Location: Bar by 17th & R Streets NW (Dupont)
Time: Night (7:30pm-12am)
An Open Letter to a “Rapey” Comic —
As frequent attendees of open mic nights for local comics this summer, we know that your act generally focuses on invasive banter with the audience (“What race are you?” was a question directed at an Afghan audience member back in September), peppered with cheap jokes that rest on tired stereotypes, like your bit a few weeks ago about prison rape.
We’re not naïve enough to expect rape to be totally off-limits at open mic nights, but what you did at the open mic night on Monday targeted three women there, plain and simple.
When you got on stage, you immediately turned your attention to us. You started by asking us our opinions about condoms, repeatedly telling us that we looked mean. When you noticed one of us sitting with her arms crossed, you admonished her, saying that she should uncross them so you could “verbally rape” her, and proceeded to describe how your words would slip under her shirt and undo her bra, among other things.
Another of the three of us got up to get a beer and when you called out to her she said that she didn’t find rape funny. It could have ended there, but the rest of your “act” was a blur of offensive and stale jokes—some aimed at our table. When you got off the mic, you gave us the finger and told us to go fuck ourselves, to the applause of the rest of the room (mostly fellow comics). The emcee excused your behavior, noting that he himself, like many other comics, had had some trouble “with the ‘R’ word.” Is this a flashback to the Daniel Tosh rape scandal? Or is this some kind of infantile backlash?
Regardless, three women who were obviously not amused [seemed to] threaten your fragile male ego, and you essentially bullied us out of public space as a result.
We left shortly after you got off stage. As patrons, we somehow expected a tiny bit more from the comic scene in DC. Maybe we should have heckled you back or put up a fight, but part of our ingrained survival strategy is knowing how to take a lot of flack without flinching in a society that constantly reminds us of our inferiority. Maybe your survival strategy involves going to open mic nights and making lazy, tired jokes to mostly silent crowds.
We realize we’ll get pegged as humorless feminists for objecting to our verbal rape, so please let us explain that we agree with your assertion that rape jokes can, in fact, be funny in “certain contexts.” Wanda Sykes’s “detachable vagina” riff, and Margaret Cho’s David Hager wineglass-on-the-mattress joke are prime examples of this. These “funny in certain context” rape jokes aren’t unique to female comics; Louis C.K. came out with a bit earlier this year about how, statistically, a woman going on a date with a man is like if you could “only date a half-bear, half-lion. ‘Oh, I hope this one’s nice.’” As Patton Oswalt observed after the Tosh scandal, “No one is trying to make rape, as a subject, off-limits.
No one is talking about censorship. In fact, every viewpoint I’ve read on this, especially from feminists, is simply asking to kick upward, to think twice about who is the target of the punch line, and make sure it isn’t the victim.” Rape jokes that break rape culture in half are funny; singling out audience members to threaten isn’t.
You’ve clearly crossed the line from heckling to harassment.
We think it’s high time you draft some real attempts at humor or get off the bill.
The Humorless Uptight Bitches at Table 3
Emphases by CASS.
Submitted 10/24/13 by Anonymous.
We’ve learned that this open letter, which was submitted to CASS on 10/24/13, was also sent to the Washington City Paper (WCP). WCP published the open letter as well as a (horrible) response by the comedian in question.
Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Submit your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.
If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system: Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): www.wmata.com/