Daniel Tosh Rape Joke Controversy: Fellow Comics Rally Around Embattled TV Host

By: Nicholas White / July 12, 2012

Funny Faces
Hilarity ensues on the red carpet!
Daniel Tosh may (or may not, even) be guilty of a bad joke. But he doesn’t deserve to be castigated, according to some of L.A.’s top comics — or even mentioned in the same breath as Michael Richards‘ infamous onstage racial tirade in 2006.

“It’s a comedy show and it’s Daniel Tosh — you’re going to laugh and be offended at times, comes with the territory,” says Iliza Schlesinger, a regular headliner at West Hollywood’s Laugh Factory.

Last Friday at Laugh Factory, Comedy Central “Tosh.O” star Tosh gave a controversial routine about rape that drew the ire of some audience members.

“You think Daniel doesn’t know rape is horrible? Most of comedy is based on something horrible,” Schlesinger tells Celebuzz. “When that woman heckled him from the audience, the joke became less about rape and more about silencing an audience member who dared challenge him — something no comic would back down from. Rape isn’t funny. But, neither is heckling a comic.”

Adds Schlesinger, who hosts the syndicated CBS dating show Excused, adds,  “Comics can be cavalier in making fun of it or other horrible things like AIDS, simply because it’s not something that we deal with on a daily basis. Well, some of us. I’m sure there are a lot of comics who have been raped, actually. The fact remains that you will always offend someone.”

A rape joke, particularly one from a comedian popular in the stand-up community, as Tosh is, is not an impeachable offense, says comedian Hasan Minaj.

“To call him out for being absurd or shocking now really isn’t fair, considering he’s been doing jokes like that for his entire career,” he says. “Standup comics have certain personas on stage. Comics like Daniel Tosh err on the side of absurdity and shock humor.”

On Wednesday, a blog entry on a personal Website called Cookies for Breakfast, recanted a story of a pair of friends stopping into the Laugh Factory July 6 for a Dane Cook show. After Cook’s performance was the Tosh set. Famous comics — Chris Rock, for example — are often known for stopping in at the Laugh Factory for impromptu sets.

The blog post — which was unattributed — told an ugly scene of a “rape” joke gone wrong, when a heckler got involved with Tosh’s set.

“So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious,” the blogger wrote.

“I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it, but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. I didn’t appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, ‘Actually, rape jokes are never funny!’”

The writer, who said she was female, continued:

After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…’ and I, completely stunned and finding it hard to process what was happening but knowing i needed to get out of there, immediately nudged my friend, who was also completely stunned, and we high-tailed it out of there. It was humiliating, of course, especially as the audience guffawed in response to Tosh, their eyes following us as we made our way out of there. I didn’t hear the rest of what he said about me.

Tosh apologized Tuesday on his Twitter for the incident, after news accounts hit the Web.

The landmark Sunset Blvd. comedy club Laugh Factory has become a common site of controversy in recent years — primarily for comics who have high profile wipeouts with edgy material. Besides Tosh, Michael Richards notoriously put his career on ice in 2006 after a “n-word” racist tirade (see video below) — which resulted in club owner Jamie Masada banning the word from the club — and singer John Mayer has given a risque set.

Similar to Richards, Tosh was implicated by social media — video for Richards, blog for Tosh — though comedians say any similarities between the two incidents are specious.

“There are a bunch of differences between Tosh and Michael Richards,” says “Last Comic Standing” finalist and “Conan” regular guest Myq Kaplan. “#1, Michael Richards was never a stand-up at all. He was a very talented sketch and improv actor and comedian, but he certainly hadn’t been doing stand-up for years and years. The similarity is giving a generous reading to what Michael Richards was doing, they perceived somebody disrespected their show, so they say, ‘Now I will do the worst thing to you I can do.'”

Do you think Tosh went too far? Add your comment, below.