Louis CK and the Brilliantly-Crafted Feminism vs Comedy Joke


Joanna Schroeder thinks feminists should take another look at the Louis CK joke that pits feminists against comedy.

I love me some Louis CK.

And so do most of the feminists who’ve been calling-out Daniel Tosh for his rape “joke” at the Laugh Factory last week. Writers like Jennifer Pozner and Lindy West (and me!) used Louis CK clips to demonstrate the ways in which rape jokes can be done right. But CK’s appearance on The Daily Show Monday night has made some of these same writers question their allegiance to the masterful artist of comedy.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think CK’s joke about feminists was even remotely anti-feminism.

See, good comedy works best when it pokes at the truth with a little needle, as if it were a boil. It pokes and some pus comes out and sometimes that helps the healing. Daniel Tosh’s crappy rape joke failed because, as Jennifer Pozner explained in a brilliant break-down of the joke, it was lazy and simply un-funny.

However, the healing thing (the pus, if you will) that came out of Tosh’s boil of a joke was that we, as a society, have begun a conversation about one of the hardest things to talk earnestly about: Rape. We’re talking about rape culture, we’re talking about comedic boundaries, we’re talking about power and obedience, we’re talking about fear and making people feel afraid. I doubt the conversation was Tosh’s intent, but it has happened nonetheless.


Monday night, in an appearance on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, Louis CK talked about the Tosh controversy and called it, “a fight between comedians and feminists, who are natural enemies,” and explained that “stereotypically speaking, feminists can’t take a joke… and on the other side, comedians can’t take criticism. Comedians are big pussies.”

And many in the audience boo’ed. I would’ve too. But I also would’ve laughed because you know what? In broad strokes, we’re not famous for our humor! I’m not talking about laughing at Daniel Tosh’s joke (which sucked), and I’m not talking about how you Susie Feminist or me, Joanna Schroeder, or even Jennifer Pozner or Lindy West react to specific comedy. I’m talking about “feminists” as a whole, or feminism as a movement.

Why does our movement have this bad reputation? Well, there are some really good reasons and also some bad ones. First the good ones: As a culture, there is this notion that women are supposed to be pretty and pliable. During the Cold War era, women were expected to become June Cleaver, and they were supposed to view their husbands as the head of the family and to be their personal servants. Sure, there were some notable exceptions, but in general women were basically silly putty to be jammed into the mold of “Wife” and “Mother”. And we were supposed to like it! We were supposed to smile and shut up.

But second-wave feminists didn’t like it. They wanted more. They wanted their little girls to grow up to have all (or nearly all) the opportunities men had, such as careers in science and politics and medicine, reproductive rights, and equal pay for equal work. And guess what? We’re getting closer to achieving those goals. Nice work, Second-Wave Feminists!

Part of not wanting to be putty was women finding their voices and saying, “This doesn’t work for me. You don’t have the right to tell me I can’t do something just because I’m a woman.” Which also meant not smiling to appease people when you didn’t feel like smiling. Not smiling when people said things that hurt you, or hurt women in general. Not smiling even though you were supposed to in order to appease. Women are human beings with our own feelings, and if something isn’t funny to us then God damn it, we don’t have to smile.

This was important, and it is important. We see something similar happening with the various men’s rights movements, too. Jokes about women beating men up simply aren’t funny to a lot of these guys. And they don’t have to smile when people tell them that these jokes are funny. They can say, “violence isn’t funny simply because it’s committed against a man.” And as feminists we should get that, because we were saying the same thing about ourselves 50 years ago (and ever since).

Feminists were the ones who said we deserved to be in workplaces free of sexual harassment,  and a lot of people thought this was very un-funny of us. I can’t tell you how many guys told me, “Aww, you’re no fun!” when I didn’t want to take off my bra and participate in a wet tee shirt contest in the kitchen of the restaurant I worked in.

So back to my point. Feminists got the reputation of being un-fun because we were raising our voices and making the status quo very uncomfortable. Feminists were the ones who said we deserved to be in workplaces free of sexual harassment,  and a lot of people thought this was very un-funny of us. I can’t tell you how many guys told me, “Aww, you’re no fun!” when I didn’t want to take off my bra and participate in a wet tee shirt contest in the kitchen of the restaurant I worked in.

In my social life, I wasn’t interested in making out with another girl to turn on a group of leering guys, or stand up on a bar and dance like I’m in frickin’ Coyote Ugly. I will defend the right of any woman who wants to do those things, but those things weren’t for me. And it displeased many of the fellas (and some of the ladies, too). I got labeled a prude, or stuck-up, or a bitch. And those three things have become equated with feminists as a whole because, well, you know, we just aren’t fun.

And those are the good reasons why we’re sometimes considered not very funny.

Onto the bad reasons. We take ourselves very seriously. We stage take-downs of epic proportion (Laci Green and Hugo Schwyzer come to mind) and sometimes these take-downs block real conversation and the opportunity for growth and forgiveness. Take-downs by a few very loud extremists will make any movement look monolithic and blood-thirsty.

