In Uncategorized on August 30, 2011 at 8:07 am

Comedians will use whatever fodder that can to get a laugh – racist comments, homophobic bits, issues surrounding sex, and a thousand other traditionally “offensive” subject are fair game when you’ve got a microphone in your hand and an audience with a two-drink minimum to please.

Usually, I can give a little chuckle at these offensive things, write it off as part of the nature of comedy, and know that my beliefs and values are not in alignment with the politically incorrect stories being told by the comedian. 

But there are some things that, no matter what the context, are just not funny. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a good joke.  I use humor in a lot of what I do.  It’s a great way to connect with people, get them interested and listening to what you have to say, and, hopefully, get them involved with your ultimate message.

However, the subject of RAPE or Sexual Assault is NEVER funny.  I was trolling through Twitter the other day and SAFER tweeted a link to their blog that read: “There is no such thing as a rape joke.”

The link led to a Facebook post.  It said: “And if you put as your Facebook status, ‘I totally raped at Halo today,’ for your two hundred Facebook friends to see, statistically, you have just reminded thirty-three people of one of the worst experiences of their entire lives. To describe how well you did at a video game. Good job!”   And I’ve got to be honest, that made me smile.  Rape is not a word to just be tossed around like it’s funny or doesn’t mean anything — it isn’t funny, and it means quite a bit.

But, when it comes down to it, where do Facebook statuses like “I totally raped at Halo today” come from?  We’re all taught that rape is a horrible thing from our very first health class.  And yet, rape jokes still persist through our culture.

I found a link to a Comedy Improv Night video this afternoon (  At the event, audience members were supposed to tell a story form their life and the panel of comedian on stage would make jokes and side comments based on the stories.  In this particular video, the audience member, Eric, reveals a story in a which he confesses he raped a woman while she was drunk. 

Here’s the worst part: the comedians clearly recognize that this is rape by their responses and jokes, but do not say the word “rape,” express any concern for the victim, or do anything to stop Eric from revealing his troubling story. 

I don’t know what happened after the camera shut off.  But there was nothing about this story that made me laugh, not even the supposedly clever banter from the comedy panel.  I hope that once the camera shut off, someone said something to Eric about his rape story.

Let me give you another example.

Saturday Night Live has a history of creating sketches on all sorts of controversial issues, including rape.  In 1993 when Antioch College published their extensive sexual violence policy, SNL created a game show skit poking fun at the definitions set forth in the policy.  Click here to read the show transcript.     More recently, they produced a sketch called “Scared Straight” in which Betty White and Kenan Thompson talk to delinquent “youths” (Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, and Bobby Moynihan) about the rapes that await them in prison.  I believe White’s famous line was, “Wizard of Ass,” referring to anal rape. 

Of course, the laugh track is going pretty consistently throughout the whole routine, but I’m about 99.99% sure it’s not a laughing matter.  I get that they’re trying to be funny, make jokes, and “scare straight” these delinquents.  But surely there is other comedic fodder out there, something funnier than laughing at the horror of rape.  Frankly, I had more respect for Betty White than this.  At least she had the decency to look super uncomfortable through most of the sketch.

Stories like this happen all too often.  We are put in a situation where it’s supposed to be funny or we’re not sure what to do, and so no one does anything.  No one says anything. 

I wonder what would have happened if the comedians had stopped Eric and told him what he had done was rape, and then had a discussion with the audience about what constitutes rape and what they can do from prevent it from happening, before continuing on with the show?  Would someone in the audience have learned something?  Would any survivors in the audience felt more comfortable the situation had been confronted as not funny?  Would Eric have thought twice before he tried something like that again?

I wonder what would have happened if SNL had found a new way to scare delinquents straight?  Would they have found something truly comedic, instead of a serious offense that affects hundreds of thousands of their watchers?  Or could they have scrapped the sketch entirely and found something better to do, something more old school SNL — you know, back when it was actually funny.

I’m proud of the person who responded to the Facebook post that rape wasn’t funny.  It takes a lot to confront someone about something that makes you uncomfratble – especially when so many things around us are saying that it’s okay not to say anything and just let it slide, that no one really gets hurt by these kinds of jokes, and if you can’t take a joke, then you’re just an asshole who’s way too sensitive. 

Before I sign off, let me remind you that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be victims of rape or sexual assault.  This will be the worst experience of their entire lives.  You are using their lives, their experience, as fodder for a laugh.  Good job.

  1. This blog provided another insight into this story. I found it very interesting. I hope you do too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: