Daniel Tosh's rape joke controversy: Comedian apologizes (Poll)
Daniel Tosh has apologized after reportedly joking about rape and insulting a woman at a recent comedy show, but also added that he was misquoted in a blog post that had stirred online controversy and spurred a petiton to try and get his TV show canceled.
The 37-year-old hosts the Comedy Central series"Tosh.0," which is aimed at "mature audiences." While he not the first comic to joke about rape during a comedy set, he is one of the most famous ones to do so and joins other popular comedians who have over the past year been criticized online by the public over politically incorrect and offensive material, highlighting the growing power of social media.
The author quotes her friend, who is unidentified, as saying she attended one of Tosh's comedy sets at Los Angeles' Laugh Factory on Friday and became involved in a confrontation with him after she yelled her disapproval about a rape joke. The exchange between the heckler and the comedian then appeared to take a turn for the ugly.
"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, etc. 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," the woman wrote. "So 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!'"
"I did it because, even though being 'disruptive' is against my nature, I felt that sitting there and saying nothing, or leaving quietly, would have been against my values as a person and as a woman," she added "I don't sit there while someone tells me how I should feel about something as profound and damaging as rape.
The woman said that Tosh then paused and told her: "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," she wrote. "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."
After the blog post was published, an online petition calling on Comedy Central to take Tosh off the air surfaced online. It has more than 4,140 signatures as of Wednesday.
After apologizing, Tosh also Tweeted: "The point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them. #deadbabies (sic)."
Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada defended the comedian, telling E! News: "I understand where she is coming from, but Daniel Tosh did not attack this young lady. I feel bad for her and I apologize to her. If you are a member of the audience and you start dishing out something to a comic and try to be funny, you better be able to take it."
According to the blog, the woman said she complained to a manager at the comedy club about the incident and said the person was "profusely apologetic," offered her free tickets and "admitted she understood if we never wanted to come back."
"I can imagine the Laugh Factory doesn't really have a policy in place for what happens when a woman has to leave in a hurry because the person onstage is hurling violent words about sexual violence at her. Although maybe I'm not the first girl to have that happen to her."
The blog author later posted a followup post that said: "My friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) is very surprised to have gotten any form of an apology and doesn't wish to press any further charges against Daniel Tosh. We also wanted to thank those that started petitions and the like, it's more than she ever wanted and those that helped make this story so popular it went to the media."
"She does plan on returning to comedy shows in the future, but to see comedians that she's seen before or to at least look up artists before going to their shows," the author added.
Tosh has joked about rape on stage in the past and on screen as well - he references it in a comedy bit about his own sister in his 2011 standup special "Happy Thoughts."
Joking about rape has long-been considered taboo but more reports about comedy actors, notably edgy comedienne Sarah Silverman, doing it anyway on stage have surfaced in recent years amid the rise of the popularity of social media.
In February of this year, "The Office" actor Rainn Wilson angered many when he Tweeted: "If I were ever date raped I would want it to be to "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin."
He later apologized, saying: "Not a good topic to joke about. Sorry & won't do that again."
Even referencing rape has gotten celebrities in trouble. In October 2010, Johnny Depp issued a statement of apology after the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) criticized him over comments made to Vanity Fair magazine, in which he compared posing for photo shoots to "being raped."
On a 2010 episode of his FX show "Louie," Megan Hilty, a Broadway actress who now stars on NBC's "Smash," plays an audience member who disrupts main star Louis C.K. while he is performing on stage. The two then get into an argument and she tells him he is not funny and is offensive because he joked about rape.
He then makes another rape joke that referenced her mother and utters a slew of highly offensive insults, including: "Can you do me a favor? Can you please just die of AIDS?" She later confronts him off-stage.
"You have no right to talk to me like that," she tells him.
"Actually I do. That's how that room works. I have a right to talk. I'm actually paid to talk in there and to say stuff and people laugh. You're not supposed to say anything. It's a show." (Watch the clip here - warning: explicit language)
Louis C.K. Tweeted a message of support for Tosh on Tuesday, saying: "Your show makes me laugh every time I watch it. And you have pretty eyes."
Other comedians and actors have stirred controversy over jokes about other sensitive topics, such as race and homosexuality. Check out five examples:
1. Michael Richards, who played Cosmo Kramer on "Seinfeld," famously made headlines in 2006 when he unleashed a racist rant against a black audience member while performing at the same Laugh Factory club in Los Angeles. He later apologized in a segment that aired on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman."
2. Jason Alexander, who played George Constanza on "Seinfeld," said on a May 2012 episode of "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" that the sport cricket was a "gay game." He later Tweeted a lengthy "message of amends."
3. Chris Rock is known for making jokes about race but earlier this month sparked a heated debate on his Facebook page and thousands of comments after posting on July 4: "Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren't free but I'm sure they enjoyed fireworks. (sic)"
4. Tracy Morgan - in June 2011, made insulting comments about homosexuals at a comedy show, which sparked a media firestorm. He apologized in person to gay advocacy groups and an audience member. The controversy was incorporated into an episode of his NBC show "30 Rock." Morgan was also criticized over his use of the "R" word to describe the mentally disabled during another comedy set.
5. Gilbert Gottfried - the comedian and actor was axed as the official spokesman for the Aflac duck after he made an offensive joke about the deadly tsunami in Japan. He later apologized on Twitter, adding: "I meant no disrespect, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families."