Again, boycotts and grassroots efforts to make change have important historical roots, and are still important tools (i.e. Chick-fil-A), but many have gotten out of control as the Internet has helped mobilize angry, active feminist voices into radical and violent mini-movements. Clarisse Thorn calls this a Full-On Internet Feminist Scandal in a beautiful story that is somehow about rape, feminism and take-down culture all in one. These mini-movements don’t necessarily reflect who we  are as a whole, but they become the face of our movement. Hell, even Marissa Mayer says she isn’t a feminist because of how negative we seem!


Louis CK’s Daily Show joke is the perfect example of how sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. We’re so convinced that everyone’s out to get us that we missed the point. Part of what Louis CK did on The Daily Show was poke the boil of the self-importance of the feminist movement. And he’s so masterful as a comedian that he got the exact response he was expecting—a resounding “Boooo!”—so that he could put the final touch on an incredibly well-crafted joke with the unexpected but perfectly-timed “See?”

Watch the video (below). If you think the boos and the follow-up punchline of “See?” were a coincidence, you’re underestimating CK. The punchline wasn’t “feminists can’t take a joke” the punchline was “See?”

We played right into his hands.

And what is that joke saying? Seems to me it’s saying, Aren’t we, as humans, predictable? Isn’t it crazy how we create binaries where there don’t necessarily have to be any?

Good jokes have a resounding element of truth to them that everyone can recognize. Sometimes, as in the case of Louis CK’s Daily Show joke, the fact of whether or not we can take a joke is irrelevant, the truth is that the world sees us this way and our first response is to fulfill that expectation.

Louis CK’s joke about feminists not being able to take a joke is funny. It’s very funny. It is not lazy or cruel or told out of reactive anger like Daniel Tosh’s gang-rape joke was. Because CK’s was well-crafted, nuanced, and artfully told.

Beyond that, in the interview CK talks about the thing that actually matters in all of this Daniel Tosh controversy. He talks about how the conversation that has happened since Tosh made his rape joke has educated people, how it’s drawn out tough conversations, and how it helped him gain empathy for the experience of women in this society:

“To me, all dialogue is positive… I think you should listen. If someone has the opposite feeling from me, I want to listen so I can add to mine. I don’t want to obliterate theirs with mine.”

And if you think Louis CK was defending Daniel Tosh in his sit-down with Jon Stewart, take a moment to reflect upon what he says about comedians: “Comedians can’t take criticism.”

Who do you think he’s talking to?

Daniel Tosh.

So think again before you slam Louis CK for what may feel at first like an attack on feminists. Look at Louis CK’s work as a whole. Go back to the clips that my feminist cohorts and I posted. Study the body of his work.

He’s not attacking feminism. He’s asking us all to look at ourselves a little bit closer and to take a little criticism.


For more on comedy and social issues, read Jeff Cohen’s This Town Needs a New Sheriff

Image: AP

About Joanna Schroeder

After years as Executive Editor, Joanna Schroeder now serves as Director of Media Relations for The Good Men Project while she focuses on her own writing. Her work has appeared on Redbook, Yahoo!, xoJane, MariaShriver.com, TIME.com, and more. She and her husband are outdoor sports enthusiasts raising very active sons. She just finished her first novel. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.


  1. And what is that joke saying? Seems to me it’s saying, Aren’t we, as humans, predictable? Isn’t it crazy how we create binaries where there don’t necessarily have to be any?

    I took it to mean “see how little it takes to set them off”. I think the brilliance of Louis CK’s joke was not just that feminists played perfectly into his hands, but also that he got them to reveal their bias even after he essentially telegraphed that he was going to do that. I think that is why some feminists are complaining about Louis CK’s joke. No one likes being made to look the fool, even if they are the one’s who made themselves look foolish.

    It is a wonderful ploy because it shows that the problem is less about what Tosh said than it is that he said it. That is also what promoted the boos against CK, and I think that in and of itself is a defense of Tosh. Louis CK is not saying that some jokes do not cross the line, although he is saying that what crosses the line is in the eye of the beholder.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Well, the beauty of art is that it’s open to interpretation.

      If you ask me, if he’d wanted to defend Daniel Tosh, my guess is that he would’ve simply defended him. But he chose something more artful as a means of making a bigger point about both Tosh and feminists.

      Also, yeah, I think inherent in what I’m saying is the point that it takes so little to set feminists off. That’s why I said “we played right into his hands”.

      I don’t understand the distinction here though “the problem is less about what Tosh said than it is that he said it” . If he hadn’t said it, there would be no problem. Obviously.

      Perhaps you’re saying, “the problem is less what Tosh said than the fact that he made a joke about rape” – except if you read the second half of Lindy West’s article that I linked to, and all of Jenn Pozner’s (also linked) you’ll see that the problem was distinctly NOT that the subject was rape, but that A) It was a bad joke, it wasn’t funny, it was lazy B) It was cruel, and directed at one single person (whom I agree should not have been heckling but rather should’ve walked out) and C) It didn’t actually speak to any greater truths about society except that when you say, “wouldn’t it be funny if like 4 or 5 guys raped this chick right now” (paraphrasing) the person you’re saying it about is going to be scared and people are going to dislike you.

