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February 28, 2009

I'm Not Funny

What I’m learning about date rape jokes is that some people really like them and some people do not. This is probably to be expected because rape, as a general topic, is not very funny. But when you add the word “date” to it, somehow it magically becomes pretty amusing (at least to me). Just like the way the word “ice” by itself isn’t funny. Add “Vanilla?” You get my point.

I was again made aware of this terrible schism only minutes ago when I posted the following Twitter update about my family ski vacation:

Done skiing for the day: sore, drunk, and exhausted. I feel like I was date raped.

Most people who responded did not seem particularly offended. But a couple did. One wrote “Wow. I thought you were for funny for a while. You’re not.” Then she added, “Rape is like killing someone and then asking them to get up and walk. To joke is to promote it.” And she included a link for a rape awareness website.

Did I feel bad? I did. Nobody likes to be told they are promoting rape. Not even rapists want to hear that. That’s why you never hear about the “bragging rapist.” It’s just not the kind of crime you brag about. Murderers have certainly been known to be boastful. Rapists? Not so much. Not sure why. I mean, it seems like if rape is your thing, you might as well own it. I’ve just never heard the sentence, “I’m the best rapist in the world.” Not even in a movie.

People just don’t make light of rape, and I suppose that’s probably for the best. But does that mean you can’t? There are definitely people out there who feel like certain topic are off-limits for comedy. Curiously nobody ever includes murder on that list. Not even mass murder. I mean, I know that I’ve certainly made more than my fair share of Holocaust jokes, and yet nobody has ever accused me of promoting the Holocaust.

 (Actually, one person did, but that’s because I was selling t-shirts that read “My grandparents were rounded up and sent by cattle car to Auschwitz, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” In that case, the criticism was probably deserved.)

Now that I think of it, one of my all-time favorite jokes is a rape joke. It’s a Sarah Silverman joke, and it’s such a perfectly constructed little piece of comedy:

I was raped by a doctor – which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.

That might be the best rape joke ever written. Because it’s also anti-Semitic. When you combine rape and Anti-Semitism in the same joke, I’m sorry, you’ve done something right. The only thing that would have made it better is if she had figured out a way to squeeze the word “nigger” in there.

My intention is never to offend people. That’s not fun. I just like to push buttons, even hot buttons. Even belly buttons. And yes, even hot belly buttons. So I apologize to that girl because I would like her to think that I am funny again. Honestly after I read her comment, I was sad, nauseous and regretful. I felt like I’d just had an abortion.


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Nick

Wait, so the n-word isn't racist if you type it? Someone needs to write up a rule sheet so I know when it's ok.
So far I have this..

"Times when the "N-Word" is ok to say."
1) In rap Lyrics
2) The 1850s
3) This blog
4) When you become a black person
5) Reading Mark Twain novels aloud

If someone could help me clarify this situation please feel free to add to the list. Thanks!

Emily

I would love to own one of those shirts. I also thought your tweet was hilarious and think people need to lighten up.

Kay

Hey love, your blog shows a great amount of respect and sensitivity. I'm sorry you had to feel yucky after reading that comment, but I still think your fans understand where your heart is and that you do not think rape itself is funny, nor do you promote it. Your joke is fine, and the pangs of regret you've felt are only the response to someone reacting badly (probably) out of their own personal experience. It's not your fault, and you are funny. You're one of the only entertaining people on twitter, too!:)

Jaime

“Rape is like killing someone and then asking them to get up and walk.”

Wow. That was pretty poignant of her. I think that is the most concisely powerful commentary I've heard on rape. I get her. Sarah Silverman is a girl and a Jewish gal at that. She has a little more ability to tackle that joke. I think gleamgliding has an excellent point. It only happens to women, so if a woman jokes about it, it takes the power out of it a little. If a man does, it can come off misogynistic, which you most certainly are not. You are great to the ladies and their hot belly buttons. But someone who's not already a fan and doesn't know you're comedic ethos, I could see how that would sting.

But here you are. I concur with Amanda. "high five for giving a shit about other people and not wanting to hurt feelings." Plus, you know what an abortion feels like. How much more down with the ladies can you be?!

