve to be humiliated by the comedian that they just insulted. After all, Don Rickles and George Carlin and Richard Pryor did that kind of thing all the time!” Because saying this is a very good sign that you are not a decent human being, and if you find that statement leaping to mind as your defense, it is time to sit down for some serious introspection. (Michael Richards quit stand-up and went to Angkor Wat. I’m not suggesting that you go to Cambodian temples to get your head straight, but there are probably some very nice Buddhists in your own home country who can help.)
Because Daniel Tosh did not humiliate that woman. She did not leave that club as fast as she could because she felt humiliated. She left because she felt threatened. Put as kind a face on it as you want, suggest that the threat was not meant seriously if you feel like it, but Daniel Tosh threatened her for talking back to him. There is no fucking act of speech that should ever get, “I want the people in this room to gang-rape you” as a response. And yeah, this is one of those things that I’m going to act all self-righteous about, because yes, I am better than someone who thinks it’s okay to threaten a woman with sexual assault when she says a comedian isn’t funny. It’s not that high of a bar. And yes, even though people say this about just about everything on the Internet up to and including preferring Nightwing to Batman…disagreeing with that really does make you a worse human being. Sorry if you’re just now finding that out, but better you hear it from me than someone else.