Daniel Tosh, host of Comedy Central's Tosh.0 is known for saying outrageous things, but a tumblr post that ricocheted around the Internet Tuesday recounting his harsh response to a heckling audience member had him saying something no one expected to hear: "I'd like to sincerely apologize." Well, he was sort of sincere, anyway.
The story, which was posted on the Tumblr Cookies for Breakfast, didn't have a byline, and it credits the narrative to an unnamed friend of the Tumblr's owner—two journalistic red flags. Since Tosh doesn't deny any of the details of the story in his apology, here's the important part of the story about Tosh's set at Los Angeles' Laugh Factory comedy club direct from Cookies:
So 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. So I didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”
After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, “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.
As we said, Tosh doesn't deny the accusation while addressing it on his Twitter, so we can assume there's at least some truth to it. Over the course of the day, blogs such as Videogum, Think Progress, and Feminists for Choice have picked up the story, and by the end of the day, Tosh was as close to contrite as we've seen him to be.
On Twitter, Tosh cited "out-of-context misquotes" in a tweet that linked to the post on Cookies for Breakfast, before saying "I'd like to sincerely apologize." He followed up: "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."
As The Atlantic Wire's Jen Doll pointed out when Rainn Wilson made his awful joke about getting date-raped to Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," there's something of an "outrage machine" that kicks in automatically. (Maybe you remember Tracy Morgan's homophobic humor last year). And that seems to be happening here as well, as bloggers pick up the story.
But the problem with Tosh's joke wasn't just that it was in bad taste, it's that it was also simply bad. And that's what seems to annoy so many about this story, us included. Videogum called it "lazy," which it was, and Think Progress's Alyssa Rosenberg turned it into a referendum on Tosh's craft, about which she concluded, "he’s being a bad comedian." Tosh hasn't said yet what, exactly, he thinks was taken out of context. And we're still waiting to see video of the full routine, if it exists. Perhaps Tosh's work will speak for itself, but from the admittedly limited reporting so far, it sounds like it will speak poorly.