For those of you who missed the comedy show in the Cooler last Thursday before Thanksgiving, you missed more drama than comedy. Comedian K-VON was already partway into his act when I walked in. His jokes started out uncomfortably racist and misogynistic. He defended his jokes about Middle Easterners by saying that his father is Iranian. However, I didn’t see how these jokes were making any social commentary beyond promoting stereotypes of Middle Easterners as a whole. In reality, the Middle East, as all stereotypical groups, is incredibly diverse, and lumping all people from this wide region together is unproductive to raising the position of people from the Middle East and their culture in Western society. Unfortunately, the night only declined from there.
K-VON shared the statistic that 1 in 5 women are beaten in their lifetime, but 5 in 5 men are beaten in their lifetime! When a woman booed as he attempted to rally support from the audience to show solidarity for their beaten brothers, he admonished her for it. When she asked him if he had been raped, he countered, disgruntled, “No, have you?” and she nodded in response. He then attacked her for bringing the subject to rape, calling her rude for raising an issue he considered so unrelated. The interaction culminated in her exiting in tears and K-VON moving on to his next joke (without apologizing)—I didn’t stay to listen. His insinuation that assault on females is not important was disrespectful, and how he dealt with the woman’s reaction was even more disrespectful. The comedian’s condemning of the women who spoke out confirms that survivors should be silent about the trauma they have suffered.
Oxy Programming Board had warned K-VON beforehand to stay away from disrespectful topics, however he clearly didn’t follow this. PB issued a thoughtful apology on their Facebook page. K-VON’s set brings up discussion about the “appropriateness” of “inappropriate” jokes.
To what extent are racist, sexist, and rape jokes acceptable? Are there circumstances where these jokes can have a positive impact and be well received? One comedian, Adrienne Truscott has chosen to boldly address rape in a controversial routine she discusses here. Another female comedian, who used to end her act with a rape joke, has denounced rape jokes as a form of comedy after an experience in which she accidentally targeted an audience member who had been raped. A third (male) comedian defended rape jokes, saying that comedians use dark subjects such as rape in their work to reduce the power of their horror.
When such potentially offensive jokes are made it is necessary that they are presented in a light that is meant to draw attention to the problems with the subject at hand and make people more comfortable discussing a taboo issue. K-VON did neither of these in his comedy routine and instead perpetrated rape culture by silencing survivors and diminishing the significance of sexual assault. He alienated his audience rather than bringing people together as comedy is meant to do.
By Melody Dahlgren