Louis CK: I wasn't defending Tosh

The comic explains how his supportive tweet went rogue, and makes stranger news: He actually likes Tosh

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published July 17, 2012 2:30PM (EDT)

You know the secret to comedy?


Last week, after Daniel Tosh's heated, rape-y exchange with a patron at the Laugh Factory became the most debated pop-culture moment since that Time magazine cover, several prominent comics rushed to tweet him their support. Among them: Louis CK, who declared, "Your show makes me laugh every time I watch it. And you have pretty eyes."

It was an unsurprising response from a guy like CK. The comic has made some pretty goddamn brilliant rape jokes in his time, most recently during a "Louie" episode in which an acquaintance forced herself on him. And a year ago, CK vehemently defended Tracy Morgan's controversial routine in which he vowed that his son "better talk to me like a man and not in a gay voice or I’ll pull out a knife and stab that little nigger to death." At the time, CK said, "It's a dumb thing to take at face value. You'd have to be a moron. And if you do, you are not allowed to laugh at ... any jokes that have any violence or negative feelings attached to them, ironically or otherwise."

So when Tosh flippantly retorted to a heckler who said that "rape jokes are never funny" something about how hilarious it'd be if she was gang-raped, it wasn't much of a shock that CK was among the first to state his allegiance to Tosh and his right to make one-liners about sexual assault. Except that oops, that wasn't what he was doing. On "The Daily Show" Monday, CK revealed that his tweet about how much he enjoys Tosh's show was really just about ... how much he enjoys Tosh's show.

"I was in Vermont and I was watching TV in a hotel room and Daniel Tosh's show comes on," CK told Jon Stewart. "It's making me laugh; it's a funny show. I wasn't reading the Internet at the time because that's how I go on vacation. I really hate the Internet, so I just stopped reading it. But I'm watching TV and Tosh is making me laugh, so I wrote a tweet to say 'Your show makes me laugh.' Then I put it down, and two days later I come home and I read these bloggers and Hollywood Reporter: 'Louie CK Defends Daniel Tosh Amid Rape Joke Controversy.' I had no idea he got in trouble for making some jokes about rape!" He went on to explain, "So I'm a defender of rape, that's what everybody says now. And I've read all this stuff like, 'Shame on you, Louis CK' and 'I'll never watch your show; you're a rape apologist.' I've been called a rape apologist because I said hi to a guy. I said, 'Hey, nice show' to a guy everybody was mad at."

CK's anecdote is a cautionary tale of the illusionary nature of online communication, where a comment lobbed in one direction can seemingly land in an altogether different one. Mostly, however, the comic's appearance on "TDS" is a reminder of why he's the greatest thing in comedy out there. Because after genially stepping back from his apparent support for Tosh's creepy response to his female heckler, CK made sure the audience knew he hadn't suddenly gone soft. He then declared that the Tosh dustup was just "a fight between comedians and bloggers" and that only "hyperbole and garbage comes out of those two places." And for the kicker, he added, "It's also a fight between comedians and feminists, which are natural enemies. Because stereotypically speaking, feminists can't take a joke. And comedians can't take criticism. Comedians are big pussies." He went on to explain how the whole experience has enlightened him about the ways "rape polices women's lives," while adding, "I can still enjoy a good rape joke." Rimshot!

Perhaps, "stereotypically speaking," comics are big pussies. But fearlessly clearing the air while also pointing out the utter absurdity of an outraged, misinterpreted response to his Tosh comments? Gently removing himself from a controversy and making a plea for open mindedness, while taking a stinging jab at feminists and rape humor anyway? That's good comedy. And it's proof there's nothing pussy about you, Louie CK.

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By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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