I'm having a bit of trouble with the rape joke kerfuffle that's swept the internet recently—not because I don't think our entertainment culture can be incredibly insensitive to survivors of rape and sexual assault, and not because I don't think it's important to kick over rocks and bring creepy crawly misogyny to light (which is ex-fucking-zactly what Lindy West did yesterday), but because I don't recognize the art form I love in all of this anger and talk.
I like standup comedy. A lot. I've covered it in Portland since 2008 or so, and have been attending shows for years both in Portland and elsewhere, and I could probably count on two hands the number of rape jokes I've actually heard in that time. The "they will never take our rape jokes" backlash here seems so beside the point: The point is not that comedians should never say the R word (the "gotcha"-ing in this Laughspin piece is despicable, though I agree with the overall argument), it's that men should think about the fact that they know women who have been raped. (Whether they know they do or not—and if they're the type of dude lobbing insults at Lindy West, they probably don't know it, because I wouldn't exactly run to that guy with my problems.) The point is to ask comics—and writers, and filmmakers, and humans—to take the imaginative and empathetic leap required to understand that rape is a real experience that lots of women have, and to think seriously about how willing they are to be cavalier with someone else's trauma. I think too many people on both sides of the conversation are framing it as "rape jokes aren't okay," which not only isn't the point, it's also a point that is not particularly supported by my own experiences seeing standup, particularly in Portland.
This is all an extraordinarily roundabout way of saying: If you've got so many opinions about comedy, get and out see some! The preliminary rounds of the Portland's Funniest Person contest are underway this week, and the final round is on Sunday. The contest is not particularly scientific—as evidenced by the fact that Anthony Lopez has been eliminated already; science has determined that that kid is hilarious—but it is a great chance to see a bunch of Portland comics showing off for each other, and the winner gets some money and some bragging rights.