Burgess, Rob 4-21-12.jpg

Rob Burgess4-21-12

Something controversial happened recently in the world of comedy that’s worth examining. For my purposes, the content of the discussion is less interesting than the way it was propagated.

It involves comedian Daniel Tosh, famous for his Comedy Central show, “Tosh.0.” The main point of this program is to make fun of the stars of viral online videos. On July 6, some woman attended one of his comedy shows, during which Tosh made a comment about rape being funny. She heckled him, saying rape was never funny. He retorted with an exponentially more bombastic statement about the heckler being raped. The heckler then went home and posted a Tumblr blog post about it. Tosh then issued half-hearted apology and linked to the heckler’s blog post on his Twitter account. The entire Internet then blew up.

I was going to go this entire column without weighing in on the controversy at hand, but rape is a thorny subject, and I feel it has to be addressed. First off, I may not like what you have to say, but I’ll die for your right to say it. Secondly, the funniest subjects often spring from the most horrible situations. But I part ways with Tosh in that his response to the heckler was small and vicious. I also understand that for women, rape is a much more real threat than it ever will be for me. So I am sensitive to that. And I don’t generally find rape funny.

But the heckler in question claims in her blog post that she didn’t know who Tosh was. However, she did know who Dane Cook was, who was the opener that night. Anyone with a passing familiarity of pop culture knows Dane Cook often plays blue (like in January when, at the same venue, he described using a chainsaw during intercourse.) It’s not like the heckler attended a Bill Cosby show and then was blindsided by his new raunchy material.

So to reiterate: a comedian who has a show about YouTube was heckled by a blogger on Tumblr causing a controversy that then spewed all over Twitter. Sigh. This would have never happened pre-Internet. That’s the beauty of old media: it highlights the important and leaves out the unnecessary. And it isn’t a conversation. Stand-up comedy is a very old media art form. The artist is on a stage talking into the microphone at the audience. That’s it. There’s no comments section. If you’re disruptive, the general, and correct, assumption is that you will be led away by security. This is much the same as print media, radio and television. You’re being fed: Be quiet and eat, or walk away. There’s no third option.

It seems that everything in our society has now become Facebooked. Everyone’s got an opinion and they feel it’s their responsibility to inflict it upon everyone. Maybe instead of looking at the world like a Facebook post with a space waiting for your comment right underneath every situation, the heckler could have really shown Tosh her disapproval by leaving. I find myself constantly assaulted by entertainment that I find distasteful. I choose to deal with it by completely ignoring it. Just ask the Amish about the effectiveness of shunning. Performers would not exist without someone to experience them. Deny an entertainer their audience and the reason for their existence leaves with it.

Personally, I tried to post a link about this Tosh story on my Facebook wall. I wanted to get a general sense of how my friends were feeling about the controversy before I wrote this. I got a couple of normal responses. Then, one of my friends drunkenly attacked one of my other friends instead of answering the question at hand. I had to delete the comment just to keep the peace. And that’s what this whole Tosh controversy is in the end: an Internet flame war brought to life.

So, what do you think?

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