      And aren’t MRAs just as sensitive? A super funny scene in an Adam Sandler movie where it’s implied that a woman rapes a guy with a dildo (I made that up, but I’d bet it exists) isn’t funny to MRAs, and I totally get that. Daniel Tosh made a joke out of a REAL video where a teen boy was being physically harassed with a sex toy. That should set off alarms within both feminists AND MRAs and other masculinists. And that was the brilliance of Jenn Pozner’s first article… She included ways in which Tosh is an “equal opportunity” offender when it comes to rape jokes.

      But nowhere did I, or any of the feminist writers I reference, say that it was the subject of rape that was the problem.

      OH! I thought of a real Adam Sandler reference that MRAs and other masculinists got upset about – the one in which Sandler’s 13 year-old self gets a teacher pregnant and is lauded as a hero and seems very happy to have been the victim.

      What if I were to answer, “MRAs just can’t take a joke! They don’t get it that statutory rape jokes against little boys can be funny! I would never make that comment, just FYI, as I agree that movie is a mess… Perhaps another joke about statutory rape could be funny – maybe if told by Louis CK – but that one simply was not.

      • I would agree that the problem was not specifically that the subject was rape except both feminists you linked to describe “rape culture” as a reason why Tosh’s joke was “bad”. Presenting examples of “good” rape jokes does not change that they are essentially arguing that unless comedians structure the jokes in what they think is the “right” way, rape jokes against women are off limits.

        The idea that in order to tell a rape joke about women someone has to construct some complicated social insight is absurd if for no other reason than that no one demands comedians do the same thing with other crimes.

        As for men’s rights advocates’ complaints about statutory rape jokes, they are not arguing that no jokes about the topic should ever be made, only that is always treated as funny even when it really happens, and that rape jokes about it reinforce that attitude. This is not the case with violence against women, which is part of the reason we are having a discussion about Tosh insulting a heckler rather than a year-old segment from Tosh.0 making fun of a sexual prank. (The Tosh clip and the video itself are online. The guy being assaulted is laughing the whole time.)

        If the issue were just what Tosh said, then no one would talk about rape statistics or conjecture about female rape victims being in the audience. We would only talk about the poor defense against a heckler. That it has turned into a broader feminist discussion on why rape jokes against women are bad shows that this has more to do with how feminists take the jokes rather than the jokes themselves.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Jacob, I have no interest in defending the way other people criticized Tosh. I can only say that I was 98% behind Jenn Pozner’s original response to Tosh and her assertion that it wasn’t the subject matter but rather the shitty joke and the way it singled out one individual that was the problem.

          But seriously, it feels to me like your mission is to explain why one sex has it worse than the other and that’s a massive waste of my time.

          • Christopher says:

            “it wasn’t the subject matter but rather the shitty joke and the way it singled out one individual that was the problem.”

            I don’t understand. It was a shitty joke in response to a heckle, it’s not like that particular joke was part of his act. He had to come up with something right on the spot. I can understand if he was thrown off and tried to be funny and failed. They don’t always know what’s going to be funny that’s why they tour comedy clubs and THEN film a special.

            And it seems to me he wouldn’t have singled her out if she hadn’t interrupted his performance. That’s like getting mad at a priest for telling me I’m going to hell (which includes torture, burning, anguish, and quite possibly demon rape) after I got up in the middle of his sermon to scream out “Actually, there is no god!” or “Actually, Zeus is the one true god!” If i’m missing something please let me know I’m trying to understand the mind of the outraged.

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              I agree she shouldn’t have heckled, but his response was just sort of scary.

              You can have a different opinion on whether his response was funny or not, that’s not up for me to decide for you. To me, it wasn’t funny, it seems desperate.

              Let’s also note here that none of us actually knows what she said or what he said. I’m always a little bothered when I’m discussing things I didn’t witness. That’s why I didn’t write publicly about Tosh’s joke. This piece is really about Louis CK’s jokes. Which i saw.

              But if the reports are true, Tosh’s joke seems more angry than funny. It seems more mean than clever. That’s all.

              If you haven’t read Pozner’s first article (the one I linked to) about Tosh, you should. It’s very smart if you come at it with an open mind.

            • Christopher says:

              “Let’s also note here that none of us actually knows what she said or what he said.”
              Well we do know what she said because she wrote in her blog that she called out saying that rape jokes are never funny.
              I’ve just now started reading her article. By the way she writes it’s like she was in the room with him. I wish she was more like you and felt a little bothered discussing things she didn’t witness. I already don’t like it.

            • Actually, the woman in question *didn’t* write about it in her blog. She wrote an email to a friend which the friend then posted in her own, on-going blog. We don’t know if that was an except from the email that was posted, the whole thing, or just what she recalled the next day.

