This is a very touchy subject. The last couple of years have had high profile comics getting in trouble for their jokes about rape. I am of the school of thought that anything can be made funny if you take the time to find the funny in it. Rape is no exception. Now, there is nothing funny about someone getting raped. That is a terrible thing that should not be joked about. But their are some aspects of rape, like rape culture, that can be made fun of. There are a couple of things we need to go over about how to make a rape joke.
I think it takes a skilled comedian to write a rape joke that isn’t making light of a person being victimized. I also think there are double standards that exist that you can exploit if you are going to make a rape joke. First, you trying to make fun of you raping a person rarely works. I said rarely. This is where the double standard comes into play. You can talk about fantasy characters raping each other (Like that skunk in the old cartoons always trying to have sex with that painted cat). You can talk about raping a terrible person (Hitler, Pol Pot), but you can not talk about raping a person in the audience (Daniel Tosh learned that lesson), or how you would like to rape someone.
Personally, I have not found a way to make rape funny. I have a joke about how apocalyptic movies always have cannibals and rapist and I rarely say the rape part because I am afraid that I will lose the audience with just the word rape. There are however, two comedians in Spokane that have really well put together rape jokes. The thing that make these jokes work is that it is not focusing on raping anyone. They bother go after the way society perceives rape and I think they both work really well. Mike Evens and Steve Johnson have found a way to talk about rape and not focus on the hurtful, disgusting parts, but what society has done to rapist and to victims. I think this is a very important thing to say. They found a very great way to dissect this topic without making people feel uncomfortable.
That is not to say they can go and tell these jokes on Fallon! The word rape is right up there with Nigger and Kike in the eyes of many. Whenever that word is uttered on stage, people will coil up and defend themselves without hearing what else you have to say. This is something you have to understand about trying to do material of this ilk. That is why so many people fail as well. They go into it thinking they can just break through people’s preconceived notions on that topic. You can’t. That is like going up and telling a room full of Catholics that god doesn’t exist and expect them to laugh at the punchline. You will lose a majority of people. Mike and Steve found a way to do it that works. I have seen them do it in front of different crowds and they get a great response. The reason is because first, they don’t make it a big deal. That is what kills me about white comics that want to say nigger in their jokes. Don’t linger on the words. It brings attention to it. Just do the bit like you are talking to your friends. Because trust me, a lot of people talk about this stuff. It is also a great ideal if the joke isn’t really about rape. Rape may be a component of the joke, but not the main focus. For example, Mike’s rape joke is really about how we handle rapist. How we put them in jails were that is a common thing. Second, it has to be good. I have heard other comics talk about rape and it is not well handled. If the joke is not good it is not good…and you just talked about rape. That is double bads! Third, move on. Don’t deliver the end of the story or the punchline and then talk about how you took the audience through the rape swamp. It is over and done with. Don’t make the audience think that you have somehow done the impossible. They expect that from you already! You are a comedian. You are supposed to make them laugh on command. Don’t be so impressed with yourself. That is probably why both Mike and Steve’s bits are so great. They do the bit and then move on. Not to another rape joke (why are you writing so many rape jokes), but to something that brings the crowds buttholes to a nice calm level.
If I haven’t made it clear in the beginning let me make it clear now. Rape is not a common topic to make light of. Neither is cancer (I have done a cancer joke early in my career that got a pretty good response…it wasn’t really about cancer though, it was about my fear of doctors) or AIDS (no AIDS jokes here) or child abductions( I do have a child abduction joke, but I am the one getting abducted). You are a comedian. You are suppose to take the subjects that are hard to digest and make them palatable. We do it with drivers, and loud people, and assholes, and creeps, and craigslist. We find a unique spin on a subject and make fun of it. Just remember that unlike getting cut off there are people that have been hurt and have had their lives changed forever. Don’t hurt them more.