Published July 11, 2012
You can get away with a lot when it comes to stand-up comedy, but only to a point.
The humor turned sour during Daniel Tosh’s performance at L.A.’s famed “Laugh Factory” last Friday after Tosh allegedly directed a harsh rape “joke” at a female audience member, who later anonymously blogged about the incident in a Tumblr post entitled “A Girl Walks into a Comedy Club.”
The author claims that she yelled from the audience “rape jokes are never funny!” after Tosh made a general remark about rape jokes always being amusing. From there, he took things up a notch or two.
The anonymous audience member wrote on her blog: “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.”
After the blog post gained traction, Tosh came out and issued an apology via Twitter on Wednesday.
“All the out of context misquotes aside, I’d like to sincerely apologize,” he tweeted to his 6,139,000 followers. "The point I was making before I was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them."
Katherine Hull, a spokesperson for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) was not amused.
“When will this 'funny man' realize that rape jokes aren’t funny? By suggesting that an audience member deserved to be gang raped, Tosh took his shtick to a new low. Applause is due to the woman who had the guts to vocalize what many in room were thinking,” she told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column.
However, “Laugh Factory” owner Jamie Masada, who was reportedly present during the showdown, has a slightly different version of events, telling Buzzfeed that he asked the audience what they wanted to talk about, and one viewer piped up “rape.”
“Daniel came in, and he said, ‘Well it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys’ – something like that. I didn’t really hear properly,” Masada said, adding that the female audience member who said he left in fact stayed for the duration of the set, and did not complain to management until after the show had wrapped.
But according to Ashley-Michelle Arnold, a site administrator of the non-profit message board After Silence, a collective chat space for rape and abuse survivors, none of that matters.
“When your punch line comes from a horrific experience, there's nothing funny about it. Right now, defenders are spinning it that the woman wasn't really offended, as if that somehow makes it OK because she was the subject, after all. However, it doesn't work like that; humor that trivializes what is one of the most horrific experiences a human being can inflict another doesn't get a green pass simply because the intended target didn't gratify Tosh's disgusting punch line,” she said. “Comedy should be used to entertain people, and to educate them. Jokes that turn violence into a caricature do neither and, in fact, contribute to the stigma which blame survivors for being victimized and downplay how severely it can impact a life.”