              Also, when someone gets freaked out or angry by a situation, they’re likely not to remember every thing that happened. This could support or not support the woman’s account, but the club owner who watched the set was quoted as saying that Tosh was asking for topics to discuss, encouraging the audience to shout things out. That puts her heckle into a slightly different context. It’s not as out of line as a random heckle in the middle of an ongoing set, it was a comment made in the midst of an audience participation set.

              Finally, Pozner’s not writing as if ‘ she was in the room with him.’ She’s sourcing the woman’s personal account of the situation and summarizing it. The woman stated she was frightened. That she ran from the room because the atmosphere of being jeered at after a joke about how funny people immediately gang-raping her would be made her uncomfortable. Pozner is doing nothing that reporters for respected publiciations don’t do every day when reporting or Op-edding the news.

            • Actually, the priest analogy is kind of a bad one for your purposes, because telling anyone they’re going to hell even IF they scream “There is no god!” is honestly one of the tackiest, least responsible things a person can do (especially if he’s clergy), regardless of religious affiliation. One is asserting an idea, in however rudely a manner it might have been done, that harms or implies harm to no one; the other is an interjection of judgment and, when done in anger, arguably a bold, vocal wish: “You’re going to be tortured forever for what you just said!” It’s an action and then a completely unwarranted reaction, unless that person is truly as sadistic as they’re trying to make themselves out to be. And in Tosh’s case, well, I’d been hoping it was all an act.

              Maybe it’s not.

              I think “Well, she shouldn’t have blah blah blah blah” can really only be applied — OCCASIONALLY — when the circumstances are equal. It’s, “She took my toy!” “Well, you shouldn’t have taken HER toy first.” It’s not, “Did you just call me a cunt?” “Well, you shouldn’t have said that you didn’t find my joke funny.” One person in that situation has acted well out of line and completely without class.

              And this is totally not to mention the fact that he didn’t tell a corny knock-knock joke that fell flat. He joked about something that likely half the people in the room at the time are socially conditioned to have to worry about *all of their lives*. Now, that’s not saying there can’t be funny jokes on the subject, and I think this particular topic has been covered well by smarter women than me. I’m just saying that, if you’re going to go off the cuff with a rape joke, you’d better be a masterful comedian, or just pick another subject.

              And if he tours comedy clubs looking for what works and what doesn’t before filming specials, she gave him direct feedback, if nothing else. What’d he do? Classlessly, vulgarly aimed a rape joke AT her. It wasn’t the rape joke itself; just the fact that it was a rape joke used as a weapon.

              None of this means you can’t still like Daniel Tosh. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person for it. It doesn’t mean that this woman couldn’t have MAYBE picked a better time to voice her criticism. But how he acted was wrong. If you’re defending him because you like his comedy, you really don’t need to.

              If you’re defending him because you think he did nothing wrong — then you’re simply not listening.

            • Christopher says:

              So it’s a bad analogy because telling someone they’re going to hell “is honestly one of the tackiest, least responsible things a person can do.” That’s a non-sequitur. You’re guilty of a logical fallacy here my friend.

              “And if he tours comedy clubs looking for what works and what doesn’t before filming specials, she gave him direct feedback, if nothing else”
              She interrupted the guy during his performance. If I don’t like what is said during church I don’t provide vocal instant feedback. If I don’t like something that is said during a broadway musical, I don’t provide instant vocal feedback. If I don’t like something that is said during the Dark Knight Rises later tonight I am not going to get up and provide instant vocal feedback and ruin the experience for the rest of the people there.

              ““Classlessly, vulgarly aimed a rape joke AT her. It wasn’t the rape joke itself; just the fact that it was a rape joke used as a weapon.”
              Of course it was used as a weapon because he was dealing with a heckler. Comics VICIOUSLY PLOW hecklers all the time using jokes as weapons. They use gay jokes, feminist jokes, race jokes etc. just to get them to shut up. I’m assuming the only reason he attempted a rape joke to deal with her was because he was already talking about rape jokes. It’s a comedy club. Everything that comes out of there is classless and vulgar. Classlessness and vulgarity is the name of the game when it comes to the Toshs, C.K.s, and Cooks. You can’t expect these type of comedians to deal with hecklers with class, clean language, and refrain from using jokes as weapons; that’s delusional. Here’s what the story should be: “Daniel Tosh says shitty joke in RESPONSE to a heckler in a comedy club known for the classlessness and vulgarity of the comics that perform there.” That’s it. It wasn’t part of his act. It wasn’t part of his routine. It was something he came up with on the spot. People act like he went in there with the mindset “I’m going to single out a girl in the audience and tell the rest of the audience to do you know what to her.” And that’s what I don’t get. I don’t understand the outrage.

              I didn’t quite understand the second part of your first paragraph and your second one. Could you elaborate a little more? Especially on the part of why my analogy doesn’t work (personally, I think it’s beautiful).

