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Richard Herring can't dig his way out of a rape-joke shaped hole
An article in yesterday's Metro sparked a confrontation with comedian Richard Herring, which he didn't come out of unscathed.
Storified by Alex Hern · Wed, Jul 11 2012 04:21:49
The article that Herring wrote was published yesterday, but it took Lykara Ryder to report it on Twitter before anyone really noticed:
In yesterday's Metro, Richard Herring wrote about how comedians deal with hecklers. He apparently told one loudly talking woman: [1/3]Lykara Ryder
'You're the one woman in the world where a man would put Rohypnol in your drink and then leave you in the pub.' [2/3]Lykara Ryder
Now, excuse my redacted diction, but WHAT. THE. ****. Why did he say it? Why did Metro print it? Does anyone find this funny? [3/3]Lykara Ryder
Given the opportunity to defend himself, Herring deflects the concern of the first person to raise the issue, Sophia McDougall:
@Lykarar WHAT. @Herring1967, after all your work on the hatefulness of Gervais's ableism, you pull misogynist "too ugly to be raped" jokes?Sophia McDougall
@McDougallSophia that's not what the joke is about at all. Read it again and think harder.Richard Herring
@Herring1967 Okay, read it again, I guess the point was no so much "too ugly" as "a rape drug would be a great way to shut you up."Sophia McDougall
Judging by Herring's replies, McDougall's reading of the joke is the one he intended. But he denies that "a rape drug would be a great way to shut you up" is a joke about rape:
@Herring1967 You know there's a 1/4 chance the woman had BEEN raped? & that some women in yr audience definitely would've been? Still funny?Sophia McDougall
@McDougallSophia The joke is not about rape.Richard Herring
At this point, Herring's wife apparently intervenes, noticing him digging himself into a hole. Sadly, he doesn't take her advice:
@McDougallSophia my feminist wife says I have to stop engaging with you. Sorry you didn't like joke. I think you have misunderstood intent.Richard Herring
@Herring1967 @McDougallSophia 'How can I be sexist? My wife's a feminist.' Ah come on...Owen Jones
@OwenJones84 and so am IRichard Herring
@Herring1967 Fair enough, but you can do better than a 'my wife's a feminist' defenceOwen Jones
@OwenJones84 it wasn't meant to be a defence.Richard Herring
When Laurie Penny joins in, Herring finds himself with some "defenders" her probably doesn't want.
.@Herring1967 joked' You’re the one woman in the world where a man would put Rohypnol in your drink and then leave you in the pub.’ ugh.Laurie Penny
@PennyRed @Herring1967 except it's not about rape, it's about the female in the joke being fugly.Scott Flanagan
@FLANANANAGAN no it isn't. It's about her being talkative.Richard Herring
And in his last tweet before he finally realises that it's impossible to dig up, Herring makes the hole that much deeper:
@Herring1967 What was the intent of your joke? @McDougallSophiaMore Thought
@Moretht to get someone to be quietRichard Herring
What do you think? Is Herring joking about rape, or is it a more innocent line to a heckler which has been unfortunately misconstrued?
Storified by Alex Hern · Wed, Jul 11 2012 04:21:49
Any person who is offended by this should watch his live stand up. In one sketch, he talks to a 16 year old girl about putting a fish in her vagina. Its pretty funny.
So, this silly little joke about wanting to give date rape drugs to a woman to shut her up is the tip of the iceberg. If anybody doesn't like it, so what? My grandad put bullets in people so that we could have free speech. Grow up you fascist idiots. Nobody gives a shit if you are offended, apart from other unintelligent fools who feel like they need to needlessly police misogyny to assuage the pointless depressing hole that is their lives.
But seriously you should watch his stand up. Its so good. And TMWRNJ is the greatest Sunday morning show of all time.
Your welcome! x
He's not saying she's too ugly for men to rape, he's saying she's too talkative for men to rape. In case you missed it, that makes it okay, folks.
Note that he says "men would" rather than "rapists would", so he has managed to be repulsive to both genders at the same time.
Curtis Luciani (comedian):
"Let's imagine a world in which women cut men's penis off. Like, frequently. To the extent that one in five men has had his penis cut off by a woman or had a woman attempt to cut his penis off.
(I apologize immediately if it sounds like I'm being flip. I am not being flip. Imagine the pain and shame and humiliation of someone cutting your penis off. Imagine it in earnest.)
Sometimes it's a clear-cut case where a woman attacks you in the street, out of nowhere, and cuts your penis off. But more often it's a situation where you actually know the woman, maybe you trust her, maybe you think everything's okay, and then one day she cuts your penis off.
