Every week, In Case You Missed It takes a closer, more articulated look at the news that other outlets seemed to miss, or merely glossed over. This week, Mike Haverty returns to the Daniel Tosh controversy and looks at why jokes of such a troubling nature don’t work when coming from Tosh.
I’ve defended Daniel Tosh a few times in the past. I loved his first album, True Stories I Made Up, because there was a bi-polarity to it. His voice echoed an innocent ignorance that his punchlines should have denied. His first Comedy Central special Daniel Tosh: Completely Serious was something I had trouble defending, and not because it was unfunny. It was really funny under a very specific circumstance: Rip the audio of the Comedy Central special, and listen to that instead of the album of the same name. For me, there’s an awkwardness, a waver of the voice as he delivers offensive punchlines as if there is a bully offstage, right fist slowly punching left palm. Maybe it’s the nervousness of being recorded that does it, because actually watching the special doesn’t have the same effect. Tosh’s stilted gestures don’t match the voice, as if all of his nervous energy rests on the back of his throat like a cold that makes your voice sound deeper, cooler. It was like watching Sarah Silverman find a voice in the obscene, with some absurd flights of fancy that were genuinely fun if you didn’t hate him.
Now, things are different. His point of view is now that which is tried-and-true funny, which means not too clever and relying on the stereotypes fleshed out in the 50s. The bully embodied. It’s embarrassing more than anything else. He obviously has to have some sort of talent, obscured by his penchant for comfortable jokes. Tosh-gate makes for fascinating blog-watching, because the entire argument brings up something both grotesque and prevalent. It’s like a murder mystery in a small town that forces all these small characters to show their true colors. Every commenter, blogger, pundit, comic, man, woman and teenager has been forced into a discourse about rape culture, but the discussion is hinged on a binary. Was it funny, or was it not?
Not really. Pretty safe joke. It’s a sound, terrible perspective that challenges nothing, therefore reinforcing everything bad. “What if five dudes raped her right now” sounds like something I would have said at the lunch table in high school six years ago, but would be one of the many jokes I learned to regret. Maybe he’ll have the same revelation? Or maybe he’s already selling out stadiums, so fuck it.
I want my comedy like I want my Breaking Bad: finding ingenious ways to burst out of self-made graves whilst flipping off the world’s expectations. The only thing Tosh is guilty of is settling for the college bro audience. The funniest thing to come from this, besides Louis C.K’s response on The Daily Show, was the last-minute edits to Daniel Tosh’s upcoming animated series Brickleberry, which follows a group of park rangers and a sassy talking bear (voiced by Tosh oh God why do you hate us) as they do whatever park rangers and sassy bears do. Scheduled for a preview at Comic-Con, the production company had to scramble to take out all the rape jokes from the pilot. All the rape jokes? “Well, the first episode was pretty much all about rape,” said a production manager.
Right palm meets face.