Daniel Tosh and the “rape gag”

A lot of tweeting and general discussion about Daniel Tosh’s “rape gag” has gone on after a female audience member was offended by his questionable material about rape “always being funny”.  I’m generally for comedians being able to mine whatever subject they choose in order to not only elicit laughs from their audience but challenge taboo subjects and potentially make their audience look at their views and attitudes, but fundamentally this is not a subject many would, or perhaps should, find amusing.  That said, Frankie Boyle notoriously talks about child abuse (a lot) and Joan Rivers has material about the Holocaust that many would say is a innately unfunny area – however i don’t think either has ever suggested such topics are “always funny”.

The fact that the woman in question was offended enough to be moved to heckle says something in itself, and I am personally surprised that Tosh was unprepared for resistance to this type of material, and that his response to her obvious distaste was to joke about how hilarious it would be if the female heckler was gang raped, which as a put down seems a step and a half too far.  Ultimately his routine sounded decidedly unfunny and appeared to offer no justification for choosing the subject, other than for shock value.  I haven’t seen his set, so perhaps I shouldn’t comment, but with approx. 230 rapes a day in the UK (and fewer than 1 in 100 victims successfully convicting their attacker) it seems to me that it is a subject you shouldn’t touch without seriously considering what you are talking about.


About Deborah Klayman

Deborah is an actress, musician, voice artist and writer based in the UK. She trained at the University of Northumbria, where she gained a 1st Class BA (Hons) in Performance, and at Drama Studio London (Postgraduate Diploma in Acting). Deborah has performed in the UK and overseas in a variety of roles which include Emilia in 'Othello' and Juliana Tesman in 'Hedda Gabler' in rep, Regan in 'King Lear', Mrs Pugh/Polly Garter in 'Under Milk Wood' and Fluellen/Alice in Henry V. An accomplished cellist and singer, the projects she undertakes frequently utilise her musical talents. Film and TV roles include: Geordie in a TV pilot for 'Dead Man's Cardy', Reporter in 'Mission London', Sarah in 'For Better or Worse', and Nurse Tremaine in 'Another Day. Deborah is also a successful voice artist, recording projects for companies such as M&C Saatchi/Silverfish Media, BP, Oxford University Press and The Scottish Sunday Express. Deborah is a talented writer, penning plays and screenplays primarily on issues surrounding social justice. Her first play, 'Janetarium', was one of three selected through the Traverse Theatre's Class Act project and was subsequently staged at the Traverse and published in Theatre Scotland Magazine. She later joined the theatre's Young Writers Group, and continued to write and devise plays throughout her university and drama school training. In 2005, she co-authored "Eve & Lilith" with Jessica Martenson which was produced at that year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 2011, Deborah co-founded Whoop 'n' Wail Theatre Company with friend, collaborator and writing partner Ali Kemp. Their debut production, 'eXclusion', was produced in association with UK charity Women In Prison and toured to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, London's Waterloo East Theatre, and Bracknell's South Hill Park Arts Centre. Their latest venture, "Whoop 'n' Wail Represents...", showcases new writing that puts gender equality centre stage, working with even numbers of female and male writers and directors to stage plays that pass the Bechdel Test. Deborah was one of the Traverse Theatre's 'Traverse Fifty' (a year-long writing attachment in 2013), and Whoop 'n' Wail's play 'My Bloody Laundrette' recently won the Cambridge University Press "Channel the Bard" competition. View all posts by Deborah Klayman

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