Still with me? This is going to take a while. I'll tell you when I'm done. (And if you think I'm being insufferably self-righteous: Good news, you don't have to read this!)
Okay, now let's also say that the shame and guilt around having your penis cut off is so strong that many penis-cuttings go completely unreported. After all, someone is likely to raise the question of whether or not you were "asking for it" in one way or another. And if you do accuse a woman of cutting your penis off, you can expect to see people (quite naturally) rally to her defense and slander your character in response.
You can expect to see her friends... who are maybe also friends or yours... shrug their shoulders and say "Well, I don't know, it's complicated... it sounds like something was just happening between the two of them and maybe it got out of hand. I dunno. But I know that Sarah's not a bad gal. I know she would never, like, MALICIOUSLY cut a dude's penis off."
So, a sh*tty state of affairs for the men-folk of our imaginary world, yes?
Now imagine that in this world, something like 90 percent of professional performing comedians are women. And they've accepted that there are certain codes of behavior when it comes to comedy. Most people who "like comedy" generally accept the premise that there are no subject areas that cannot be somehow given a comic treatment, but it is also accepted, as a practical rule, that as the subject gets more troubling, more intense, more painful, a more skilled approach is necessary to find the humor in it.
However, it is also accepted that people are people and they are going to have authentic responses to things. It is accepted, for example, that you probably should not go in front of an audience that contains several black people and start tossing around the n-word unless you have an EXCEPTIONALLY sophisticated and road-tested routine built around it, one that you are confident will overcome the very significant risk you are incurring. If a comedian did this and did NOT overcome the risk, no one would be shocked if the audience shouted her down and stormed her out of the club, nor would anyone be particularly eager to defend her.
HOWEVER, there's this ONE thing. Many of the comediennes of this world have this ONE little sticking point. One little thing. It just IRKS the hell out of them that they can't seem to make jokes about cutting penis off without some whiny pussy male in the audience throwing a sh*t fit about it!
Now, sure, there's a few comediennes at the top of their game who can pull it off. Their approach is skilful, and they somehow make the joke without minimalizing or trivializing the actual pain involved. But then the rest of them think, "Well, geez, if they can do it, why can't I? It's not fair, darn it! I should be able to work with the same material as someone much better than me and get the same result and not make anyone hate me or say mean things about me on the Internet! Waaaaahhh!
"I mean, after all, do that many men REALLY get their peniss cut off? I've heard the statistic, but that's probably overblown. And I bet a lot of them were asking for it. I mean, in any case, there's a lot of grey area. I know one thing for sure: none of the men I KNOW has ever had his penis cut off. If they had, they would tell me, right? I mean, right? And besides, there's a principle at stake here. I AM AN ARTIST. I should be able to say whatever sh*tty thing I want, and people should be able to suppress their authentic response to it!
"And if they DON'T suppress their authentic response to it: why, that's censorship or something! Besides, I know this and that example of a time where a comedienne I know made a joke that wasn't even ABOUT penis-cutting, and some whiny pussy dude got upset about it anyway! It's just these humorless masculinists! They can't take a joke about anything anyway. So, since I can think of examples where a comedienne was unfairly criticized by someone without a sense of humor, this must be what happens in all cases."
Okay, I think we see what I'm getting at here.
Fine, yes, WHAT-THE-F*CK-EVER. I will concede the following points that every comedian wants us all so badly to concede:
1) Theoretically, there is no subject that should be considered off-limits for humor.
2) There will always be some example where a performer of extremely high skill can take something very painful and make it work.
Here's what YOU need to understand:
1) Rape is way, WAY more prevalent than you seem to think it is. Are there more than five women in your audience? You do the math, and then you run the little fantasy scenario that I just put together in your head, and you tell me how it feels.
2) I ain't buying any of that "If I can make jokes about genocide, why can't I make jokes about rape?" Horsesh*t, unless you made those genocide jokes during a gig at the Srebrenica Funny Bone. You got away with making a joke about genocide because your odds of having a holocaust survivor's kid in the audience were pretty f*cking low.
And if you did happen to have one in the audience, and he heckled you, walked out, and wrote something nasty on the internet... would you be more likely to be a human being and say "Wow. I can understand why that person's authentic response to what I was doing was so emotional and negative. Maybe my genocide material just isn't good enough to justify the pain that it inflicts. Maybe I need more skill in order to pull this off." Or are you gonna be a lousy piece of sh*t and say, "Yeah, I apologize, I guess, IF YOU WERE OFFENDED."