            • I said, “It’s a bad analogy for your purposes”, because it is. You’re trying to convey that a priest shouting “You’re going to hell” is as justifiable, in your eyes, as what Tosh did. I believe the two are equally as UN-justifiable. It’s a bad analogy because they’re both perfect examples of terribly inappropriate responses. And if that’s the culture you want to live in, then god bless. But “It’s comedy!” and “He’s a comedian” keep being tossed out as if they’re arguments. “Comedians say offensive things all the time!” Well, no. They say crude things. They say shocking things. Their job isn’t to actually OFFEND their audience.

              Bottom line: I think you’re majorly confused as to the power dynamic in the comedian/audience relationship. As nonchalant as you might want to be when it comes to giving comedians carte blanche to say what they please, the audience matters. Now, he can do exactly what he did again and again in the future, if he’s completely above reproach, as you seem to believe. I can almost guarantee he won’t, because it DOES matter what onlookers think. And if he was as great a comedian as his cheering section claims, he’d have been able to eviscerate his hecklers without drawing down ire. Comedians have been doing it for years; he just failed at it.

              So seriously, keep arguing all you like. His future performances should bear out exactly who dictates his material in the long run.

            • Christopher says:

              Oh, I understand what you’re saying now. I think it is a perfectly analogy. Nobody has the right to NOT be offended by things. Just because some girl in a comedy club or someone in a church feels “offended” (boo fucking hoo) they don’t automatically have the right to voice themselves without expecting some push back. So to me the push back is completely justifiable; especially, if the push back is something that is to be expected. And everyone expects that a crude comic will give a cruel and harsh pushback.

              “Their job isn’t to actually OFFEND their audience.”
              Well here’s another incorrect point of you. That can’t obviously be correct because there are so many people that are easily offended. In fact, there are people that seem to WANT to be offended. There are people that go out of their way to be offended. They just wait for things to happen so they can complain. And how do you distinguish between what’s shocking, which you appear to be ok with, and something offensive. Louis C.K. at the end of the Daily Show interview said that we should all come together and “kill the jews.” Is that shocking or offensive? Because I guarantee you there were people that were offended by it yet it was still hilarious. I don’t think you are in any position to say what the “job” of a comedian is by the way. These guys always make a room full of people laugh out loud while offending a few prudes. I’ve been to Louis C.K.’s shows and someone ALWAYS walks out. So don’t tell me they shouldn’t offend.

              “I can almost guarantee he won’t, because it DOES matter what onlookers think.”
              Duh! Of course it matters what onlookers think! You’re stating the obvious. Comedians have to figure out what’s funny I mentioned this already (remember the whole touring and comedy clubs thing?). What good is a comedian if the onlookers don’t laugh?

              “And if he was as great a comedian as his cheering section claims, he’d have been able to eviscerate his hecklers without drawing down ire. Comedians have been doing it for years; he just failed at it.”
              This was my whole point to begin with. Thank you for coming around to my side.

              “So seriously, keep arguing all you like. His future performances should bear out exactly who dictates his material in the long run.”
              I’d like to point out again that the bad joke wasn’t part of his material so I don’t know what point you’re trying to make.

              Anyways, I think I’ve gotten as much out of you as I can. You’ve back pedaled enough and restated my points for me so continuing would be pointless for me.

              One more thing; just remember: NOBODY has the right to NOT be offended by things they hear.

            • First of all, you’ve “gotten” nothing “out of me”, and your condescension is duly noted. I have respect for people with whom I argue, and it’s a shame you don’t feel that’s in any way necessary in your arguments.

              Also, I never said anyone had the right to not be offended; but everyone has the right to express his or her offense, and add their voice to the collective exchange of ideas on any specific topic. And as I said, it appears Daniel Tosh came out the worse for it in the end. If you don’t want to admit that anything he said had an OBJECTIVELY offensive tone or message, that’s fine. You also seem to believe that the fact it was off the cuff makes it any more acceptable or less offensive or derogatory. Maybe you’re making a difference between first- and second-degree murder — but all the same, someone ended up hurt.

              So, all the dismissal you’re doing of everyone who believed his comments were hurtful — that’s your right. But as I said, I doubt he does it again. I DARE him to do it again. And that’s because our dialogue came through loudly enough to him, and mattered. Your implication that it doesn’t matter, then, seems fairly off the mark.

              Have a pleasant day.

      • I agree Joanna. My take away of that interview was that Louis CK’s stance was equally critical of feminists and Tosh. His delivery was very nuanced and clever.

        I also agree with you that when he says comedians he is specifically talking about Tosh. Louis is of course correct. It seems a little two-faced of Tosh to have made himself into this icon of rude/shocking behavior, then react so poorly when a little of this is reflected back at him.

    • Brilliant logic. The humorless can’t judge what is funny, because they are humorless. Thus the problem is more with the humorless than with the details of the joke being told or how that joke is delivered.
      Impressive. That’s straight Sherlock Holmes stuff.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        Talk about straight Sherlock Holmes, you really decoded my message there, Robert Langdon!

        Or not.

        • Ummm, unless you were in that Daily show clip, yours wasn’t the message my comment was geared towards. Goodness you’re flustered.

