US comic in hot water over rape joke

Daniel Tosh apologises

Comedian Daniel Tosh has apologised for making a rape joke – in a routine that was supposed to be about how it’s OK to make light of dark subjects.

Tosh became the subject of intense pressure online after an anonymous blogger described how she was offended by his routine at Hollywood’s Laugh Factory on Friday.

She said Tosh – who hosts his own US Comedy Central show Tosh.0 – made so many jokes about rape being hilarious that she felt provoked to heckle: ‘Actually, rape jokes are never funny!’

According to the anonymous punter, Tosh hit back with: ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, five guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…’

She said she was humiliated by the comments and left, adding: ‘Having to basically flee while Tosh was enthusing about how hilarious it would be if I was gang-raped in that small, claustrophic room was pretty viscerally terrifying and threatening... even if the actual scenario was unlikely to take place. The suggestion of it is violent enough and was meant to put me in my place.’

And she said that she yelled out in the first place because ‘I felt that sitting there and saying nothing, or leaving quietly, would have been against my values as a person and as a woman. I don’t sit there while someone tells me how I should feel about something as profound and damaging as rape.’

Her blog was widely circulated on the internet, prompting Tosh to apologise – even though he said the heckler’s account paints an inaccurate picture.

‘All the out of context misquotes aside, I'd like to sincerely apologize,’ he tweeted, linking back to the blog. ‘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.’

Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada said Tosh had not targeted the woman as directly as the blog made out – although admitted: ‘I really didn’t hear properly’

According to his account, Tosh asked the audience, ‘What you guys want to talk about?’ After someone said ‘rape,’ a woman yelled: ‘No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it.’ Then Tosh said something along the lines of: 'Well it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys.’

Masada said: ‘It was a comment; it wasn’t a joke at the expense of this girl.’

The club owner added that after 32 years in the business, he has noticed customers becoming increasingly quick to take offence, with one recent customer complaining after a comic called them fat.

The club became infamous when Seinfeld star Michael Richards launched a racist tirade there six years ago, but Masada said: ‘Michael Richards came from hatred. Daniel Tosh did not. It was a joke and that’s what comedians do.’

Published: 11 Jul 2012

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