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Not So Funny: Sam Morril’s Rape Jokes and Female Comedy Fans

Posted on Saturday, May 4th, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Author: Sady Doyle

I tried not to embarrass Sam Morril.

To understand how hard this was, for me, I should start at the beginning. Which was: On April 15, I went to a comedy show. The opener was one Sam Morril. And his opener, as per my notes, went as follows: “My ex-girlfriend never made me wear a condom. That’s huge. She was on the pill.” Pause. “Ambien.”

When Sam Morril tells a rape joke, he pauses for a moment, then says some variation on the phrase “that was a rape joke.” He invariably sounds both proud and delighted. I should know. I heard him do it several times.

And it went on. He saw a woman fighting with her boyfriend, and something bad happened to her, and she said it wasn’t funny, but it was. He bothered a girl at a bar, and her friend said that the girl wasn’t interested in him, so he eventually paid someone to punch the woman who had stopped him from hitting on her friend. (Sam Morril is apparently a big fan of stories about women getting physically hurt when they object to the concept of having sex with Sam Morril.) It wasn’t just the occasional rape joke, or the occasional self-congratulation for telling the rape joke, that made the set so exhausting. It was just the steady, relentless, predictable drone of a man whose only punchline was some variation on “I do not like women.” At one point, I flipped him off. Then I flipped him off again. Then my face started developing a nervous twitch. And then we hit the night’s highlight:

“Hey, I’m attracted to black women. Yeah, I had sex with one once.” (Once!) “It was kind of awkward, because the whole time I was fucking her, she kept using the N-word. Yeah, the whole time, she just kept yelling out, no!”

At that point, much like any of Sam Morril’s conscious ex-girlfriends, I just fastened my eyes to the ceiling and waited for him to finish amusing himself.

So I told my editor I was going to confront him. Something big, and rude, and embarrassing. I’d send him an e-mail – maybe I’d just quote a bunch of rape statistics, and ask him to rate how funny they were on a scale of 1 to 10 – and I’d wait to see if he responded.

I had a reason for being invested in his response. Last summer, the entire Internet had been set aflame by comedian Daniel Tosh essentially threatening a female audience member with rape for objecting to his rape jokes. She had a blog; she used the blog to relate what he’d said; Daniel Tosh, who had an entire show about the goddamn Internet, was apparently shocked and mortally wounded that someone in his audience had a blog.

Which would have been obnoxious enough on its own, without the stand-up comedians of the world rallying around Tosh. And yet, rally they did: Patton Oswalt referred to the woman as “some idiotic blogger,” and lamented that Tosh had been made to apologize to the woman he’d wished would be “raped by like two guys.” Dane Cook helpfully informed those who were offended by Tosh that “it’s best for everyone if you just kill yourself.” (After you get raped by the two guys, I guess. It’s a remarkably rough night Cook and Tosh had planned for that woman.) Even the normally reasonable and intelligent Louis C.K. got sucked into defending Tosh’s comments – although, thankfully, he didn’t go the route of Doug Stanhope, who hashtagged his Tweet about the controversy, simply, #FuckThatPig.

He was, yes, referring to the woman that Tosh had threatened. Because this is how it goes, between female comedy fans – especially feminists – and male stand-up comics. Let’s be entirely clear here: These are grown men who get paid money to stand in front of an audience and say, quite literally, whatever they want, as long as they think it’s funny. And yet when women talk back, especially if it’s not flattering, we’re “idiots,” pigs, better off raped, or better off dead. These guys grow up, go into entertainment, and then react to the presence of an audience as if it’s a form of armed robbery. But female comedy fans exist. We go to shows. In the age of social media, our microphones can be as big as any comic’s, or bigger. Why shouldn’t they hear what we have to say? More to the point: Why do they still act as if it’s avoidable?

Because they do. One year and approximately seventy thousand blog posts later, people were still hiring Sam Morril. Because, you know. What could possibly go wrong?

So, I wrote to my editor, I was going to do it differently. I was going to give him no possible chance to claim that he’d been ambushed, or stabbed in the back. I was going to find him. I was going to tell him exactly who I was – “My name’s Sady Doyle. I’m a feminist journalist and pop culture critic, and I attended your show on April 13,” is how I opened my first e-mail — and I was going to tell him that I planned to write about his show. I was going to do this whole thing as fairly as possible. While still, you know, planning to write an entire piece specifically for the fun of humiliating the guy in public.

He wrote back.

Lets do it, Sady! Shoot me the questions. Thanks for thinking of me.

Best,
Sam

It was at this point that the story changed. He’d responded. In fact, he’d responded almost right away. There was a chance I could actually talk to the guy. And so I started to have doubts about my initial premise. A list of rape stats and an invitation to rate them on the scale of humor: I could do that. I could send that. I could print that. It would have been splashy, and it would have made my point, and – moreover – I was absolutely certain that he would be unable to respond to it. He would look like a coward. I would look like a hero.

But it would have been a lie. It would have been worse than that: It would have been shitty journalism. I could game the system, pre-determine the outcome, give Sam Morril something he absolutely couldn’t respond to without looking like an asshole, and absolutely couldn’t ignore without looking weak, and then reveal to my readers – as if it were a surprise – that I’d managed to make the guy look bad. I would have looked brave to the outside world, while knowing deep down that I’d risked absolutely nothing. In point of fact, I would have been no better than a stand-up comic bullying an audience member for not laughing at his jokes. To do this thing right – to do it fair – I had to come to the table with the presumption of good faith. I didn’t have to pitch the guy softballs. But I had to give Sam Morril an honest chance to write back.

So I sat down. And I wrote the nicest e-mail I could manage.

Hi Sam –

Thanks for responding so quickly! And I’m sorry that I didn’t do the same. The fact is, I have one main question, and it is: What’s with all the rape jokes?

