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

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.


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.


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


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

169 thoughts on “Not So Funny: Sam Morril’s Rape Jokes and Female Comedy Fans

  1. It’s simple. The difference is those marathon runners didn’t bring any of it upon themselves like a good percentage of your so-called victims do. That was my serious discussion-provoking answer. Humorous answer: it’s a freaking joke! In a lot of the jokes you seem to infer different meanings from which I did. I mean the punch lines are a bit vague. Maybe you’re a little too sensitive to this subject matter and/or too easily offended to perform this aspect of your job productively.

  2. I am 58. I think the comments in here indicate a sad state of affairs post feminism. At one time rapists were considered the lowest form of scum. A man that would hit a woman was also not a subject for jokes.

    Any man who can’t feel empathty for rape victims, is not a man.

  3. Comedy fans (and most adults) don’t brag about flipping off comedians on stage like a scorned teenager and they don’t need to be told why it’s ok to joke about any topic. Louis CK had a brilliant joke about 9/11. Does that mean he supports terrorism? I can’t believe I’m wasting my not even valuable time to explain this. The audience’s laughter determines what is funny so blame the human race for having a dark sense of humor towards offensive subjects or for enjoying the therapeutic value of poking fun at an issue that may have affected them directly. Please do your readers a favor and never weigh in on something you’re so uninformed on again.

  4. trust me, the only person that’s going to leave any confrontation feeling embarrassed is you. he’s a professional comedian and will do laps around your head. he’s paid to embarrass people. don’t be stupid.

  5. I get your point and I think the appropriate response is to walk out or put in headphones and wait for the next comic. I personally don’t think any topic should be off limits in comedy. OJ Simpson, 9/11, Hitler, and yes, rape. People think everything is funny until it strikes close to home. As the father of a teenage daughter, the statistics on sexual assault on females are pretty terrifying. And if something like that happened to my daughter, I might be very uncomfortable listening to some of Sam’s material due to the associations it would bring up. But I wouldn’t begrudge him the right to do that material or feel the need to confront him. Making any subject off limits in comedy is a very slippery slope. What are the other topics that should be verboten and what is left that would not be offensive to some segment of society?

  6. I love comedy stuff because after watched I feel relaxed. Funny videos and funny joke play important role to reduce the stress in human life.

  7. Bullying back a bully eh? Bad idea… If u hate him so much, ignoring him is the best thing. Bad publicity is better than no publicity!

  8. Just for the record I’m not saying all feminists suck, I’m saying feminists like you suck!


    Another thing…. I’m in a wheelchair, I haven’t been able to walk since I was 9 years old. I love jokes that come at the expense of cripples or retards or the handicapped. I think the jokes are hilarious!

    Just for the hell of it though, let’s just say I didn’t like the jokes. I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t do, I wouldn’t go bitching to the comedians that said them and tell them they shouldn’t joke about that anymore.
    If I was a pussy without a sense of humor, I would just leave their set/not listen to them.

  9. “He would look like a coward. I would look like a hero.”

    ^ The inner dialog of every social justice warrior actually came out in 100% literal text in this article. Shocking.

    Wait, you mean fighting everything that offends you isn’t for the purpose of helping the world *gasp*, it’s about one upping people & making yourself look glorified & important? *GASP* Man, if I had the fucking time to write bloated self obsessed fluff pieces about everyone who annoys me… What a dull infuriating existence that would be.

    Feminists: We know you don’t care about women. You all continue to shit on & degrade any women who don’t agree with you or fit into your indoctrinated cult. We know you exist in your own self made hierarchy merely to see who can collect the most social ‘justice’ brownie points. It’s all the shallow, vapidness of jr high school cliques & drama/gossip (which women of all backrounds seem to just LOVVVE) under the utterly pretentious guise of trying to save the world. Hahahaha. Mental illness comes in very bizarre forms these days.

  10. I like how you present yourself as a pioneer of social justice, all the while your ego is exposing you for something far different. Nice work. “He would look like a coward. I would look like a hero.” There’s your true intentions. But he doesn’t look like a coward. And you don’t…. well, you know.

  11. I’m waiting to hear men laughing their heads off at rape joke after rape joke after rape joke after rape joke after … in which the victim’s a man. That is all.

  12. Sandy Doyle is the worst. It’s just a comedy show he’s free to say whatever he wants. If you’re ultra sensitive and a baby who demands everyone abide by your beliefs you should just stay at home and not even go to a comedy club. Your rights are not more important than anyone else sockcuccah

  13. I am a male, amateur stand up comic. As I am a man, and have never been sexually assaulted, I recognize that my opinion on this issue is uniformed in important ways (and perhaps unwanted, as a lot of men, myself included, can’t help but share their opinion on everything). Nevertheless, I wanted to leave a comment on this article because I feel I might (heavy emphasis on might) have an interesting perspective on these issues as I have performed stand up comedy and have told rape jokes before (although I cut them from my act after a come to Jesus moment with my ex girlfriend).

    On the general topic of rape jokes and offensive jokes generally, I don’t know if there are easy, universal answers about what a comic can or cannot joke about . I can’t speak for all feminists (or the author), but I imagine a great deal of feminists would probably be ok with a male comic who was the victim of sexual assault joking about his experience with sexual assault, as he would be talking from his specific, personal experience and would not be making light of sexual assault generally. But I have to imagine that there are probably feminists who would not be ok with that. Also, there could conceivably be victims of sexual assault who would not be ok with that joke as they may be triggered and reminded of their own sexual assault. If the metric for whether or not a joke is told is “is there someone who is offended by this joke,” we would all be joking about how much we hate going to the dentist (sorry dentists). Which I feel is counter to everything stand up is. Stand up should be a means through which male and female comics can retell their unique, lived experiences, which are often messy and complicated.

    That being said, I do understand that stand up comedians with a platform, in addition to musicians, actors, etc. are role models and have an influence on how our society advances on certain issues, including sexual assault. If the media that we consume constantly reinforces the message that sexual assault isn’t a big deal, that the victims deserve it, that false allegations are common, etc., then we will start to live out that message with predictably grim consequences. To ask that comics not joke about certain topics because they move our society (along with other aspects of the media) in a negative direction isn’t or shouldn’t be that huge of an ask. While asking comics to line draw with certain toxic subjects is admittedly more difficult, there are a plenty of comics who are capable of doing it and do do it. Louis C.K. seems pretty able to joke about race in a way which, generally speaking, doesn’t seem to rankle feathers. Hari Kandablou jokes about gender in a way that is pretty pro women. To suggest that comics are incapable of being mindful of the effect of their jokes on potential audience members is to set low expectations. By and large successful comics are very smart men and women who got to where they are precisely because they were better than their peers at reading audiences.

    All that said, I don’t know where I stand on rape jokes. If you are going to joke about rape, it is your prerogative, but I will say that it frustrates me when comics complain about censorship or the first amendment when they are taken to task on social media or print publication for material others find it offensive. What I do understand is when comics get pissed when audience members actively disrupt their sets because they find material offensive. With that said, I am glad that you tried to engage him instead of disrupting his set. I hope he responds to you.

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