There has been a lot of buzz on the internet recently about the incident between comedian Daniel Tosh and a female audience member who was offended by one of his jokes. While I am not an avid user of social networking websites, I do try to keep abreast of the goings-on around me, so I was aware of the uproar. My initial reaction to this was to let it quietly fade into the mists of time, never to be remembered 6 weeks from now.
However, a Facebook post from a friend of mine has prompted this post. He pointed out that I, co-host to a comedy podcast and self-proclaimed comedy theory nerd, and my two cohorts might find it to be an interesting topic of conversation on a future episode.
For better or for worse, I feel that I should break my silence to weigh in on this topic.
It might not be the answer anyone was looking for, though.
My stance on this particular topic is as follows: This is a non-issue, and I legitimately can’t understand why we are talking about it in the first place.
Now, I urge those people who are already three paragraphs into an angry reply filled with typos and ALL CAPS to hear me out before hitting the reply button. If you still disagree with me at the end of this essay, that is your right. That’s part of my point.
The points and counterpoints that are flying throughout cyberspace have a common theme in my eyes: Who was in the wrong? Conversely, if someone was wrong, who was in the right? Was Daniel justified in his comedy, and she needs to deal with it, or is he a bad man who offended a woman who had every right to be offended.
I’ll give you a hint. They are both right. Daniel made a joke. That’s his right. She was offended. That’s her right. Both of their feelings in this matter are legitimate. She’s allowed to be offended, and he’s allowed to feel that he didn’t cross a line. They don’t have to agree. That doesn’t mean that one or the other is wrong. In their own viewpoint, they are right. That is what I meant two paragraphs ago when I said it is your right to disagree with me. We can agree to disagree.
Why was this even brought up in the first place? A comedian said something spur-of-the-moment (which I will get to in a minute) and someone was offended? I have a secret for you: Most comedians offend people. Especially comedians who do edgy comedy. In my decade-long career as an (and I kinda hate the term, but I’ll run with it) “edgy” comedian, I have offended people. I have offended strangers. I have offended my wife. I have offended my parents. It’s not because I’m a bad person, or a bad comedian, it’s that an audience isn’t an amorphous blob of “audience”, an audience is comprised of multiple persons who each have their own unique opinions and senses of humor. I have seen a priest in a church insert humor into his sermon in an attempt to liven up Mass, and later heard little old ladies complain that he “shouldn’t make fun of Jesus”. Is the priest a bad man? No.
Someone being offended at a comedy show happens. It is a fact of life. The only difference in this situation is that instead of going home, complaining about the douchebag comedian to her roommate, and moving on, somehow the media got involved. I am willing to put money down that if news outlets hadn’t gotten a hold of that story, the offended party would have already moved on with her life. And so should we.
Addressing my earlier comment, this joke wasn’t even a part of his set. It was an ad lib in response to a heckler. I feel that this is an important point that has been glossed over. Have you ever come up with the perfect response to a situation five minutes after the person has already left? Why? Because sometimes you don’t think of the right thing to say at that moment. Daniel Tosh said something in response to a heckler (or who he perceived to be a heckler, but I don’t want to get into that). Who’s to say that, five minutes after he got off the stage, he didn’t say to himself “Oh, I should have said THIS, because that thing I said wasn’t funny”? No one.
To close, I restate my thesis: This is a non-issue. It is an unnecessarily combative reaction to a common occurrence which was sparked by an offhanded comment.
Now, anyone who still thinks that I am siding with either Tosh or the audience member has obviously not read a word I wrote. I’m siding with no one. There are NO SIDES.
Can’t we just go back to talking about things that actually ARE important?