 

I know the relationship between feminists and stand-up comics can be notably contentious on the rape joke issue. (Think Tosh.) And to be blunt, I sent you the e-mail because your set made me really mad. That’s probably what you were going for. But instead of firing shots at each other from the safety and comfort of our personal Twitters, maybe it’s worthwhile to talk about it. This conversation tends to get stuck in one repeating pattern: Feminists say rape jokes are offensive, comics say they have the right to offend people, and we just keep repeating the same lines from that point forward. So, even though I would expect you won’t like some of these questions, maybe this is an opportunity to open a dialogue.

 

One in five women reports being sexually assaulted. For women of color, that number is much higher; one study says that over 50% of young black women are sexually assaulted. (One of your jokes: “I’m attracted to black women. I had sex with one once. The whole time I was fucking her, she kept using the n-word. Yeah, the whole time, she was yelling NO!”) On your Twitter, you warned people that they shouldn’t attend one particular set of yours if they’d recently had a miscarriage or been raped. So, like: Are you comfortable excluding that big a chunk of the population from your set? I always wonder this, about comedians who tell a lot of rape jokes. You presumably know that it happens. Do you know that it happens this often? Is it a realistic possibility, in your mind, that not just one but several of the women in your audience have experienced it?

 

It’s not just that. An even higher percentage of the female population, 1 in 4, reports having been assaulted by a partner. 30% of all murdered women are murdered by their partners. To be blunt: You make jokes about hitting women. You also make quite a few jokes about killing them. One extended bit was about getting someone to hit a girl who didn’t want you bothering her friend, because you “couldn’t” yourself. On your Twitter (paraphrasing here): “I would never hit a woman. Or push one. Out of the way of a moving bus.” The basic punchline in your set was, the girl got hit, and you caused it. The punchline in your Tweet is that a woman gets killed. The punchline in your extended series of Tweets about Pistorius: Girl gets killed.

But in your Tweet about the Boston Marathon, you write that “this violence is infuriating.” What’s the difference between the violence perpetrated at the Boston Marathon and the violence that will affect about one-quarter of all women during their lifetimes, and account for no small number of deaths? That’s not a set-up for a joke. I just want to know. Why is only one of those infuriating?

 

Finally, Sam: The two rape jokes I counted in your set weren’t just about the concept of rape. They were jokes in which the punchline was that you raped a woman. (That didn’t happen with any of the other comics on stage, even though I remember at least one other joke about domestic violence, and the host did a long riff about rape.) And then a story in which the punchline was that you indirectly assaulted a woman. Given these numbers, what’s the benefit of presenting yourself to an audience — which is likely to contain some women, and some assault victims — as someone with an interest in raping and hitting women? Even as a joke? Where’s your pay-off there?

 

And I want to stress: I actually do want to hear what you have to say here. People keep having the same fight, and nothing changes on either side. Maybe this is a chance to actually have a conversation. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

S.

To date, we have received no response from Sam Morril.

 

Photo by visual.dichotomy , licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 license.

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  1. Whenever this topic comes up, I’m inevitably embarrassed to be a man. Because, also inevitably, there’s always endless morons saying “it’s a joke!” or “it’s just comedy!” or “there’s other things to talk about!” thereby completely missing the point and being embarrassing while they’re missing the point.

  2. The best thing that’s starting to come out of bloggers writing about comedians that they’re offended by is that comedians like Sam Morril are starting to realize that there’s no need to apologize, because honestly, who cares if Sady or anyone else is offended? I know I don’t. Sady can be offended by whatever she chooses to be offended by (and make no mistake about it: if you’re offended by something, its because you’ve chosen to be offended by it.)

    Even before the now infamous Michael Richards incident, comedians have allowed themselves to be held hostage by opinions printed on letterhead. Whether its an opinion published by GLAAD, the NAACP, or Sady Doyle’s blog, its just opinion. Nothing more. And the value of opinion is subjective. Some of you may hold Sady’s opinion in high regard. I, myself, do not. I laughed at every single joke Sady mentioned in this blog post. That’s because I’m a part of Sam’s target demo. Sady is not. Sady’s fans, most likely, are not. And because I am a part of the group of people Sam is most likely trying to appeal to, and Sady is not, my opinion on Sam’s material carries way more merit. And as far as I’m concerned, Sam is fucking hilarious and on point, not only with his material, but with his response to this blog post.

    The internet has become a bastion of valueless opinion. Artists are being criticized by people that were not the intended audience for their material. And because, as humans, we are forever motivated to action by things that impact us negatively rather than positively, negative feedback is all we ever see. The time has come for people to start reacting with positive feedback to what we see, so allow me to start now. “My name is David Harris, and I love a good rape joke!”

    Thank you, and God Bless America… and rape jokes.

  3. What topics are okay to joke about? The ones that don’t have meaning to you in your life?

    Everyone has a sensitive topic to them, but a comedian cannot cater to everyone’s needs, especially when they don’t know the audience’s history. There are so many horrible ways to die and things that happen to people every day. It’s a shame you were not raised to over time be able to laugh about tragedy.

    Is there a difference between making a joke about The Holocaust and killing 6 million Jews? Yes, there is, just like how there’s a difference between making a joke about rape and actually doing it. One is a joke, a formulation of words attempted at creating humor. The other is an action meant to harm.

    Your argument is nothing but statistics. You basically say that rape jokes are not allowed because it happens to a lot of women. What about 9/11 jokes? Far more women are raped than people who died in 9/11. So you approve of 9/11 jokes and not rape ones? Or maybe you don’t approve of 9/11 jokes. What about people who die of rare diseases? Say, a disease that kills 1 in every 50 million people. Is that okay to make jokes about because chances are no one affected by the disease will be in the audience? That’s a cowardly way to approach anything in life. A comedian can either recycle old jokes or try something new.