Offended hasn't got anything to do with it, moron.
People have wounds, and those wounds are painful. That doesn't have sh*t to do with the weak concept of "taking offense." If someone talks about Texas being a sh*tty state, I might "take offense" at that. Fine, whatever. All of us who like comedy are generally in agreement with the idea that "taking offense" is lame, and a comedian should be willing to "offend" whenever he or she wants to.
But causing pain is quite a different f*cking matter. Your job as a comedian is to take us through pain, transcend pain, transform pain. And if you don't get that, you are a f*cking bully, and I've got zero time for bullies."
Very amusing comment. (hopefully you meant it to be)
Either way thanks for giving me a really good laugh at work.
If possible please reassure me that you were being ironic in deliberately over stretching the analogy between 1) Richard Herring telling a rude woman in the front row to shut up in an amusing though highly offensive and seemingly derogatory way and 2) a world in which one fifth of all male cocks have been lopped off, i.e. you do think Rich's joke was ok and people are overreacting.
"Now let's also say that the shame and guilt around having your penis cut off is so strong that many penis-cuttings go completely unreported" (‘completely unreported’?! – I almost had Kenko coming down my nostrils at that point)
"Well, I don't know, it's complicated... it sounds like something was just happening between the two of them and maybe it got out of hand.” (‘Complicated’! ha, ha! ‘got out of hand’– that has got to be a joke right?)
As I say I do hope you were joking and don't think your analogy holds or that R. Herring should have to apologise to anyone for an off the cuff rebuke to a disruptive audience member even if he did mention the most well known brand of hypnotic anti-convulsant / sedative used for severe insomnia - and everyone else INFERRED a joke about rape.
NB: I am asking you a question to give you a chance to explain as opposed to assuming I know what you think and what you meant to say.
Brilliant comment Pavlova. I stopped reading anything from Richard Herring, since I went to one of his gigs and he did a long routine which encompassed incest. He thought it wasn't really about incest because it was with a younger version of himself and it was so funny to think of his younger versions small hands. Hiliariously my Dad liked my small hands too (that was sarcasm). I was so close to standing up to him but didn't have the guts to do more than boo him.
I'm glad you wrote this article. Men and women need to keep writing about this creeping menace of normalising rape-threat bullying. Women live with a constant background fear of this type of crime, many of them have their fears realised. They don't need some tw@t using their pain as material. Why doesn't he get really brave and go tell some holocaust jokes to a Treblinka reunion? No doubt he hasn't considered that every audience he has that includes women is a rape-victim reunion because they keep it quiet.
A joke about shutting people up?
Let's examine that defense.
"You are the ONE woman in the world." The one woman in the world that men think talks to much? Really?
"You are the one WOMAN in the world" Why did he mention her gender rather than saying, person if he was making a generic point about loudness, a non-gender-specific characteristic?
"that MEN would give rohypnol to" The one *woman* in the world that *men* would give something to. Why men? Why women?
"that men would give ROYHYPNOL to" Rohypnol, the most famous of the date rape drugs. Used you know for raping people. Rather than say, not having conversations with them.
"and then leave in the pub" So he's put us in a pub. Keep that context in mind.
Why would a man take a woman he'd just drugged away somewhere? Why would a man take a woman he'd just given a *date-rape* drug to away somewhere? In all but this unique woman's case?
It sounds like he's saying that MEN would give all but one WOMAN a date-RAPE drug and then TAKE HER out of a PUB. Now I don't know about you, but I think he means that she'd be an intended victim of rape.
So why would he leave this one single woman in the world be left behind by the would-be rapist? Because he doesn't want to have a conversation with her of course!
Men who tell rape jokes to women are cowards, who knew?
It's someone's job to go through this shite and turn it into an article?
He was making a joke about her being loud. It was quite funny. Some idiot misread it and got offended. Can we move on now?
Yeah, I agree with Keith. This isn't news. comedians sometimes offend people, on purpose or not. who cares?
Telling a woman in a room full of women that she is not good enough to rape is not offensive, that is a completely inappropriate description of what he did. He caused her pain.
There's always going to be things that some people find offensive and others don't. It's important to remember that the quality of 'offense' is not intrinsic to the joke or words being spoken, but in an individuals reaction to it. It's what happens in their own minds. So sure some people will construe this particular joke as offensive, but the most you can say is 'I'm offended', not 'this joke is offensive'. I personally do not think the joke is about rape, and is certainly nothing to do with the attractiveness of the person in question. If you think differently, great, we disagree and now we can all go about our days. Richard Herring should not be forced to make any kind of apology.
