Daniel Tosh: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Daniel Tosh is technically on tour, although now that he’s done in the Northeast (the Leaves and Lobster portion of his current slate of dates), you have to be in Vegas or Florida to catch one of his shows. Otherwise, Tosh has gone eerily quiet since Comedy Central unexpectedly pulled the plug on Tosh.0 during the pandemic. Was it something he said? Probably, when you consider the totality of his comedy career. Here's the Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.
WARNING: Discussion of Tosh's take on rape follows
The Good: Tosh.0
Take America’s Funniest Home Videos, add a pinch of pain, a cup of cruelty, and a dash of discomfiture, and there you have Tosh.0, one of the first comedy shows to mine Internet weirdness for laughs.
Sounds like a foolproof concept, but Tosh’s particularly acidic brand of snark is crucial to the mix. He’s the guy who fake-throws to canceled Comedy Central shows (“We’ll be right back with more Mind of Mencia right after this”), and he isn’t afraid to get disgusting (the show couldn’t air early Internet catastrophe 2 Girls 1 Cup but it could show extended clips of revolted viewers reacting to it).
Tosh.0 was such a good idea that MTV now runs it pretty much 24/7 under the name Ridiculousness.
The Bad: He makes celebrities mad.
We might as well start with Ridiculousness host Rob Dyrdek, who was ready to throw down after a Tosh.0 bit featured Daniel dressed up as Dyrdek surrounded by shirtless 12-year-old boys. The sketch painted Tosh’s rival as a pedophile, which … might be going too far. Dyrdek was so angry that he challenged Tosh to settle things “the old-fashioned way,” also known as an ass-kicking.
“Fair enough,” Tosh tweeted, “but if you have to beat me up, can we film it and put it on my show so people will actually watch it?"
Our next celebrity is Lena Dunham, who also took to Twitter to call out Tosh:
She told Andy Cohen that Tosh was “the biggest misogynist in Hollywood,” which, considering the competition, is some form of accomplishment - although not one to be proud of. The gripe still had to do with something Tosh expressed about her physique: "He said a really unkind thing about my breasts, but he said it in a context in which I felt like he was shutting down a lot of women for having bodies he didn't consider to be normative," she told Cohen.
The Bad: He makes regular people mad.
Daniel Tosh is the kind of guy who trends on Twitter for offensive comments that no one can readily identify. Thing is, he sprays so many borderline improper comments in both his stand-up and on Tosh.0 that it’s not hard for random tweeters to imagine he’s guilty of something.
And Twitter continues to be full of people mad at Tosh for … doing nothing in particular? He just seems to be the kind of guy who inspires rancor.
The Ugly: That Joke
Somehow, Tosh’s Comedy Central career survived for several years after an ugly 2012 incident at a comedy club where Tosh was making jokes about rape. A female audience member took Tosh to task, shouting out that “actually, rape jokes are never funny.”
Tosh fired back. According to a since-deleted blog post by an audience member, his response went something like: “Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by like, five guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”
After the blog post went viral, Tosh apologized but undercut his own sincerity by maintaining that all subjects, including rape, can be the topic of humor. In a since-deleted tweet, he doubled down: “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.”
Being that this was 2012, not 2022, other comedians jumped in to defend Tosh. Comic Alex Edelman acknowledged rape was a sensitive topic, but told The Guardian that “a comedian should be allowed to say almost whatever he wants and that the audience should be able to manifest their dislike in the form of not laughing at something if they find it offensive."
Comedian Morgan Murphy took to Twitter, noting that while she wasn’t endorsing any material in particular, comics in clubs should be allowed to “make mistakes.”
Comic provocateurs like Anthony Jeselnik (a future The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly candidate!) weighed in with potentially offensive jokes of their own: “This Daniel Tosh rape joke controversy really has me second guessing some of my rapes.”
But in general, Tosh took it on the chin. Elissa Bassist, a humor columnist, took the comic to task -- and it wasn’t for making a joke about rape. It was about the particulars of Tosh’s jab:
Wouldn’t it be funny if this girl got gang-raped right this moment, like right now?
“That’s not a joke,” wrote Bassist. “It’s an invitation. It’s a celebration of a violent crime, which is itself another violation.”
Tosh’s joke wasn’t funny, Bassist argued, because he wasn’t kidding around. He was angry about being interrupted during a set. “He used humor to cut her down, to remind her of own vulnerability, to emphasize who was in control.”
Twitter continues to debate the pros and cons of Tosh’s humor to this day. But ironically, his debacle resulted in something that almost all comic minds agreed with: Jokes about Daniel Tosh’s rape jokes are completely fair game.
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Top image: Comedy Central/Picture Group