    Stick to being a fan of Bill Cosby’s comedy. You know, the guy who never curses but has had numerous women accuse him of sexual assault.

    Congratulations, you created new fans for Sam Morril.

  4. “These are grown men who get paid money to stand in front of an audience and say, quite literally, whatever they want, as long as they think it’s funny.”

    Here’s where I stopped ready. They don’t get paid to say anything because THEY think it’s funny. They get up there and say anything because PEOPLE think it’s funny. No one pays a comedian to make themselves laugh. They pay them to make other people laugh and have a good time.

  5. What’s perhaps just as disappointing as Morril’s lack of humor are all the people here, some women or posing as such, who are quick to demean condemn the author’s thoughts, feelings and criticisms.

    It’s been said many times before that the worst speech, or in this instance jokes, is the kind to be defended because it protects other, less inflammatory speech.

    I’m sure that means a lot to those victimized by sexual assault or domestic violence. And it’s worth highlighting that most of the people involved in defending these rights are men.

    People may say what they want, no matter how insulting, but it doesn’t make it right or that others have to like it and not express disapproval, which is all that Ms. Doyle seems to be doing.

    So why are people more up in arms about her exercising freedom of speech and expression than they are with mediocre comics who resort to “humor” that diminishes women’s experiences?

    I feel battered just reading some responses here and on Twitter and I didn’t even write the article. Surely there are more who feel the same but who are inhibited to say so with all the minimalizing here.

  6. Hi Sady,
    I’ve done stand-up before and have seen a few rape jokes in my time. I generally see it from a lot of new guys trying to cut their teeth, it seems to go along the same path of the shock jock. Any reaction will do. Personally I find it pretty hacky. Unfortunately Sam will not be the last guy to try something like that, but maybe it’s all he can think of. The jokes that you heard aren’t only offensive, they’re badly written. Take away the shock and it’s boring. At least there are also a lot of smart comics too.

    All the best

    Bridget

  7. I’m a female, I don’t particularly like rape jokes, but frankly, I think when people go to a comedy show, they have to be open to hearing things that MAY rub them the wrong way.

    I have been to A LOT of shows and I personally HATE to see someone in the crowd yelling out “Hey I have cancer” or “I was raped”, or ” Hey, my son is handicapped.” and force the comedian to respond. I’ve seen it many times. Guess what…the show is not about YOU. The comedian doesn’t know YOU. He or she is not doing it to piss YOU off or hurt YOUR feelings.

    If you are too raw to hear anything about a tragedy that has occurred to you or anyone you know, you probably shouldn’t go to a comedy show EVER.

    If you don’t like a comedian’s set, you don’t like it. You have a right to your opinion. Enough people besides the comedian found the joke funny or he would have worked it out of his set.

    Comedy is a craft, and each comedian is evolving with every show. Its a fine line between funny and distasteful. Sometimes they hit it and sometimes they don’t. The smarter ones know how to avoid the cheap laughs consistently. The rest learn as they go.

    Anyway, most shows you see 3 or more comedians. So instead of obsessing over the one that had jokes you didn’t like, look forward to the next one make you laugh. And lighten UP!

  8. Seems like maybe perhaps you have way too much time on your hands and no real stability at whatever current job you have. Here’s a hint; don’t go to comedy shows if you’re this uptight.

    Love, Kursh

  9. The problem with this debate is perfectly summed up in the headline. “Not so funny”. I think this is why feminists lose this argument with me every time I hear it. Once they start to argue that a joke that is offensive, awful, and garbage is not funny — well they immediately lose the argument with me if I thought it was, in fact, funny.

    It is just the wrong tack. Something can be cruel and offensive and wrong AND be funny at the same time. When the funny fades, or the context changes, then the awful is all that is left and we see it for what it is. (Andrew Dice Clay’s 80′s act, for example).

    This is how you win this debate with me. You point out that Eddie Murphy’s Delirious was hilarious in its day, and yet when it was repeated by schoolkids, those words and ideas proved incredibly hurtful to gay teens in the 80′s. I learned this when I once offended a good friend when I was doing Eddie Murphy.

    It is the same with rape jokes…if they are funny, then they are funny. Don’t fight that battle. I think the battle to fight is: for a comedian, is funny really the only thing that matters? I think many would say it is, but I think at least that would be an argument worth having.

  10. Who wants to respond to an email filled with rape statistics?! You’re not opening a dialogue, you’re bombarding someone with information, a lot of it, and expecting him to have as much invested in answering you as you do in needing the answers.
    I am a woman. I like being a woman. I also like being a comic.
    Rape jokes don’t bother me. Maybe I am better at separating someone’s actual opinion and thoughts from a punchline. Yes, bed rape jokes are made all the time. And yes, some audience members are more sensitive than others. I am not for rape jokes, or against them.
    I think, as a very proud feminist, you seem to always be looking for a moment, a phrase, a word to set you off. I don’t know Sam well. I wasn’t there to hear the jokes or the execution, i can only go off of what you have written here.
    You come across to me as someone with a point to prove all the time. Someone who would be awful to have at parties and if I mentioned I like potato chips, would give me the economic history of why potato chips are popular and responsible for single-handedly bringing down the American Farmer.
    It was painful to read your voice, let alone probably hear it in person.

  11. I think what a lot of people don’t get (and what Sam does not address) is that for many fans there is a difference in making fun of the rapist, or the person (in the joke) who is or was being raped. Making light of a terrible situation isn’t usually being done by laughing at a victim or oppressed in a situation. “Hahahaha, that girl got raped” is not funny. To me that’s as funny as “Let’s laugh at that person because he is fat, or handicapped or foreign”. The Boston joke IS making light of the situation, as it’s not laughing at the vicitms, for example (I can’t imagine people laughing at the idea of “haha, some people got killed”.

