by: Jonah M. Lefholtz
I’m the sort of person that touches cacti and electric fences on purpose; I have a masochistic side, but I usually can’t manage to sit through more than ten minutes of anything Daniel Tosh has to say. I don’t think his jokes are funny; he’s makes a living off of being obstinate and obtuse, and if he isn’t truly ignorant, he plays one on TV deceivingly well. He’s the Tucker Max of cable television.
To write this, I figured a little “research” was in order so I pulled up Netflix, which is streaming Mr. Tosh’s hour-long stand up special, “Completely Serious.” I stomached him for 16 minutes of it before I had to turn it off. During those 16 minutes, he made fun of the poor, he racially profiled the looters of Hurricane Katrina (and asked that God just “finish” New Orleans off), he made fun of amputees, he said terrible things about women and their bodies, and told more abortion jokes than I’ve heard in the last ten years. The final straw, while the smallest evil of the acts already committed, but to me the icing on the cake: he started making fun of Nebraskans. Every single thing he said during those first 16 minutes of his act hit me close to home. Writing this has killed my soul, just a little bit.
Maybe I am just easily offended. Maybe I’ve been living in the politically correct arena for too long, maybe I’ve forgotten that sometimes a joke is “just a joke,” but seriously, Tosh? Come on. Be funny by showing us how witty you actually are (if you are) by coming up with material that is actually funny rather than retooling the same old, over-told, low brow humor that has existed for too long and is completely played out. The only reason you’re getting laughs, Tosh, is because your audience laughs out of habit; people are used to this sort of humor because that’s the sort of racist, misogynist, fat-phobic, anti-differently-abled body bullshit many of us grew up around.
I was introduced to Tosh.0 by someone I was dating. I had never heard of him because I live in a queer bubble of political correctness, but apparently the rest of the world doesn’t live like this and they think he’s hilarious. It took me a while to figure out where I stood with him, because he did get a few laughs out of me, and it took me a second to realize what I was laughing at, probably because I was drunk, before realizing how offensive he was to my delicate ears.
I gave him a few more chances late at night, because I wanted to be sure, and maybe I was lonely and feeling that masochistic streak, but each viewing made me feel worse inside than a Craigslist quicky. Especially since I did grow up with a lot of this sort of humor (growing up I even laughed at homo/transphobic jokes knowing full well my identity, I am not proud to say) so part of the thing is, Tosh makes me want to laugh at things I know aren’t funny. Maybe I’m just getting old, because I take offense at a lot of things that I never used to, or maybe I’m just maturing. (Adult Swim just isn’t the same anymore.) I’m not sure which it is, they are probably entwined, but I am quite positive that I don’t think making fun of little people is funny. Why is that funny? How is one’s stature funny?
Tosh uses a lot of sarcasm, which I will be the first to admit that I don’t always get. Oscar Wilde said that “sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.” I think sarcasm can be done well, but Tosh’s form is pretty low-witted, and his poor audience is getting duped into laughing at themselves (which may be genius on his part, but it still rubs me the wrong way). Comedy can be a powerful tool, if used right. It can address social problems and change minds by evoking laughter. Or it can perpetuate stereotypes and keep the ignorant ignorant. It’s all about using it correctly, using sarcasm in a way that makes a person think about what you just said, and maybe feel a little unsure as to whether or not they are being joked with. Tosh’s brand of abrasive sarcasm is just mean and aggressive… but maybe that is hilarious to some people.
I can’t narrow down what aspect of Tosh’s humor bothers me the most. Is it his blatant obstinacy towards things that you just don’t joke about? Abortion isn’t funny. It can be very painful, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. It isn’t a “get out of jail free” card for the one with the sperm. It’s also not funny to joke about kidney punching your girlfriend, or employing the stale “make me a sandwich” routine. Those jokes are dangerous and boring, respectively. And you know what else isn’t funny? Making it a joke that it’s OK to cheat on your girlfriend because you don’t find her body attractive. I know Tosh is, in a way, poking fun at this sort of mentality, which is why I think he might be pretty intelligent and why I think he should be able to come up with better material. Personally, I think that a laugh derived from a subtle joke is way better than a laugh caused by something that’s already been said a thousand times over.
To wrap this up, I cannot stand Daniel Tosh for the following reasons: he makes fun of anything that isn’t white and middle to upper class, male, and averagely sized. And he makes fun of abortion. And Nebraska. (Friends, I have never eaten a fried mayonnaise ball, nor do I know any other Nebraskans that have.) He also makes me feel bad about myself for previously being entertained by such shenanigans. I know a lot of times offensive equals funny (Sacha Baron Cohen, anybody?) to some people but it’s less and less funny to me as I get older. So, enjoy Tosh if you like him. I’ll only judge you a little and I won’t watch it with you unless you want me to get a righteous and cranky (which I’ve been told is sort of funny).
Jonah M. Lefholtz is a student and care-taker in Chicago, IL. He recently came out as a femme male and his life is better for it! He likes spending time with his family and friends, has two cats, and appreciates complexity.