7/10/12

The Danger In An Apology . . .

Daniel Tosh, Comedian and Host of Comedy Central's Tosh.0
My parents raised me with just three rules:

1) You can say anything you want in this world (except the "F-word" or "C-word" (in their presence)).
2) You must be willing to accept the consequences and rectify the wrongs if your words are ill-conceived or ill-executed.
3) You don't "quit." You see everything you do through to its logical and clear end.

That is it. Truly. I had no curfews, off-limits restrictions or any other barriers to free thought, expression and action that many (much better behaved) children had. They raised the confident, outspoken and boisterous monster that I am and, from any/all indications they are very proud of me and satisfied with what came out of the loose structure of my youth (Sidebar - My parents are not dirty god-damned hippies. My brothers had very different rules and guides in place for them, largely reactionary to their own actions and decisions).

Why am I telling you this? Simple. I can NOT figure out why Daniel Tosh lost his cool at a gig and broke from "just" jokes about rape (as a concept) and, instead, "joked" about a specific woman in the crowd, whom he'd made uncomfortable and why it would be "funny" for her to be gang raped. Right then and there.

I like Daniel Tosh. Ne. I LOVE Daniel Tosh. I think he is the best sort of funny . . . the funny that makes you uncomfortable and makes you realize that there are now true taboos in this world - only in our own sensibilities about the world around us.

Do I think "rape" is funny? No. Do I think jokes about "rape" are funny? NO. I scolded a friend on Twitter the other day for casually implying her car repairs were like rape. I hate rape and that people do it and that people get away with it and that the stigma around it is so strong people don't even always even report it. I suspect Daniel Tosh hates rape too, frankly.

But that is why I'm confused by this whole situation. NOT because he made a horribly-off color joke and then took it to an even darker place (Note to Horrified People Everywhere: Follow him on Twitter, watch a single segment from his show, see a single riff from his stand up . . . he has said far worse often. Very often) but because he apologized in a way that made him somehow seem the victim.

"All the out of context misquotes aside . . ." his Tweet began. "I'd like to sincerely apologize," it ended.

WHAT? I'm confused. Which is it? See my parents rules, Daniel. #2 specifically. Either you feel bad and are sincere in apology or you were misquoted and otherwise maligned in the process.  You can't have it both ways. Sue Amore will ground your ass for even trying that.

I say things that make people uncomfortable and horrified on a daily basis. Literally. I could say I do it hourly and it would still be "literally" except I sleep six hours or so a night and my dreams only bother me.

When people are upset with what I say (or what they think I say) I stop and pause.

1) Did I say "f*ck" or "c*nt" AND were my parents present? Yes/No.
2) Were my words ill-conceived (did I want to bother/offend/horrify/demoralize/disgust my audience)?
3) Was I sloppy or errant in word choice/timing/application (were they ill-executed)? Yes/No.

IF I don't answer "yes" to one or more of the above - I'm not apologizing. You can't force me. You can't chide me. You can't send mutual friends to confront me. You can't out-shock or out-verbally deface me. You just can't get blood from a contrition turnip.

Plain and simple. Call it arrogance on my part (I won't apologize for that either) or call it strong resolve or call it a willingness to lose audience members and potential influence for a potty mouth, a cynical and crass sense of humor or a true willingness to back up my opinions and walk my talk or just call it living by three simple rules.

Don't get me wrong. When I DO answer "yes" to the above or if I'm trying to avoid having to sleep in the basement (again) I'll happily, proudly and equally loudly and in the same forum/format/audience as the offense was leveled (this is also important - you can't say a woman should be gang raped in a theater and then Tweet about it later . . . get the gang back together and do it in person (apologize, that is)). I OWE those that I've impeded upon that. It is the right thing I can do (nothing more, nothing less).

One last thought, Daniel. You've violated my parents third rule here too. The last several years of irreverent, uncomfortable, confrontational humor has been undone with just one Tweet of remorse. You quit. You folded. You (maybe doing the RIGHT thing in the process) admitted that the intentions in your words may not have been pure.

Expect MANY more demands for apologies to come for past indiscretions accordingly and be ready to soften your whole approach to "in your face" nervous-giggle makers (or out-and-out howls of delight from those, like me, that can see that your words are only words when they are not suggesting an actual crime be committed against an actual target).

I hope you can either stay true to your past jokes and meme and insist they are just words executed exactly as you intended them to be or be willing to quit "once and for all" acknowledging that, with this first apology, your approach to satirizing the human experience has reached its logical end.

By the way - lest you think I'm being an apologist here - THIS is my FAVORITE Tosh.0 bit. It. Is. Hilarious (and I'm not apologizing for stating as much):