    That’s why I find Tosh’ ‘that woman should get raped by some guys, wouldn’t that be funny’-remark not funny, but Sarah Silverman’s joke had me in stitches (also the one she told about rape jokes being easy, since rape victims are not the ones that usually speak up. That IS making light of the situation).

    So yeah, I think that’s the crux when it comes to rape jokes (who are we laughing at in the joke) and I would have liked to read that nuance, but didn’t see it.

  12. When people talk about “rape culture”, one of the things they’re referring to is the fact that assholes like Sam Morril and his fans think rape is funny. “See, I’m telling you about this sex I had that you assume was consensual, but then it turns out that it actually wasn’t! Ha-ha! Isn’t that so IRONIC?” Yup, real fucking high-brow. Sure sounds like someone who “think[s] rape is awful too.”

    It’s nothing but cheap shock humor for the lowest common denominator with no social conscience. People like him just get into “comedy” because they want an excuse to be repugnant and callous and think it doesn’t make them as much of an asshole that way.

  13. “First, let me say that I do not condone rape, and it is never my intention to write a joke that upsets people. I never write a joke thinking, “this’ll show ‘em.” I’m a comedian.
    Making jokes about terrible things is part of what comics do and when you paraphrase jokes on very delicate topics, you’re stripping them of their meaning and irony, the things that makes them funny. In my N word joke you referred to, you decided to leave out the punchline, which is pretty important when you’re quoting a joke, especially about such a sensitive topic. The punchline is that the crowd thinks: “We thought he was going to say the N word, then thank God…It’s just a rape joke.” It’s a moment of relief, but really it’s much worse. It’s a commentary on political correctness, not an approval of rape. Your reaction compounds the irony. My joke on political correctness brings out the political correctness police. You know who finds that joke funny? My female manager, my ex-girlfriend (we’re still friends), and my mom, all feminists.

    You mention the “reasonable” and “intelligent” Louis CK. Well, Louis has plenty of jokes about rape. Ever heard the one? “You should never rape a woman…Unless you want to have sex with her and she wont let you…Then what other choice do you have?”
    Many female comics joke about rape as well. Sarah Silverman has one: “I was raped by a doctor, which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.” Do you understand that neither Louis nor Sarah approves of rape? Do find it necessary to send them the pages of rape statistics that you sent me?

    Rape, fart, dick, murder, genocide, etc. jokes have been a part of comedy going back to 400 BC Greece. I’m jealous that Aristophanes got to live blogger-free, without people text messaging through his plays. You conveniently left out the sentences in your initial first email where you wrote, “you really stood out from the other comics.” You wanted to engage with me so you pretended to be a fan by complimenting me. Very tricky!

    You completely misquoted a story I told to portray me as a misogynist or worse. There are lots of bad people out there who do evil things. I think your time would be better spent attacking them. Most of them have no sense of irony either. You clearly were not interested in having a conversation. For some reason, you chose me to ambush, and spun this article in a manipulative way.

    Here’s a quote from your article: “Let’s be entirely clear here: These are grown men who get paid money to stand in front of an audience and say, quite literally, whatever they want, as long as they think it’s funny.” Yes, that’s what comedians do.
    You say, “…And yet when women talk back, especially if it’s not flattering, we’re “idiots.” “ Sady, this is not a gender issue….Men who talk back during a performance are idiots too. Stand-up comedy is a performance, not a discourse. There are bouncers there whose sole purpose is to make sure our performance goes uninterrupted. Comedy is an art form. We get paid to say whatever we want, and I’ve earned that right to do so on good stages by putting in work year after year, and proving I can do it well. You have the right not to listen.

    I got a Tweet from one of your readers 2 days ago saying, “someday I hope a man forcefully penetrates your asshole with their veiny cock. Rape jokes won’t be quite as funny after that.” Also, “or maybe your mother gets raped, or little sister. I don’t think you understand the culture you’re adding too.” Should I take that threat seriously? Do you condone this? Is that the kind of behavior you’re trying to motivate?

    You quoted a Tweet of mine about the Boston Marathon saying, “This kind of violence in infuriating.” Yeah, it is. I think rape is awful too. Comics go to dark places to find jokes sometimes. That’s what we do. Woody Allen says, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” I was horrified by the Boston Marathon and I still am, but I have jokes commenting on the subject now because I’m a comic and that’s my job. I say, “This Boston Marathon has made me very sad…It made me realize that my brother and I don’t do anything together anymore.” Do you think making a joke about this event means I approve of terrorism? (By the way, a couple of Boston comics have told me it’s a very good joke.)

    You may hate my jokes. Well, then don’t listen to them. You have a right to your opinion. The bottom line is: I know more about comedy than you. I know more about funny than you do, and nothing was ever made funnier by political correctness.
    I know a ton of funny people and I’ve never heard: “you know who we need to punch up this material? A blogger who doesn’t get irony.” We don’t disagree about rape. We don’t disagree about terrorism. We disagree about comedy. Thanks for your input.”

    -Sam Morril

    I couldn’t have said it any better. Or nicer.

  14. Fantastic! Well done. If he doesn’t have the courage to explain or defend such “jokes”, he shouldn’t make them.

    Also, let’s not forget how many men (& boys, & trans people) are either victims of rape or have someone in their lives that they love that were victims of rape. This isn’t a men vs. women issue, it’s a People Who Are Against Rape Culture vs. People Who Support Rape Culture issue.

    & it’s debatable that Louis CK supported Tosh, he said himself he didn’t.

    Some comedians actually spoke out against Tosh. Matt Besser (UCB co-founder) & Bob Odenkirk talked about it on Comedy Bang Bang. Besser came on as the pope & told a great joke mocking Tosh. It’s ep#168.

    A terrible summary of the joke: a plane full of rapists (a priest, that football coach, & a baseketball player, I think) and Tosh is going down, and there are only three parachutes. One by one, they give excuses as to why they should get the chute – yes, “I raped those kids, but I helped lead people to god,” etc & jump out. At the end, Tosh says to the basketball player, “I guess you think you deserve the chute…” & he says to Tosh, “no, I get the parachute because I’m bigger & stronger than you, & that’s what rape is all about.” & he pushes hum out of the way & grabs the chute & jummps out, leaving Tosh to go down with the plane… it goes on from there. Give it a listen, it’s pretty great.

  15. Stop paying money to see people who say things that offend you. You are helping pay their salary. Cut them off where it hurts: their bank accounts. That is probably the only thing they really understand.

  16. “Making fun” of something is just that..you take something bad and create fun out of it and is a good thing. Just remind yourself that a comics intention is to make you laugh and enjoy yourself, not to help women get raped.

    If you want to help cut down on rape then write articles that will help people like tips on how to protect yourself, situations to steer clear of, red flags etc…that’s helping the issue get resolved, this isn’t helping anything and is causing more drama in the world when there doesn’t need to be.

  17. I have seen Sam Morril perform on numerous occasions, and it can’t be denied that he makes jokes that will be considered offensive by a number of people. I happen to think he’s hilarious, but that’s just one man’s opinion and it takes a lot to offend me. I also happened to be at Daniel Tosh’s show that immediately followed his controversial show last year. He opened up with something that I can only paraphrase, so here goes:

    “Tonight’s jokes will cover controversial topics including, but not limited to: incest, abortion, 9/11, Kony, the Holocaust, mental and physical disability, LGBT, murder, kidnapping, slavery….and there may be a line or two about rape.”

    My point…the edgy comedians today cover every sort of uncomfortable topic out there. And while no one is making jokes about the Boston terrorist attacks because they’re so fresh in our minds, give it a decade. Comedians make 9/11 jokes these days; just go to a comedy club. If every comedian had to stop making jokes about a certain topic because some self-promoting blogger writes a post that goes viral, there would be nothing left to joke about. And if you think it’s just male comedians who joke about rape, please watch any Amy Schumer or Sarah Silverman standup routine. They’re even more outrageous than Tosh.

    Also, despite the author’s attempt to avoid “shitty journalism,” this article isn’t even that. It’s a blog, with a pre-formed opinion, with numerous incorrect statements, including the comment about Louis CK’s so-called “defense” of Tosh. Please re-watch his Daily Show interview.

  18. I’m a comic and I don’t do any “rape” jokes, nor am I interested in offending anyone, but that’s just my personality and style. There’s a whole different style of comedy (which I often enjoy) that takes risks and offends, and that’s part of that style of comedy. There are plenty of bad ones and then there are some great ones – Stanhope, Attell, & CK are a few of the contemporary greats.

    Comics understand when they do a joke about rape, they are taking a risk of offending, and becoming blog fodder. Ultimately they choose to make that joke, because they feel it’s their job to take that risk, and it is literally their job. That does not mean the comic making the joke, is not also horrified of the act of rape.

    CK discusses at length his choice to make a joke about lessening the tabboo of child molestation in his recent Stern interview. You don’t think CK is actually condoning child molestation do you? He has two little girls, clearly he’s horrified by child rape, but that’s not the comedic angle he takes on it. Taking an angle of “child molestation is bad” is a boring angle to take, because it’s the obvious angle, and it’s how everyone clearly feels. A lot of great stand-up comes from taking a contrarian point of view, that’s just how comedy works.

    There are a few more very basic problems with continuing to get so quickly offended at male comics for making “rape” jokes:

    1) Female comics make rape jokes, too. Have any of them been written about lately or condemned?

    2) Men get raped, too. Why are rape jokes automatically perceived as so anti-woman and misogynist?

    3) There are plenty of people in the audience who find jokes about offensive topics to be cathartic and healing. Often when you make light of a dark topic, it can be cathartic. Just because you’re offended, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. What if you’re wrong? That’s why it’s subjective, there’s no right answer. There is no way to quantify how many people a particular joke is hurting vs. healing, other than the laughter that’s happening in the crowd that night. If people are laughing, it means the joke is funnier than it is offensive. If they’re not laughing, then the crowd is offended, and the comedian should stop doing that joke (or improve the quality of the joke).

    Ultimately the audience decides what has crossed the line, so let the audience be the judge. When you write about the comic the next day, and you refer to comedians telling “rape” jokes, of course the comedian sounds like a misogynist asshole, but ultimately you’re taking everything out of context, and and you’re making an argument that everyone can easily agree with, which is the opposite of contrarian, and ultimately becomes a boring argument.

    You almost sound proud to admit that you flipped him off twice, from the crowd. Did you look around and notice that other people were laughing? If so, why didn’t you flip them off, too? And why are you writing about, and flipping off, the OPENER? Did you ever consider that maybe, in this case, you’re the bully?

  19. The misogyny is pretty sad but the delivery is truly pathetic. Any sentient should be offended by a routine like this.

    The lines remind me of those scholastic books like ’101 pickle jokes’. Indeed, he probably spends a lot of time gherkin off to his own material.

    He’s trying to be jarring but it’s so predictable there are no dillies.

    Not to pickle on him but.. you see what I mean?

    I mean. Here: See if you can’t guess the endings:

    “His ex-girlfriend didn’t make him use a condom! That’s huge! She was on the patch.”

    (wait for it)

    “Yeah. He over-inflated her and then had to get out the bicycle kit.”

    “There was this one time he was having sex with this hot blonde.. But it was kind of awkward because she kept calling out another man’s name.”

    Yeah, every time he grabbed the pullstring, she said, “I love you, Ken!”