  2. Great breakdown and insight Joanna. I have nothing really to add. You summed it up right there.

  3. I called myself a feminist in college. 30 years later, I still consider myself a pretty hard-core feminist.

    However, Louis CK’s joke reminded me of an experience some 30 years ago, when read a joke from a book of “tasteless jokes” in a room of about 4 people — How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?

    Before I could get the punchline out, one person sighed and said something to the order of “You know, I just don’t find jokes that play on stereotypes to be very funny.”, and then walked out of the room.

    Some things don’t change in 30 years. Thank you Joanna for helping sum up the essential difference between Daniel Tosh (who’s show I often do find funny, even if I feel a bit dirty as I chuckle), and Louis CK (who is less funny but more insightful — and thus far more valuable as a comedian). There are dozens of Daniel Toshes. But comedians like Louis CK are far more difficult to replicate.

  4. You’re sugarcoating as a defense mechanism.

    Louis CK attacks many a sacred cow in this interview. He goes after feminists and their humorlessness, comedians and their inability to take criticism, bloggers and finally women who think their feelings matter more than anything else.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Dude, he goes after way more than that. Men, women, comedians, Jews… He compares the Mets with the Holocaust!

      What is one thing you’re not supposed to do? Compare ANYTHING with the Holocaust! Certainly not baseball for fuck’s sake.

      And a guy this talented, this famous, this consistently good doesn’t go into an interview without a plan. There’s a reason why he attacks those sacred cows. I’m surprised he didn’t actually attack sacred cows.

      I don’t need a defense mechanism. I’m pretty in touch with my defenses. I have no reason to defend Louis CK, I just call ’em like I see ’em.

      • Yup. He went after a lot, so then why did you write, and I quote “He isn’t attack feminism”. Because he sure did attack feminist. And he sure did get booed for it.

        You see, you have every reason to defend Louis CK’s comments as a non attack because in doing so you ALSO defend feminism from being characterized as a sacred cow. If the comedian you consider to be “talented, famous, consistently good” and the unTosh is just trying to help feminism out , rather than call feminism out. Then well that paints a much prettier picture of feminism now doesn’t it?

        So what was that you were saying about being in touch with your defense mechanisms?

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          IDBY, I don’t want you to think that my not responding to you was because you outsmarted me.

          I’m not responding to you because what you wrote is incoherent.

          • You’re not responding because you’ve been busted.

            It’s very clear that you are guilty of lots of spin. Your contention that Louis CK was “helping feminism out” rather than “calling feminism out” is a way for you to frame feminism as not that bad. It was ONLY a boil he was poking, right? No big deal. Right? Feminism only has boils. Nothing major wrong with it.

            • Grey Aiken says:

              Dude, what’s wrong with you?

              RIght? Right? Right? Right? See, don’t you see? Don’t you see? Feminism bad, feminism special interest group, feminism conspiracy. Hah, laugh at the feminists, laugh at them because they’re the same as all the others! See? See? Right? Right?

            • No, dude what’s wrong you?

              RIght? Right? Right? Right? See, don’t you see? Don’t you see? Critics of feminism bad, feminism not special interest group, anti-feminism conspiracy. Don’t laugh at feminists, don’t laugh at us because we’re not the same as all the others! See? See? Right? Right?

            • Grey Aiken says:

              You”re feminist tricks won’t work on me, harpie! Louis CK doesn’t like feminists, Louis CK was attacking them! He supports my view of the world, not yours! Get your hands off my Louis CK! Right? See? Right, Right?!?!

            • You”re antifeminist tricks won’t work on me, misogynist! Louis CK likes feminists, Louis CK wasn’t attacking them! He supports my view of the world, not yours! Get your hands off my Louis CK! Right? See? Right, Right?!?!

              I’m not the one who worships Louis CK. I’m also not the one that feels the need to spin a recorded event. Duh!

            • Grey Aiken says:


              Just in case you thought my crazy view of the world had something to do with my spelling

            • Because your bad spelling is soooo much worse than your bad world view. Like I said all along… sacred cow. Grammar is the last thing you need to fix.

            • TROLLLLLLL-don’t feed it.

  5. “Comedians can’t take criticism.”

    Comedy is a form of criticism, social criticism. Comedians can dish it out, but they can’t take it. And come to think of it, that may apply to (some) feminists. They can’t take criticism in the form of comedy. It’s all the same mechanism.

  6. Random_Stranger says:

    “They wanted their little girls to grow up to have all (or nearly all) the opportunities men had, such as careers in science and politics and medicine, reproductive rights, and equal pay for equal work. And guess what? ”

    Reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work? Were those just casually slipped in there? Or were you speaking of men of the feminist imagination?

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      You misread. I meant the second-wave feminists. Not men. Though many men do and did feel that way. My grandfather was born in 1918 and was a feminist from when he was a teenager. He also worked in social justice in many other ways, most notably in Civil Rights and Immigrant Rights. Now, in his 90s, he is working for Gay Rights within the Reformed Church of America.

