Home Game —
I stumbled across a story on Jezebel about Tosh.0 encouraging his viewers to record their friends playing a game he calls “Lightly Touching Women’s Stomachs While They’re Sitting Down.”
He doesn’t talk much about the reasons why, but he does say, “Make sure she’s aware that you are in fact feeling a roll.”
I’ve seen a few episodes of Tosh.0 and his cringe-worthy humor. I have a pretty dark and morbid sense of humor, so I’ve found myself laughing in spite of my better judgement. But I’ve grown a bit bored with the whole “cruelty as humor” schtick that seems to have permeated our culture. It’s not that I’m against making jokes about particular groups or stereotypes, but it’s just so easy to be a half-wit asshole that I typically feel sorry for those who rely on cruelty humor for a laugh.
I’ve tackled the issue of fat jokes before, including Jon Stewart’s fat suit, Kathy Griffin’s Bristol Palin jokes, and George Takei’s fat comics. Here’s my litmus test for fat jokes: if you’re going to select an identifiable group for your joke, at least make sure it’s clever, original and not needlessly cruel.
In my opinion, Takei and Griffin failed because they told hack jokes (Griffin calling Palin the “white precious” and Takei posting “fat people don’t exercise” jokes), while Stewart’s fat gag just seemed needlessly cruel (no punchline, just Stewart talking about being a disgusting glutton).
My favorite show, Mystery Science Theater 3000, is no stranger to fat jokes, and while some of the RiffTrax episodes I’ve seen do fail the fat joke litmus test, MST3K did a better job of skirting that line. A perfect example of the Satellite of Love walking the fine line between humor and hatred comes from The Creeping Terror, when the abdominal-rific grandpa goes fishing with his grandson.
There are some jokes that are cringeworthy, while others are make up for the fact that they’re directed at a fat person by being so clever and so hilarious that you can’t help but laugh (“Let the current take you away! Swim!”).
I can’t think of a single group that escapes MST’s attention in the series, but since they are clever, original and rarely come as personal attacks on the person represented, they’re enjoyable for anyone who watches them.
The reason I try to distinguish between “good” fat jokes and “bad” fat jokes is because I do believe that humor gets some exceptions for inappropriateness. It’s not like the “humor helmet” Stewart recently skewered in the Rush Limbaugh/Bill Maher kerfuffle over Sandra Fluke — just because you’re a comedian doesn’t mean you’re allowed to say whatever you want because it’s “just a joke.” The words you choose have consequences, and if the words you choose cross that intangible boundary of appropriateness, then people, like me, will call you out for it.
Of course, everyone has their own standards for what “appropriate” humor looks like, but I think most of us can agree that Tosh encouraging his adolescent-minded audience to fondle the fat rolls of women is so far across the line that the line can no longer be seen by the naked eye.
And, of course, his pubescent apostles oblige, submitting videos like this one, where, after touching this THIN woman’s subject, tells her that she shouldn’t eat the dish of pasta in front of her. Now, this would obviously be inappropriate for anyone, but the fact that this woman is visibly thin and he’s telling her not to eat a completely normal lunch makes it pretty disturbing. But really, if any message is getting through in the War on Fat, it’s that women, regardless of their size, just shouldn’t eat.
Fortunately, few of these videos are being posted, with just 11 turning up in a YouTube search, and 3 of them were done by one jackass. In one of his videos, he nearly gets the shit beat out of him, which is kind of fun to watch, though you’re left hoping the woman will smack him a little harder.
So, I’d like to propose another game in the spirit of Tosh.0′s inappropriate touch game. This one is called, “Gently Bending Tosh’s Middle Finger Back Until It Snaps Like a Claussen Pickle.” If you run into Tosh in public, shake his hand, then quickly grip his middle finger and see if you can make it touch the back of his hand. And if any guy touches your belly without your permission, you may assume he is a delegate of Tosh and part of this game.
Be sure to record the hilarity that ensues!