"It's important to remember that the quality of 'offense' is not intrinsic to the joke or words being spoken, but in an individuals reaction to it"
Women aren't *offended* by the threat of rape. They are terrified of it.
What a surprise... the moronic rape apologist "OMG FEMINAZIS ARE EVERYWHERE TRYING TO KILL US!!11!!!1!11!!!!" commentary appears from the usual suspects.
Joke apologists, not rape apologists.
A joke is not rape, I think it's prbably worth maintaining a distinction between the two.
Telling a woman you've considered raping her but decided against it is not a joke, it's an implied threat. It might well cause serious trauma. I think it's worth maintaining the distinction.
Comedian in Non-PC Joke Shocker...
Drugs might be what it normally takes for him to get a favour.
1. The joke's in poor taste, but not that offensive. He clearly meant the woman is so talkative and interruptive that someone might conceivably tranquillise her and leave her in the pub. The unfortunate side effect is that he sounded like he was normalising the use of rohypnol for sexual abuse. Such an intention would make the comment extremely offensive.
2. The mention of his feminist wife was a not a defence in itself ("I'm married to a feminist so it's OK) but rather a plea to his interlocutor think more about it ("A feminist I know argues that you're wrong so take that as an indication it's worth at least reconsidering)
This is exactly right, isn't it?
"He clearly meant the woman is so talkative and interruptive that someone might conceivably tranquillise her and leave her in the pub. "
Yes, so clearly that everyone who read it thought he meant the woman wasn't good enough to rape.
"He clearly meant the woman is so talkative and interruptive that someone might conceivably tranquillise her and leave her in the pub. The unfortunate side effect is that he sounded like he was normalising the use of rohypnol for sexual abuse. "
Err hello - the use of rohypnol for sexual abuse is *already* normalised. It's not called a date-rape drug for nothing. I have never ever heard it described as a way of stopping people from being talkative. Go and do a poll right now, say "rohypnol" to people and ask them what the first word that comes to mind is. Then ask them where "talkative" comes in their list of possible interpretations. Clue: it doesn't.
He's being completely disingenuous to claim this was his intended meaning, nobody hearing that statement would have reached that conclusion about his meaning, because that wasn't his meaning. Even if by some bizarre mental gymnastics this was his intended meaning, he must be one seriously stupid person not to have imagined it might have been interpreted as it immediately was on Twitter.
But there were no such mental gymnastics going on. He is lying because he's been caught out and probably hadn't thought through the repercussions of what he was saying. Though he should have as he clearly didn't make this quip up on the hop, he had it in his "how to deal with female hecklers" bag.
I think the majority of people with a sense of humour would not find what he said remotely offensive. It is only left wing fascists and the feminazis who are so easily offended by everything that are bothered by this. They are extremists and like any extremists we should not pander to them. I hope he sticks to his guns and does not apologise to these idiots, some of whom pop up here sadly.
if it were herrings wife being raped (sorry) or had been raped, then herring would not have went near the joke. say if she has been raped ("1/4") then what kind of person is this woman married too? he claims she is a feminist, but maybe hes lying, maybe he has her locked up and he tweets for her?
jokes about rape or near rape like this one seems to be always cause offence to the victims of rape. comedians either realize this and ignore it for commercial reasons or choose not to realize it for commercial and personal reasons.
i thought chavs was a rubbish book but im beginning to like owen jones public attitude of late.
I think it's a crass joke. 'you couldn't even get yourself raped' isn't an acceptable sentiment.
The rape figures in the UK are horrific, take a look at the British crime survey. Jokes like this help to normalise rape, just as racist jokes help normalise racisst attacks.
If Herring has any class he'll apologise, make an act of contrition and not do it again.
Jokes like this help to normalise rape, just as racist jokes help normalise racisst attacks.
Er, how exactly? You are positing a causal connection in either case?
Good question, I’m glad you asked.
Societies have expected norms of behaviour, mid points within the distribution of behaviours that most people adhere to. For example;
People who think all sex is rape.
People who think all men could be rapists in the ‘right circumstance’.
People who think rapists are abhorrent criminals………………………Mid-Point
People who make jokes about rape
People who think women are responsible for rape
People who rape
The mid-point, the expected normal behaviour, is an important part of the battle to keep the unwanted behaviour in check. The more ‘steps’ that someone has to move from normal behaviour to abhorrent behaviour the more’ likely they are to get ‘called out’ on their actions before they reach the extreme. Same for racism. If we live in a country where it’s normal for racist jokes to be told, then other forms of racists abuse will be nearer normal behaviour, and more likely to happen.
