Daniel Tosh Is Making Us Think

 In Blog

Raise your hand if you still have no idea who Daniel Tosh is or the kind of comedy he does? Love him or hate him, you probably found yourself reading and talking about him this week after the “rape joke” debacle at Los Angeles’ Laugh Factory.

If you missed the story, stop and read it here.

Much like with the aftermath of Ricky Gervais’ controversial Golden Globes appearance, everyone has an opinion about Tosh. Comedians like Dane Cook and Louis CK came to his defense. Others, often labeled “humorless feminists,” supported the heckler’s claim that rape is never funny.

Regardless of whether you love or hate him, my guess is that you have an opinion about him. And that is what we call an HD character – someone who is clear, consistent and unique. And like most HD characters, Tosh is polarizing.

We found ourselves talking about him too.

Randy Lane on walking the line:

I know Daniel Tosh because I watch his show with my daughter, Madison. And as inappropriate as he is, I find myself laughing, often. He performs ON the line, not near the line, not next to the line. His act is RIGHT ON THE LINE, and when you perform on the line, especially when you are live, there will inevitably be times that you cross the line.

Angela Perelli on strengthening your “tribe”:

This falls under the “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” heading for a celebrity brand. I scoured the Twitterverse for comments like “I used to think Daniel Tosh was hilarious until he made that rape joke.” I didn’t find any. People either defended him, or said, “I always knew that guy was a tool.” 

It’s not a terrible thing when you get the right kind of bad publicity if the people who are your biggest fans are still defending you to those who you don’t want in your tribe anyway. (Is Daniel Tosh really the comedian for feminists?) In radio terms, his P1s still love him (likely even more now) and his cume will go up as more people who may not have been aware of him (but like controversial humor) check out his TV show and tour. What do you bet the ratings for his show spike next time it’s on?

Stephanie Winans on being branded the “rape joke guy”:

Tosh was smart to remove the rape jokes from his new animated pilot (debuting this weekend). Following up the Laugh Factory controversy with a TV show based solely on rape comedy would brand him as the “rape joke guy”. While I understand (and often enjoy) the right that comics have to test outrageous material, who wants to be known as rape joke guy? Obviously not Daniel Tosh, or he wouldn’t have scrambled at the last minute to “de-rape” Brickleberry.

Tosh fans tune in for the surprising variety of his outrageousness, not for one-trick-pony rape humor. Whether you’re offended or not, you’d be bored if Tosh’s shocking jokes became predictable. For that reason alone, Tosh should do whatever it takes to keep from branding himself as the comedian who thinks rape is funny.

Cliff Dumas on vulnerability:

Have you watched Tosh 2.0? He is generous in his comedic critique of everyone and everything. He is arguably one of the funniest comedians on television. Will these types of comedians cross the line? Yes. Did his ‘rape’ comment cross the line? Absolutely. Should it define him? No! Remember what happened to the Dixie Chicks? One off the cuff comment, no matter how foul, should not become that which the person is judged by.

One fundamental rule we advocate to quicken the character definition process of any performer: “If you’re thinking it, say it.” You obviously have to take into account your audience and how the comment relates to your values, though.

People who can open up are the ones the audience will care about. Even if it means being vulnerable to making a mistake.

Dave Ryan on a complaint crisis situation:

There are so many things at work here and so many of them apply to morning radio. Let’s start with the woman’s story differing from the manager’s story. In morning radio, listeners often think they heard us say something that we either didn’t say or was heard on another station. Then, there’s spreading the story virally online, angering even more people with what might be an incorrect version of the events. Finally, there’s the idea that these people went to a show by a comic known to be outrageous, yet they were offended by him. Lisa Lampanelli is also very outrageous. If you go to her show looking to be offended, then you will be! Same with Family Guy. It’s one offensive, yet hysterical joke after another.

The one thing that we radio people can take from this story is whether we’re joking or not, whether we’re right or wrong, anyone who’s offended by something on our show has an enormous and unfair amount of power. They can spread their version of the events through Twitter, Facebook, online petitions, etc. to people who don’t question their story. This can snowball into these groups writing your advertisers, threatening to boycott them if they continue to support your station. Of course this isn’t fair to on-air talent or the radio station. However, it is a reality that I’ve seen happen more and more frequently since the explosion of social media.

I’m not saying you should filter your material to the extent that it ruins your show.  Just be careful. Watch what you say. Make a mental list of things that you probably shouldn’t joke about. You can still be funny and outrageous but that one joke may be the one that kicks the hornet’s nest. And if you do run into this situation, apologize. Just like in kindergarten, saying “I’m sorry” really goes a long way.

Now you’ve heard our thoughts. I’d love to hear yours as well in the comments below. Do you think his apology was sufficient? Do you think he’ll tone down his humor? Do you think rape jokes are funny? How about dead babies?

-written by Angela Perelli


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