      There are good men. Ralph Schroeder is one of them.

      • Random_Stranger says:

        ehhh….we’re still missing each other Joanna. I read your statement to literally mean that men HAD reproductive rights and equal-pay-for-equal-work that 2nd-wave feminists wished to secure for their daughters.

        The point of my pithy quip was to suggest that actual men had no such privileges to share. From my perspective, these are universal aspirations and not privileges possessed by one group withheld from another.

      • Random_Stranger says:

        ….actually just to take a step back. I just don’t understand a feminist perspective obsessed with measuring advancement in terms of whether women have everything men have; this is how we end up suspicious that peeing standing up must bestow some tremendous advantages. A more egalitarian gender movement would grapple with the elimination of gender as a barrier to individual liberty and self-actualization for all.

        And I get you were just offering a passing remark in a broader context, but the little things can reveal volumes.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          I hear you now, Random_Stranger.

          I think it’s not that women have everything men have, it’s just that women have equal access to do what they dream of and what they wish to. I want the same thing for men (HELLO? I’m an editor at The Good Men Project! I don’t do it for my health!).

          Here’s the thing. Men were putty too, back then. They had to be pressed into certain molds – Strict uninvolved father, straight and cis of course, bearing the entire burden of “breadwinner”, “Man in the Grey Flannel Suit” type of things. I firmly believe that the feminist pushback against the June Cleaver mold also helped result in pushback against the Ward Cleaver mold.

          I don’t want to get into a “women had it worse” or “men had it worse” sort of battle. It’s unwinnable for all because it implies a deep lack of empathy for individual experiences.

          However, women did want temporary birth control and men had birth control. Women wanted to be given jobs that they just simply wouldn’t have been given in 1950 except in very extreme circumstances. There were studies for decades that showed that boys were encouraged in math and science and girls weren’t and also that boys were called on in class more than boys in those subjects.

          Certainly men didn’t have an equal opportunity to be at-home parents or … I don’t know what else. Dancers maybe? I’m not sure. I say this because most of the “feminine” arts i.e. cooking, healthcare, teaching, etc were still dominated by males at the highest levels. Perhaps not in sheer numbers, but as far as upper management, yes. Principals were very rarely females. Chefs were very rarely females.

          It’s not that men weren’t oppressed, it’s just that history doesn’t evaporate or become automatically equal because both were being confined to their roles.

          Also, the roles that women were confined to very rarely paid enough to support a whole family, whereas men’s were (in general). And as we know in this capitalist economy, money=freedom.

          My grandmother, during the Great Depression, was fired from her teaching job to give a job to a man. This was systematic, it was an actual *policy* and that’s in teaching, which is supposed to be a “feminine” job. Things are changing and have changed a LOT but let’s not forget our history.

          (Pls don’t cite for me that men have to give up their places in lifeboats for women, I know that argument, I’ve heard it. I’m talking about everyday things that affect people in everyday ways).

          • Sometimes I wonder something, Joanna…Why are you a feminist?

            • CosmicDestroyer says:

              Because “feminist” is a massive tent pole term used to encompass a myriad of different groups, most of who disagree with each other, fight each other, and take every little bit personally. They’re a lot like Trekkies in that way.

              Joanna doesn’t want to put all Y-chromosomes behind an electric fence made of golden lasso, she just shares a label with those who do. The latter group just likes to make make a bigger stink and rake in the grant money.

            • He knows it’s a tent pole term. He just wanted to know why she chooses to self label with something most Americans think of as negative.

  7. When you have women who are distancing themselves of being called a feminist, you know there is a huge problem. Something that should make women automatically proud to be called is now a topic of major debate. It’s pretty sad. If I were a feminist I’d be quite upset that the state of affairs got so bad that ANY woman felt hesitant about being associated with the movement.

    Can’t see the L.CK video as it’s locked out in my region:( Is it on utube?

    • ” If I were a feminist I’d be quite upset that the state of affairs got so bad that ANY woman felt hesitant about being associated with the movement.”

      Huh? If I were a feminist I would be pretty fucking happy that the state of affairs was so GOOD that that was my major concern. You do realize that at one point in time almost all women did not want to be associated with feminism…as in close to 100%. Now they have reached the point where a single woman not identifying with feminism is something to be upset about!? Wow. That is a position of incredible power.

  8. J.J from Good Times says:

    A comedian told a joke and people are mad.What the hell. Have you guys seen his show or any of stand up? This should’ve been expected. He had a stage and he told his joke, if she got offended thats her fault. I hate all of this censhorship crap especially for comedians. Whether its Tracy Morgan, Daniel Tosh or Micheal Richards everyone who sees them has the right to leave and even ask for their money back if it gets really offensive. Speak with your wallet, don’t try to silence them.

  9. J.J from Good Times says:

    Oh yeah as a knee jerk response the joke was funny.

  10. I wonder… would feminists be shitting their pants at a rape joke about men?

    Ha, rhetorical question, of course they wouldn’t .