    I could keep this up all night, and unlike Morril, I wouldn’t need to use Viagra.

    You see what I mean? It’s tepid. You should be offended by his attempts to bludgeon you with his ‘razor wit’.

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  21. The argument that Sam’s jokes are intended for Sam’s demographic, and therefor Sam’s demographic has a valid opinion while whiners and feminists like Sady do not doesn’t make a lot of sense.
    On the surface, sure: it’s entertainment, and it is consumed by choice. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. But you also need to acknowledge that stand-up comedy is a pretty widespread part of our culture, and to allow that it can influence people beyond the immediate audience. Is Sady’s opinion still invalid if she is harassed or assaulted by someone in Sam’s ‘target demographic’ who is repeatedly exposed to the message that victimizing women can be passed off as a joke? Is that not akin (albeit remotely) to discounting the Jews’ opinion of Hitler, since they are not his intended audience?
    Confrontational, scolding approaches are clearly not an effective path to reform. Overwhelmingly, I don’t think that rape-joke tellers are trying to be assholes, just funny and edgy. And for many, these jokes are funny. But that doesn’t erase the fact that they can also be damaging, and subtly perpetuate an acceptance and tolerance of attitudes that are fundamentally unequal.
    Sady’s column above is fair, measured, and genuinely aimed at dialogue and progress. David Harris’ response to it (and Sam Morril’s lack of one) makes him sound like an eight year old who got a toy taken away.

  22. tosh never threatened to rape anyone. you can’t just accuse people of that to make your article more exciting.

  23. 1) While Morril is going on about all the “feminists” who think his joke about raping a black woman is hilarious, I’ll go ahead and assume he knows no black feminists.

    2) I think it’s telling that he responded–only after you published this post, but not in the weeks he had to reply to your email.

  24. @person1638942389

    “tips on how to protect yourself” don’t prevent rape.

    Think of it this way: If I miraculously find the combination of clothes to wear which make a rapist think, “Oh! She doesn’t want to be raped! Okey-dokey then, I won’t rape her!” then do you think the rapist is going to go home and watch Animal Planet?

    No: the rapist’s going to go and rape someone who isn’t wearing the special combination of clothes. The rape hasn’t been prevented, it’s just been shifted.

    That is, if any of the typical “tips on how to protect yourself” ever had any use whatsoever, which they pretty much never do, because they’re not so much “tips on how to protect yourself” as “reasons why we can keep blaming the victims instead of the people who actually committed the crime”.

  25. @ David Harris, its very easy to laugh about something you will most likely never experience in your life. What if your mother, daughter, wife or sister was raped? I wonder how funny those jokes would be to you after witnessing how rape destroys their life? Interesting how most of the people rushing to defend this douchebag’s crappy ‘comedy’ are men, who will, for the very fact of their gender, will never experience or be hurt by or fear the very real threat of sexual abuse, domestic violence and rape that thousands of women feel EVERY DAY. You’re showing yourselves up as the privileged, entitled pricks you are. Congrats.

  26. Thanks for the article, and I’m glad that you’ve had the courage to post it in the face of all the hate it’s been receiving (and I wager you kind of expected). Having read the response that Sam Morril posted on Facebook, the main thing that jumps out at me is that he doesn’t even acknowledge the whole point of your message. He doesn’t answer any of the questions you asked. And what’s more, it looks like the only reason he posted a response on Facebook was so he could try not look so bad once you documented your exchange here.

    I feel like you were (hands-down) the one who dealt with this in the classy way. You went directly to the source, gave him fair warning you were planning on doing a piece about him, and even gave him a chance to engage in a dialogue with you about the issue. What did he do? He refused to engage in a dialogue with you, then tried to shame you on Facebook (rather than speaking directly to you), ignoring all of the (I might say totally valid) questions you had posed to him in the first place.

    Sam Morril claims that he uses irony to speak out against things. If he genuinely wants to raise awareness about these terrible issues, and why they’re wrong, shouldn’t he be taking this feedback and making sure his irony is being effective, rather than just telling everyone who is offended that they’re too stupid to understand irony?

    People link arrogance and confidence, while also linking low self-esteem and humility. I think it’s the other way around. Confidence and humility co-exist beautifully in that they lead you to be able to understand that by learning and growing and being imperfect, you are constantly becoming a better version of yourself. Low self-esteem is what breeds arrogance, because you have to externalize an image of arrogance to feel like you’re OK. I’m bringing this up because people who have a valid stance, who are completely comfortable in their skin and can confidently understand and uphold their own values don’t need to get defensive when someone tries to start a reasonable conversation with them. People who are defensive are insecure. Period. That you ask him for his perspective on something and he gets defensive is not indicative that you’re a terrible person, too dumb to understand irony, or just trying to cause trouble. It’s an indication that he’s afraid. Of what? I’m not totally sure.

  27. “Michaelangelo’s David is offensive. He’s all naked and gross. We should cut his penis off.”

    ~The Catholic Church, and this blog’s author. Jesus. It’s not funny because it’s funny. It’s funny because it’s a serious subject and someone managed to make a joke about it that makes you groan. It’s called “cringe” comedy, not children’s cartoons.

    And yes, comics are making jokes about the Boston Marathon. In the aftermath, voicing your grief is not inappropriate, but who the fuck would go to a comedy show that is two hours of, “and now a moment of silence for all the starving kids in Nigeria… And now a moment of silence for all the slaughter Croats… And now a moment of silence for all the cancer victims…”

    Comedians make cancer funny. They make Nazis funny. They make every horrible thing that has ever happened funny. That’s their job. Yours is to make something readable, and I can guarantee you aren’t earning a living. Sucks for you, but I’m sure that’s patriarchy, and not your own lack of sentence structure and coherent writing.

