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.