    The fine and upstanding feminist heckled Tosh, and ended up getting more than she bargained for. Case closed, right? Nope. She took to the internets and cried until an army of white knights swooped in to save her. She even lied about what was said, and not a single feeminist site even bothered to get the real story. Which really says all that needs to be said right there.

    And here we are, holding this up as an example of “rape culture.” You can’t make a single joke about a woman getting raped without being crucified, and yet if a man or boy gets raped it becomes the basis for an Adam Sandler comedy.

    But yeah, equality and all that. Is you’s okay with this here backtalk, massa? I dont’s wants no trouble from them feminists, boss.

  11. I think we all agree with the basic points in Joanna’s article. 1) Feminists usually can’t take a joke. 2) Comedians usually can’t take criticism. I think that’s a fair place to note where we’re all in agreement, right?

    Applying that to this situation seems to be the tricky part. I second a lot of what Toysoldiers said earlier upthread. The reason we’re talking about Tosh’s treatment of this heckler, rather than his overall treatment of every subject matter, or even his treatment of male victims, is because society privileges the feelings of female victims (specifically female rape victims) over those of male victims of domestic violence and rape. Shoot, prison rape is a rather widespread joke but if you think about it: we’re laughing at torture, cruel and unusual punishment meted out against human beings who are supposed to be getting rehabilitated.

    So I think Toysoldiers’ point stands. In this specific arena 1) men do have it worse, 2) it doesn’t change the inappropriateness of Tosh’s handling that heckler, and 3) clearly the hyperbole from both sides does nothing positive.

    I also watched Louis CK’s interview with Jon Stewart, and it was masterful. He clearly hit the greater issue at hand and has left the rest of us scurrying to play catch-up. For some people, no matter what if you make a joke about their identity or their pet issues, they will get pissy. Even if the joke is absolutely spot-on and brilliant. Even I fall into this trap with Jew jokes. Even Jew jokes done by other Jews. I get grouchy because it just rubs me the wrong way. But so what? If comedy was meant to make me feel okay it wouldn’t be comedy. It’d be just another infantile security blanket. Society, including mainstream Feminism, is the same way. Can’t take a joke when it’s directed at them. And the joker can’t ever take a hint that sometimes he needs a better joke. So it goes.

  12. Alberich says:

    “So think again before you slam Louis CK for what may feel at first like an attack on feminists. Look at Louis CK’s work as a whole. Go back to the clips that my feminist cohorts and I posted. Study the body of his work.

    He’s not attacking feminism. He’s asking us all to look at ourselves a little bit closer and to take a little criticism.”

    What if someone was attacking feminism humorously, should feminists listen to him? Or would he be branded an enemy and enemies have nothing insightful to say?

    I am also confused about what appears to be funny and where is the line to not funny. On the Daily Show Louis C.K: talked about men and women fighting about rape jokes and then concluded
    “…let’s all get back together and kill the Jews.” As this seems to be considered funny, could I make a rape joke by talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and conclude with “They should get together and rape the feminists.”? Would this be funny? How many feminists would laugh about that? If it is not funny, what is the difference to Louis C.K.’s “kill the Jews” joke on the Daily show?

    • Louis CK’s “Kill the Jews” joke was true indication of how he feels about the “rape” controversy. Finishing up a rape joke discussion with a Holocaust joke is a very clever way to show the hypocrisy and oversensitivity of those all up in arms over what Tosh said to the heckler.

  13. I’m sure I’m going to get flamed for this, but to me this sounds a lot like a white guy saying the “N” word. The moment it happens, the discussion’s not about linguistics anymore, it’s about the historical struggle of the slaves.

    The difference is it’s not a word that’s off limits to feminists, it’s a worldview. Any time someone disagrees with the basic premises of any gender-related discussion, it’s suddenly about the sociohistorical context of the women’s rights movement. I literally had a friend of mine start drunkenly preaching to me about women’s suffrage a few weeks ago when I refused to keep a poop joke to myself.

    THAT’s how I interpret Lewis CK. The basic premises of feminism are all for equality of the sexes, but it’s a conditional equality based on terms acceptable to whichever woman happen to be present at the time. That’s what it means to not be able to take criticism or humor at one’s own expense… We’ll be equal on my terms or there’ll be some beating-of-heads with poorly understood radical sociological concepts until everyone agrees I’m right.

    This isn’t about butt-slapping in the workplace. It’s not really even about rape. It’s about ideological control and the language of power. That’s my 2 cents anyway.

  14. Quadruple A says:

    Louis is good at bringing in modern issues of manhood in nuanced and complex ways. He is good at sympathizing with multiple viewpoints even when it causes him considerable but humorous stress and tension. His comedy illustrates the absurdity of being modern in a contradictory world and I think maybe he should be the official comedian of the Good Men Project.

  15. Michael says:

    Were you at the Laugh Factory when daniel tosh did this rape joke? If not then you can not judge whether or not the “rape” joke was funny. Standup comedy can only be judged live,video, or at the very least on audio. None of those exist of the night in question…..therefore you’re statements are meaningless.


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