And that’s my theory on why jokes can kill.
Some people at all of the points on your continuum make jokes about rape. Other people at all of the points on your continuum don't. You've made a category error.
The sensationalism regarding what some people say on facebook and twitter etc is starting to get farcical now.
People being questioned, cautioned and sentenced because someone has taken offence to a random post or comment is scary and inching us ever closer to Orwellien society.
The feminazis are determined to be offended come what may. Like fundamentalist Mozzies, they seem to WANT to be offended. Laurie Penny does not seem to appreciate that rape and making a tasteless joke about rape are slightly differnet.
Do you know who invented the FemiNazi moniker and to what end?
It's estimated that 1 in 4 women are raped. If he had more than 3 women in his audience he was talking to rape victims. It takes some serious mental gymnastic to reach the conclusion that rape victims are in a position of power and need iconoclasts to come along and challenge their taboos.
I would suggest that every woman who hears the word "rape" immediately experiences adrenaline emptying into her system. She's not in on the "joke".
F**king mosquitoes! :(
Well I'm a left wing fascist, feminazi AND a fundementalist mosquito and I thought it was funny.
Only a monumentally cretinous twat ( and probably your average feminist) with a chip on their shoulder the size of a mountain would be offended by what he said. It was a joke but then we all know how the left want freedom of speech for everyone but only as long as you don't say anything they don't like or they try to ban it. Get a f*cking life.
I appreciate you telling me what I should be "offended" by. If it wasn't for you, I'd have to make my own mind up.
It's an innocent off the cuff joke for a start. What happened to freedom of speech?
no suprise though, because.........................
Owen Jones (aka liberal hippy cretin) Laurie Penny (aka liberal hippy cretin)
so what? Is it the NS's intention that the next Labour govt ban tasteless jokes? It is generally the most tasteless jokes which are the funniest. I mean, did anyone really find Ben Elton amusing? (Showing my age here)
I must say, its an over the top. The reaction I mean.
I saw a clip on youtube in which he dealt with a drunk heckler quite well. But, there was a lot of spite and bitterness in his responses. The guy was being a drunken pest, but Herring seemed intent on humiliation. I don't like that. A comedian of his calibre doesn't need to resort to such brutal methods. I could be wrong. This is just my opinion.
I suspect that Herring doesn't like sharing the limelight with anybody else. Hecklers I think push a button. He's goes too far. Especially this time....
it's not about rape it's about getting rid of a woman
I like Richard Herring's work, and I generally think he walks a fine line carefully and precisely, but I have to say I winced a little when I read the joke in the article. Technically speaking he's right, it isn't a joke about rape but specifically about the sleep-inducing properties of Rohypnol and its usefulness in quieting the inappropriately talkative, but most of us instantly associate the drug with date rape, and by the time I'd thought it through it was a little too late to laugh.
In particular, I would suggest not using it on female audience members, even if they are being annoying (and I have no doubt hecklers can be very annoying). He might accidentally direct it at someone whose previous life experiences make it a touchy subject.
I think the joke is about rape, and it is in bad taste. There are a few comedians that court controversy when reciting their material and the subject of rape falls into that category. My contention is whether this online spat warrants an article? Surely a post on the shameful conviction rates for sex offenders in the UK for example would have been more useful.
Quite a funny joke really...I mean, that is his job as a comedian.
There are much more important things going on at the moment though so not sure it deserves any attention here!
Quite a funny joke really...I mean, that is his job as a comedian.
Well yes it is funny to tell a woman who upsets you that a raping her after you've made her unconscious would be a compliment she's unlikely to ever enjoy like all the other girls in the world.
HA HA HA HA, I mean really, HA HA HA HA.
Boys are like just getting funnier and funnier. Who knew they would dare say stuff like that to women? So new, so fresh, so daring. And then to deny it after - so double daring.
It's not a rape joke. It's about using a substance normally associated with sending somebody to sleep for the purpose of shutting a really annoying person up.
I like Laurie Penny (and I think she receives a crazy amount of unwarranted abuse from right-wing cretins, so I feel bad about criticising her) and Owen Jones, but I think they owe Richard Herring a (public) apology for responding to his joke in such a knee-jerk manner.
It's pathetic that Owen Jones has to get involved.
Alex Hern is a staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.