Nancy

You gotta laugh at the most horrible stuff sometimes. Just to balance things out.

allyson

My boyfriend and I have argued about this many times before. I mostly got angry with him because there was a huge influx of sexual assaults where we live, and he thought it was silly of me to be afraid to walk home alone at night. I agree with the person above who said mostly men joke about it and think it's funny. I think that is because they don't understand the fear that women experience.

That being said, after a discussion where he agreed to discontinue rape jokes, I caught myself making them and I felt stupid. Overall, you can't pick and choose what offensive things are okay to joke about and which ones aren't. If you are against rape jokes, then you shouldn't joke about race or religion or murder either. I'm glad you have a conscience though. Just don't go all Dave Chapelle on us.

Kerry

I've been raped.(not fun)
I've gone skiing.(almost equally not fun)
The joke was funny.
But thank you, random girl who was offended, because had you NOT been offended, we would not have had this hilarious response.
People need to get over themselves.
Anyone who's been raped knows the first way to get back to your normal life is to take back your control.
So laughing at a joke a comic makes is allowed.
In fact, it's encouraged.
Laughter = Good thing.
Rape = Bad thing.
Joke about Rape = Supporting Rape <- this is irrational.
And YOU'RE allowed to speak, laugh, joke, confess, and write about your rape. It happened to you.
The only OFFENSIVE thing I can think of is a RAPIST talking about it.
Take back your life, and get over the PC shit.

Jason

Hey Michael - you're wrong about there being no bragging rapists:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/1492839/Mother-sets-fire-to-her-daughters-gloating-rapist.html

However, I think the story reveals why there aren't many bragging rapists.

Camille

Lots of thought provoking responses. I especially like Kerry's.

Red

After reading this post, I feel like I've been sodomized.

Jaime

"Date Rape" is a great Sublime song, but mostly because the justice in it is sweet sweet sweet. I love the dialogue going on here. This is a great discussion.

Jaime

Especially Red's dialogue. :)

great white shark

that last line is 100% perfect

Susanna

Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke (you insensitive bastard). ;-)

golfwidow

In the non-PC thought progression of the Old Days, you were probably wearing a sexy parka and were therefore asking for it.

Jesse Dangerously

I'm sure every comedian bristles at being told what they're "allowed" to make light of, but that's a pretty narcissistic response. The point isn't whether a joke about rape could ever be effective as humour, the point is that it isn't worth it.

You're a grown up and you're educated and you don't need to be told what cultural ills are contributed to by dudes treating rape (including date rape) like something trivial.

I figure you're good enough and smart enough to feel at least a little bit like shit to know that you might be triggering serious shit in vulnerable people with jokes that don't compare to your best material.

So... stay fly, I guess. I'm not going to stop reading, but I'm not going to pretend I'm not slightly disappointed in your too-flip response.

p.s. ha ha abortion is something you do voluntarily and doesn't necessarily hurt anyone. not the same territory.

Lono

I think it was funny. Personally, that stuff is the best. Me, I prefer pedophile jokes. Why? Because it is so horribly and so taboo that every reasonable person is disgusted by it. that is comedy gold.

my favorite is this:

girls breaks up with guy
guy says "why?"
girl says "because you are a pedophile"
guy says "that's a pretty big word for a 6 year old!"


now come on, that is funny.

Nick

This reminds me of a joke:

Q: How do you make a six year old boy cry?

A: Rape him in the ass.

s.k.

discrimination against humor really irritates me. at least one uppity person is going to find offense in any type of joke. you can't silence humor because someone might be butthurt because of the punchline.

along the same vein of debate, the lovely amanda palmer said this piece about her "controversial" song, "oasis."

"countless girls have been raped or date-raped. are we allowed to talk about it, joke about it, turn it over from every side and try figure it our own confused reaction to it?
or is that just too icky, uncomfortable … and shameful?

should we just cry about it demurely and hope that the proper reaction, the one that society deems appropriate, will make it go away?

fuck that shit."

people need to lighten up.

Reptar

I was laughing until you dropped the n-bomb.

Racist asshole.

george

Then I say something.

Dissapointed

Michael,

There is no such thing as date rape. It's just rape.

Joe K

Michael,

I am disgusted with you. How could you be so aloof about promoting something as awful as Twitter?

Jenny

I think you're funny.

Kacie

Thank you for making me laugh out loud today, Michael Ian Black.

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