You guys talk about knowing your audience, but in many cases artists like Tosh are being torn apart by media/advocacy groups and individuals who never even heard of the guy before this. People who clearly are not his audience.
In the 21st century, pretty much everyone is potentially the audience for something said in a public performance.
I agree with those who say that every subject, including rape, can be funny. But the important word there is can
. Most rape jokes -- or dead baby jokes, or suicide jokes, or whatever -- aren't.
And the context is all-important, including who is telling the joke. For example, a rape joke or anecdote may be hilarious when told by one woman who's been raped to another [edited to clarify that I mean another who seems to have a sense of humor about the topic], or to a supportive friend. That does not
mean that the same thing would be funny when told by a male comedian on stage.
Some of you know that I was raped a couple years ago. A couple things that the assailant said and did were
funny, not while they were happening, but in retrospect. The detective, the prosecuting attorney and I laughed together about them. (They'd both figured out very quickly that I use humor as a coping mechanism.) And I've joked about them with a couple close, supportive friends. But that's it.
I wouldn't dream of telling those stories at a party, or here, or to anyone I didn't know very well. There are several reasons, but the one that's most relevant to this thread is that I wouldn't want to risk re-traumatizing someone who, unbeknownst to me, might also have been raped. And, for some people, it is
a matter of re-traumatizing, not just offending, them.
BTW, the article TSQ
keeps referring to is excellent.