Comedian Jim Norton talks about his debate on rape jokes and ‘rape culture’ with feminist writer Lindy West (Audio)

By | June 3, 2013 at 1:17 pm | 3 comments | Audio/Video | Tags: ,

Starting at the 1:02 hour mark and ending at the 1:15 mark in the audio below, you can listen to comedian Jim Norton’s summation of his recent debate about rape jokes and “rape culture” with feminist blogger Lindy West. The audio is from today’s Opie & Anthony Show on SiriusXM. To read more about the debate and to see the actual debate from Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, go here.

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  • Jason Wayne

    Everyone doesn’t like Everything. The difference is between people who don’t like things and choose to not participate and those who don’t like things and decide no one should participate. If I decide no one should hear what I hate, then one day I’ll find the things I love are hated by someone else so they have to go to as well.
    I don’t think I have perfect taste that everyone agrees with. Some things I think are common beliefs, some are radical, I don’t force them on anyone.
    Just cause you don’t like the party doesn’t mean you should call the cops on the party.

  • mxyzptlk

    I just made this comment on the other post about this… debate? Controversy? Whatever. But it seemed more apt here given Norton’s reflection:

    West’s article does a better job of defending her position than West did on the show. After seeing the debate and re-reading that article, it almost seems like they both actually agree on one fundamental thing, but can’t seem to find the language to enunciate that thing. Here’s the thing: There’s the subject that delivers the material (the comedian), and there’s the subject being embodied by the comedian that says the material. They’re not necessarily the same thing, and depending on the embodied subject, a joke can be either ironic and subversive, or cruel and disempowering.

    Probably no one does this as well today as Stephen Colbert. When most people watch him do his The Word, they understand that the embodied subject saying the material is not a serious person, and is being made fun of by the comedian embodying that subject. But not everyone always gets that — see the Ohio State University study on conservatives that think Stephen Colbert the person is actually agreeing with them rather than ironically making fun of their position (link). Chappelle was right there as well. The same sort of ironic reading/misreading happens in music all the time, where lyrics are taken on face-value as a celebration of the content rather than a commentary or criticism (hip hop, Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”).

    But that ironic distance is also used as a a crutch by people making cruel comments that are meant to be hurtful dog-whistles who then turn around and say it was just a joke — like Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a faggot. No one was confused into thinking the Ann Coulter who delivered the material didn’t actually agree with some stage version of Ann Coulter who said the material; there was no ironic distance there. That may be why Chappelle’s replacement Carlos Mencia and a show like Tough Crowd had a hard time keeping audience share; it often seemed like there was little to no ironic distance between the real people on the panel (Colin Quinn, Nick DiPaolo, Patrice O’Neal) and their comedic personalities. This isn’t necessarily the case, but it seemed as if they were using comedy as a venue for straightforward complaint with punchlines, which made them come off more like cranky uncles than comedians. (I don’t think that’s really the case with all of those comedians, particularly O’Neal, and it occurs on both sides of the political spectrum; Janeane Garofalo and Bill Maher can be just as precious.)

    It seemed like that kind of discussion was the elephant in the room during the Norton-West debate that everyone danced around. Norton got closest to articulating that point, but never drove home that a comedian is ironically embodying a character on stage, and recognizing that ironic distance is key to getting the joke. That’s why Louis C.K.’s joke — “I’m not condoning rape, obviously—you should never rape anyone. Unless you have a reason, like if you want to fuck somebody and they won’t let you” lands, is funny, and is a rape joke Lindy West approves of. And if Stephen Colbert made a similarly crude or unsafe joke, most people (except, apparently, some conservatives) would recognize that the comedian delivering the material is ironically subverting the subject saying the material. You wouldn’t necessarily feel uncomfortable around Stephen Colbert the person (unless you’re wigged out by Tolkien nerds); you might be rightfully uncomfortable around Stephen Colbert the (fake) pundit if he were real.

    Then again, if Norton and West actually got to that point and agreed on the ironic distance between the deliverer/sayer, there might not have been much of a debate. But it might have been more interesting.

  • Jorge Garrido

    I’m just so sick and tired of this debate. It will never be resolved. It’s essentially the old idea of freedom vs. security all over again.