Rape Stand-Up Comedy Material Competition – Luke’s Verdict

George Carlin

Has a good point. I do believe any comedian should be able to joke about whatever they want. However, I think he does a very bad job with it. He talks about “every joke needs an exaggeration” but picks the wrong target. He somehow thinks the comedy should come from associating with the perpetrator, and looks at his story. This casts Carlin close to the role of the rapists in the minds of the audience, rather than the victim. I didn’t find it funny at all, and actually quite disturbing. I don’t want to have an exploration of why people rape each other near the North Pole, especially if there is no pay off, and the arguments don’t make sense. I’ve never seen rape as something someone would do because they couldn’t get sex elsewhere (though I don’t want to get into a discussion about this here).

I don’t think Carlin would be able to get away with that kind of material if he wasn’t in a room full of his fans, who are willing to clap along with it. This isn’t a knock against him, because I do material in my show that I know only works at the end, not at the start of the show, because by then I’ve won them over.

Wanda Sykes

Very funny. She casts herself closer to the role of the victim, and lets everyone come along for the ride in a world where rape is either no longer possible, or if it is, it’s a mild inconvenience. Even gang rape is just a bit annoying, and only from a cleaning up point of view. It’s very clever.

Also, even though the routine is about the threat and impact of rape, she doesn’t ever mention the word rape. This means that she never has to worry about the “Should I do comedy about rape?” question. She is skirting around the edge of the issue in the way that the audience (with lots of females) are totally comfortable with, and recognize from the treatment of the subject in the real world. Everyone is in on the word game. This is the opposite of Carlin, who uses his comedy as a blunt object, almost violent in his affront on the audience.

Dave Chappelle

Again, he casts himself in the role of the victim. However, he doesn’t cast himself there right away! This is his genius, and why I think his comedy routine is the funniest (for me). He starts off by bringing up the idea of serial rape, which isn’t funny.


And this makes all of his audience lean forward. How is he going to do this? How is he going to make this funny?

For a start, he does it by showing how weird it is to talk about it, constantly, in his body language and his pacing. It’s genius. By showing how uncomfortable he is with it, he’s identifying with the audience’s mind set. Then, after making them cheer that it was man rape not lady rape, he calls them out on it. Great move! It means that he’s put everyone in the room into the same boat. We’re all uncomfortable about the topic of rape, but we’re going to do this anyway, okay?

He then covers the shame of rape from the point of view of both men and woman victims, again uniting the audience, and himself with them.

Luke’s Verdict:

While Carlin thinks he’s being clever by addressing rape in a comedy routine, Chappelle and Sykes are actually clever by pulling it off. I can understand why someone watching Carlin’s routine would be offended (and I was offended, partially by how badly he handled the comic elements of the material), but it’s really hard to be offended by Chappelle and Sykes, because both are doing comedy about being the victim, rather than the perpetrator, of the violent crime.

Dave Chappelle wins, but only because he hit the subject head on, acknowledged the issue and the audience, and still made me laugh out loud.

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