The comedy community is in the midst of one of its periodic conversations about the appropriateness and responsibility of rape jokes — a fascinating and thorny discussion that encompasses both intellectual discussion and, ugh, death threats. Marc Maron is in a unique position to comment on it, as both a comedic performer (on stage and on IFC’s Maron) and a chronicler of the comedy scene (via his consistently wonderful WTF podcast). I had the opportunity to talk to him today, mostly concerning a far less controversial topic (spoiler: CATS), and we’ll have that full interview tomorrow, but in the meantime, here’s his thoughtful and measured response to this ongoing issue.
Marc Maron: I think that whatever you’re gonna say, you’re gonna have to figure out a way to answer to it if you get called out. So I think it’s a personal choice. I understand that the criticism is that any trivialization of rape trivializes the victim, and also makes rape continue to be somewhat, y’know, not dealt with culturally or dealt with, with the intensity and realness of rape. But when you get into a conversation about words being off-limits, and that type of cultural momentum, it challenges comics, and comics are rebellious spirits, and they’re like “Well, I can figure out a way how to push the envelope on this.” But I guess, not unlike other words — like the “n-word” and things — if things become too loaded culturally, then people are compelled towards them, just because there’s a natural juice to them, that it’s going to excite something.
But again, I still think it comes down to personal choice of the artist, and if they’re gonna go there, they’re gonna have to figure out a way to answer to it — whether they’re gonna defend their, y’know, First Amendment or personal rights, to say whatever the fuck they want to, or they’re gonna figure out a way to be contrite about it. It just comes down to what you can handle as an artist, and how you’re gonna respond to it. I think it’s still on that. I don’t think that any word should be “off-limits,” in a general sense.
Keep an eye out for our full interview with Marc Maron tomorrow.