Patton Oswalt Jumps (Foolishly) To Daniel Tosh's Defense
(Warning: The following contains opinion. It is strictly mine, and is not to be held up as the opinion at large of Yidio.com staff and ownership.)
I really don't think Patton Oswalt gets it.
Though it's about as likely that he'll stumble across thie piece as $10 million will wear a hole in and break through my apartment ceiling, let's clarify this issue once more: when someone who gets paid to be funny thinks is would be high-f**king-larious to even JOKE about finding humor in gang-rape upon an audience member, expect the "feedback" to be a many-splendored thing.
There is indeed a time-honored tradition in stand-up of comedians heaping a little gentle abuse upon audience members. Actually, D.L. Hughley is among the best at it working today, and it's always met with his marks realizing they're in on the rib and taking amusement. On the other hand, Oswalt is among the best in comedy at mining inconsiderate or just outright heckling audience members for improvisational laughs rather than letting his on-stage rhythm be thrown.
In comedy, it's open season for both sides. The audience can and often will bust a performer's chops, but every gunslinger eventually meets a faster gun. Lay into the wrong comic, and he or she will put multiple shots into you before you hit the ground. In this case, Tosh went "overkill" and the audience member that fired back at him in self-defense had one more round in the cylinder than he expected.
For the people who missed out earlier this week, Comedy Central's "Tosh.0" star quipped during a recent Laugh Factory set that rape is apparently funny, so very, very funny. An female audience member loudly and directly told him that it is in fact never funny. It is never, ever funny. Tosh fired back - disturbingly, to the open laughter of his audience - that "it would be funny if [she] got raped by five guys." She went directly to management, who did little more than apologize and offer her free passes, though the distraught woman was told it would be understandable if she wanted never to return.
(NOTE: I'm aware that Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada has claimed both that Tosh actually said something to the effect of "Well, it sounds like she's been raped by five guys" and that she stayed for the entire set, as opposed to walking out immediately as the initial Tumblr post claims. To quote that post, "So A Girl Walks Into A Comedy Club":
After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, 'Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…' and I, completely stunned and finding it hard to process what was happening but knowing I needed to get out of there, immediately nudged my friend, who was also completely stunned, and we high-tailed it out of there. It was humiliating, of course, especially as the audience guffawed in response to Tosh, their eyes following us as we made our way out of there. I didn’t hear the rest of what he said about me.
Please, do tell how Masada's take on what Tosh actually said is any more defensible, or how significant it is that she stayed for the entire set - probably since, supposing she stayed, walking out would've only given Tosh more ammunition? Seriously. Let's hear it.)
Then word hit the Internet. Then the Internet closed in on Tosh.
Now, The Huffington Post reported Sunday, Oswalt is claiming the outcry doesn't befit Tosh's offense against women.
"Obviously I don't agree with what he said, and I don't agree with the way he said it, but there's something really, really dangerous about [reacting to] something you don't like by shouting it down so it's not heard," Oswalt said of response to Tosh's "despicable" material. "It's no different than what radical Christians, anti-gay assholes and pro-life people do. They try to yell things out of existence."
In fact, Oswalt himself has grown excessively snarky with his belief that Tosh has been unfairly bullied into a public Mea culpa (which he's issued.)
Wow, @danieltosh had to apologize to a self-aggrandizing, idiotic blogger. Hope I never have to do that (again).— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) July 11, 2012
Yeah, Patton, no.
Oswalt himself this past January was lambasted in a blog post because he laid into a heckler who was recording his newest material without his consent. Once video of the exchange between Oswalt and the recording individual hit the Internet, Oswalt likewise apologized.
"It's very dangerous to create an atmosphere where people can't f**k up onstage, and it costs them their life or career," Oswalt told Entertainment Weekly.
Actually, that's where it's completely fair.
See, though they're often thin and blurred in our times, there are desert lines past which no humor grows. One of them is called "rape" - a violent crime not only against an individual physically, but an assault upon a person's basic human dignity. Every now and then, someone or other thinks he or she is the special f**king snowflake that can bring the rain and make laughter thrive on this ground. It never works as planned, because an assault such as that is never, ever to be taken lightly.
People with common sense understand this. Comedians who wish to remain gainfully employed, exponentially more so.
The comic's stock and trade is to make me people laugh. It's to engender a good time. Yes, they're artists in every sense of the word, but this territory exists within every performing art form: one can create art willfully that others may find distasteful, but one inherently does so accepting that willfully creating something people loathe doesn't always open doors to continued gainful employment.
So yes, Patton, it is in fact completely, absolutely fair that if one knowingly accepts the gamble that material will probably be found disturbingly offensive, one understands that one is playing fast and loose with one's livelihood. There's certainly no law on the books barring what Tosh said. But in a sense, it's a self-policing scenario. He gets paid to make people laugh. He made a joke that even Oswalt couldn't condone. The client - whose ticket purchase put money in the awkward jack-hole's pocket - informed the venue management that he crossed a serious line.
There's a clear difference between what Oswalt did and what Tosh did. In Oswalt's case, he was absolutely in the right; he was protecting his material from being released where it could be copied and stolen before it could ever earn him the continued living it was meant to earn.
In this case, the people spoke: what Tosh said was absolutely not funny.
Word of mouth, at least in this case, is absolutely not unfair. That's what this is: word of mouth. It's the equivalent to numerous very, very bad reviews. The masses are speaking: this isn't funny.
It is absolutely, completely, 100-percent fair for Tosh to take this on the chin. If he has a career after this episode - that is to say, if Comedy Central doesn't yank his ass off the air faster than some women pluck their eyebrows - then hopefully, the message will have gotten across.
Don't joke about rape.
In the meantime, he's perfectly welcome to joke about it all he wants. We're all also welcome to have less than nothing to do with him if he chooses to do so