  28. Kat C thinks men aren’t raped. I know two men in my immediate family that were raped. I know more men who were raped than women. You probably do, too, Kat C. They just haven’t told you, because you don’t believe men can be raped.

  29. “… And yet when women talk back, especially if it’s not flattering, we’re “idiots,” pigs, better off raped, or better off dead.” That’s because it’s a performance… You’re not supposed to talk back. If you don’t know that, maybe you should leave the stand-up reviews to someone better equipped. I don’t find rape jokes particularly funny but to say Tosh “threatened” the women is dishonest and cheap. He asked, “wouldn’t it be funny if she got raped, right now?”. Funny? not in my opinion, but not a threat. Comics have a right to say whatever they want and you have a right to not support them. If you have strict boundaries on content, that’s YOUR burden to bare.

  30. Told my editor,
    “I was going to confront him. Something BIG and RUDE and Embarrassing.”
    ” I was going to give him no possible chance to claim that he’d been
    AMBUSHED, or STABBED in the back.”
    ” I was going to find him.”
    “While still’ you know.planning to write an entire piece specifically for the fun of HUMILIATING the Guy in Public.”

    The words you write have the SOUNDS of VIOLENT CHARACTER R A P E .
    they are not echos.
    Listen,where are they coming from.
    Self Importance is a Bitch.

  31. You, do not understand how stand-up comedy works. However you do seem to have a pretty high opinion of yourself, so I doubt I or the thousands of professional comics that agree with me will be likely to convince you of your failing. If you’d be so kind, please recuse yourself from opining on the subject of comedy and focus all future efforts on the topics of the humorless. There are plenty of them out there and your complaining is likely to be better received by your contemporaries.

  32. So, basically this woman claims that the only “decent” people are those who agree with her viewpoints on comedy? Sounds like it defeats the purpose of comedy to me!

    The problem I have with people who believe things like this is not the fact that I disagree with them. It’s alright that she doesn’t like that style of comedy, but the fact she feels the need to guilt the rest of the world into agreeing with her and disliking it as well. Being an art form, comedy has many different varieties and styles. The only people that have a right to call a piece okay or not are club owners. Why? We work for clubs, so they have that right.

    There are a lot of talented “shock” comics like Doug Stanhope who are mastes of their craft and can say some deep, meaningful things.’ In a nutshell: it’s okay to disapprove of anything, but this stupid pig has no right to say anything, especially when posing as an “authority”.

  33. Asking him to find something funny about rape statistics? Was that the best you could think of… You assume it would make him look like an idiot, but he’s a professional comedian, he’s trained to deflect what you say back on to you… Here, it’s easy

    “Well I don’t know how funny those statistics are, but I’m starting to think that your article is going to be a bit dry.”

    Apart from that, I really enjoyed your article. This is a topic of such conflict for me. I won’t get into it too much, because there are truly too many things to consider…

    But basically is it because rape is so common, is that what sets it apart? Because it’s not inappropriate to joke about automotive accidents, when it is possible that someone in the audience could have a trauma related to a car crash that killed their sister? Far less common, still the same effect on the person.

    Or is it because of the precarious link it has to casual misogyny?

    The worst part is, that while I want to be a conscientious person, I have no control over whether I find something funny sometimes. You can laugh at something because it’s shocking, and not because you it is genuinely intelligently constructed. But that’s not even what I’m talking about. For example, this comic. https://i.chzbgr.com/maxW500/6976170752/hCDE6A770/ It’s the most stupid little thing, and you may have to know about the context of the other similar comics, but every time I read the fourth panel I literally can’t stop myself from laughing just a little bit. That’s just an example, and obviously not the best. The point is, is it ever okay? For instance if the joke is not at the expense of victims, rather it criticises the act? Plus, black comedy is a thing too. Are you just referring to mainstream comedy/standup etc?

    What it all comes down to for me is “Either it’s all okay. Or none of it is.” It is said that comedy is inherently linked to tragedy, and if you break it down the subject of a high percentage of jokes can be linked to someone’s pain. And I feel that despite how prevalent it is in society, it can be dangerous to strip just one thing out, eventually you could reduce the entire process down.

    But truly I don’t know, I don’t feel I am able to decide what is appropriate. It’s such a difficult subject. I do believe in producing and promoting a world that attempts remove the precedence for sexism/violence. But is there a place for everything? Or are some things just too dangerous?

  34. Sigh, I think feminism is very important and I’m involved in progress for womens rights. However I’m so tired of people using it to get attention and to establish how great they are. This is clearly about you, you don’t seem to be anxious about progress as much as letting people know how important your ideas are.

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  36. Wonder what exactly these men find so funny about rape? What is it exactly that tickles their funny bone so? The image in their mind’s eye of a terrified woman is funny? Do they find it “cathartic” because it validates and normalizes their fantasies about over-powering and controlling the body of an unwilling woman? Making her submit to their every violent impulse?

    Many of the replies supporting the comic are very revealing; note how many of those writers can’t disagree with the point of view expressed by Sady without also making degrading comments about her and/or women in general. Note the vicious anger directed toward a woman with an opinion, feminists, and indeed all women.

  37. I’m a bit late to this thread, it having just today been brought to my attention via a post on the science & technology & social media oriented web site Ars Technica. (referenced post found here: http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/05/facebook-to-take-a-stand-against-rape-jokes-gender-hate-speech/ ).

    There is, at present, seemingly more emphasis on the specter of bullying than there is on rape. While not to detract from the efforts to suppress bullying, maybe it’s prevalence is simply due to the fact that kids are more open to recognizing a behavior as being wrong & to either change it in themselves, or to intervene on behalf of others when needed. I also strongly suspect that rape would not be the issue that it is today were bullying to be sufficiently eliminated in those now coming of age in present society.

