An anonymous audience member at Tosh’s recent Laugh Factory show accused him of making a gang-rape joke at her expense, prompting widespread Internet outrage. But the owner of the club says everything has been blown way out of proportion.
The owner of the Laugh Factory comedy club chain where Daniel Tosh allegedly made a rape joke that offended a female audience member (and that went viral on Tumblr) tells BuzzFeed Shift that the woman’s account is not entirely accurate. According to Jamie Masada, who was in the room at the club in Hollywood, California, on Friday night, Tosh didn’t make a rape joke at the expense of this audience member, who remains anonymous (the author of the Tumblr post who related the story has not responded to request for comment).
Masada says Tosh asked the audience, “What you guys want to talk about?” After someone in the front said “rape,” a woman in the audience started screaming, “No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it.” Then, Masada says, “Daniel came in, and he said, ‘Well it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys’ — something like that. I really didn’t hear properly.”
He continues, “It was a comment — it wasn’t a joke at the expense of this girl.”
Masada says that the woman then sat through the rest of Tosh’s set — which received a standing ovation — before complaining to the manager about Tosh’s joke. The manager apologized, Masada says, and offered her tickets to come back to the Laugh Factory for another performance, which she accepted.
“If you’re offended why would you take a couple tickets to come back to the club again?” he says. “If you were offended, how about the rest of the audience” — 280 people total — “who’s giving a standing ovation?”
Masada has known Daniel Tosh for 10 years and describes him as an “edgy comic” but also “one of the nicest people in the world.”
“I know his character,” Masada continues. “He was trying to make everybody laugh. He was so sweet to find out one person was insulted to apologize about it.” (Tosh tweeted his apologies about the incident to his more than six million followers this afternoon.)
Unlike Michael Richards’s famous racist tirade at the Laugh Factory in 2006, Masada says Tosh’s rape comment wasn’t hateful. “Michael Richards came from hatred. Daniel Tosh did not — it was a joke and that’s what comedians do.”
Having been in business 32 years, Masada says audience members have been getting offended by the shows at a surprisingly high rate lately. He’s recently deflected complaints from customers offended by comics’ jokes about Barack Obama and another customer offended that a comic told him he was “retaining pizza” after he said he was “retaining water.”
“If this is hurtful — this is a comedy club. They don’t mean any harm,” Masada says. “If you don’t want to get insulted don’t go to comedy clubs.”
The number of people who don’t seem to get why it is a problem is a pretty big sign of how embedded the privilege is in society’s consciousness. The problem isn’t that comedy inherently inflicts a hint of harm or that it reduces things to a punchline. The problem is that rape is a form of physical AND emotional violence in and of itself and so adding to that emotional harm makes it all the more painful. That coupled by the very serious issue of it being under reported, difficult to convict with the burden of proof on the victim, and having an ongoing, unresolved history of victims being ignored, publically shamed or and pushed under the rug create a situation where scars that have not been allowed to heal properly worsen and become gaping wounds.
Comedy ~is about not taking yourself too seriously. It can have a healing power as much as it can cut to the quick. But when no one ever takes you seriously to begin with, when the nature of the crime places the victim in a position to potentially be publically ridiculed and shamed and it feels like everyone is already laughing at you, when a non apology from Daniel Tosh makes it apparent that he doesn’t even see WHY it is a problem because “it is just a joke” and an alarming number of people agree with him, you have to admit that these angry people might have a point.
Sometimes, and I cannot reiterate this enough, you don’t get to decide what is a joke, especially if you are not in on it too.
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