Honestly, a comedian apologizing about a rape joke like Daniel Tosh just did, then the Internet proclaiming that you can’t ever make rape jokes is a story we could give a fuck less about. We feel that crass about it to say it exactly like that since we, yet again, have to address the fact that there is no such thing as a “taboo topic” in comedy. There are ways to joke about anything, no matter how loathsome as it might seem, and, of course, there are ways to just say shocking things in the conventional cadence of a joke, then get yourself instantly vilified.
We hate when comedians apologize. Apologies in comedy are tragic as it’s explicit defeat. The mark of a great comedian is never having to apologize for what they were saying because they believe in, not necessarily the suggested morals/values of their joke, but the humor of it. If even 30% of comedians actually legitimately believed in the actual philosophy of half of their bits, they should be tied to the padded walls of the asylum they were committed to. Alas, that’s not the case. In fact, most comedians willingly go to therapy and not end up in mental institutions.
Last night at Performance Anxiety, a stand-up show that takes place in a sex toy store, we saw Ian Edwards do a bit referencing rape and a woman seated behind us sheepishly whispered, “Oh my god, I can’t hear this,” which cued a unified sigh from all of us as we thought, “She’s about to say that rape isn’t funny.” Yet, by the end of Edward’s well crafted bit, she was doubling over in laughter.
Two things happened there to illicit laughter from this woman who was, initially, deeply offended by this rape joke:
1) This person remembered they were at a comedy show and she is hearing jokes, not manifestos from a soapbox.
2) The comedian wrote and performed a solid joke.
With those two elements in play at a comedy show, anything can be put in a context where it will get laughs. It’s usually when one or both of those things are absent from the equation that things go awry at all.