    What follows is my contribution to the discussion thread of the Ars post mentioned above:

    “I am the father of a 19 year old daughter & a 17 year old son. When in conversation with them, I routinely stress that most all things we confront or encounter are some semantic shade of gray & that extremely few absolutes exist. And when in a contextual conversation with them, I routinely emphasize that one such absolute is that rape is a crime of violence. Full Stop. Rape is not to be tolerated in any of the various forms in which it presents. Full Stop. Rape is not a sexual act, but rather it is the application of sexual mechanics to a crime of violence. As such, rape should be considered to be a form of torture. Full Stop. Rape is common, tragic, and nothing associated with the commission of rape is in the least way “funny”. Full Stop.

    This position on rape is non-negotiable in any context & it is impossible to over-emphasize this. One’s right to a freedom of speech which minimizes the impact or obfuscates the true nature of rape is to be acknowledged as a right & is to be accepted as a right. Never should such speech ever be left unchallenged & should never be disengaged from until that speech is shown to be abjectly baseless & wrong. Full Stop.

    There’s nothing more to say on the topic, aside from having one more reason to dislike Daniel Tosh,(as if one was needed) or Sam Morril, whoever he is.”

    In addition to the comment text above, I would add that Daniel Tosh’s sense of humor is about as well developed as that of your average 12 year old boy (& I may be overly generous in that appraisal). George Carlin was an inestimable master of comedy. Carlin was capable of finding & relating the humor to be found in farts. All that Tosh, & apparently Merril, & too many others are able to offer with respect to farts, or virtually any other topic, is merely malodorous. And then, of course, they laugh to let you know how clever they just were.

    Rob Mautz

  38. More than rape jokes, those were just plain old hate and cruelty disguised as jokes. Just like back in 5th grade when I thought having a laugh at the expense of kids because they were different in some way was not only unfunny but sick and cruel, so too in adulthood do I find it’s still just NOT funny. It’s bullying behavior to belittle others simply because of the ways they are different. The bully thinks people’s differences are somehow liabilities to be made fun of, and it’s okay to harm people with verbal degradation. Jerks pick aspects their victims can’t control to use as fodder for their bullying jollies. As kids these sociopaths made fun of other kids who were foreigners, or poor, or used wheelchairs, or had speech impediments. Now that they are older, it’s fashionable to abuse women, gays, or people of other races. Then we are called humorless and oversensitive because we can’t embrace being belittled and verbally abused by some dickwad for laughs. Their lack of empathy *is* the punchline, because that’s how psychopaths entertain each other. (Probably because it’s illegal for them to go blow up kittens using firecrackers.)

    It’s empty juvenile humor for simple thinkers like bullies. It’s not edgy or clever, it’s just predictable and dull.

    The same monotonous dullards will continue boring us until we stop supporting such unoriginal unimaginative hacks. Don’t watch their shows, don’t listen to podcasts that host them, drop the premium channels and cancel the satellite radio stations that give them a platform, and instead pirate the shit out of the content you want to see and hear. Join discussions about stand-up and make it known why this crappy material makes for mediocre comedy. Support clubs when they feature comedians who aren’t sexist douchebags. Support more women in comedy. Buy tickets and merch and albums from comics who don’t think hating and abusing women is just hilarious. Most of all, make sure the hosts of podcasts, and club/tour promoters, and TV network executives KNOW their advertisers and sponsors aren’t getting your money or your partner’s money due to shitty sexist comedy.

    This way even if the hateful unfunny hacks enjoy some minor modicum of success, at least better comics will too, thanks to the encouragement they’ll get seeing an audience that craves some TRUE humor.

  39. Real men do not make themselves feel bigger by grinding other people down. thus I conclude you are not a real man. Does that offend you? Hmmm that must make me an edgy comedian and my utterances are thus sacred. You don’t think I’m funny? then you should be anally gang raped because THAT would be funny.

    Or perhaps not because abuse and offensive behavior isn’t actually funny when YOU are the butt of the joke.

  40. If you don’t like a comedian or what someone has to say, vote with your dollar and don’t go to their shows. If people really find it distasteful, they’ll do the same. Trying to shut people down for what they’re saying however is a violation of the first amendment.

  41. Maybe Sam’s too busy laughing at your rubbish rape statistics. I’ve heard 1 in 20 to 1 in 25 women gets raped.

    I’ve never heard a feminist use these stats though – always 1 in 2, 3, 4 or 5 women are getting raped according to feminists.

    As soon as a feminist shows up and opens her mouth, five times more women are getting raped – and we should all take what the feminist has to say seriously.

    Why did the chicken cross the road?

    Because of rape.

  42. Sam Morril is the least funny human being ever to exist. These people actually make me feel nauseated. And the fact that he can say the Boston bombings were tragic (which they were) and yet still think it’s hilarious when 1 in 4 women are raped? That is the epitome of hypocrisy and heartlessness. He is obviously a very disturbed human being. A dark, dark, sad little man who will never, ever know love. Pathetic.

  43. I would say that I love how these topics really end up bringing out the scumbags in people, but then, I remember that these scumbags probably live around actual people, which makes me a little frightened for a human race that includes people like David Harris.

  44. Shock comedy thrives off of the ‘oh my god, they actually said that’ reaction. When I laugh at rape jokes, it’s not because I’m envisioning a girl getting forced to have sex and thinking that is a hilarious image. I’m laughing at the ‘he just went there’ situation, along with laughing the people like you who get bent out of shape and write blog novels. Because it is you who gives him the attention.

    You think you’re teaching him a lesson by quoting rape statistics like he’s never heard of actual rape. OF COURSE it’s bad, you’re not breaking new ground by saying it is. Get over yourself.

    Do you REALLY think this guy wants women to be raped? Or do you think he’s just getting a reaction out of far leftists, which is boosting his name up in the media?

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