ARE jokes about rape acceptable? American comedian Adrienne Truscott puts the question to the test in Asking For It.
Wearing a pair of anything-but-sensible shoes, a jacket and nothing in between, her one-woman show debunks the lamentably still-fashionable notion that women who are raped are “asking for it”, whether it’s because of what they wear or how much they drink.
Her show offers an antidote to a disturbing rise of rape jokes by men.
US comedian Daniel Tosh recently responded to a female audience member, who’d heckled that rape is no joking matter with, “wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by five guys—right now?”.
UK comedian Jimmy Carr sparked fierce debate over what he regards as a comedian’s freedom to send up any subject following his hilarious joke, “what do nine out of 10 people enjoy? Gang rape”.
Truscott says for jokes to work they need to be intelligent and skewer the rapist, not the victim: “I find [Carr’s] to be a gross joke,” she says. “I’m more likely to make jokes about someone being moronic and making a joke about that.”
She admits her edgy show pushes boundaries and makes people wince, but says it goes a long way to opening up discussion about rape and getting people to question their assumptions.
“[When] people hear the combination of the words rape and jokes it can be confronting. But it’s a satire and burlesque for understanding this topic. Having a discussion…is a way to move forward.”
Her show mixes stand-up, video and nudity, “while undoing and doing in the rules and rhetoric about rape and comedy”. Truscott wouldn’t be drawn on whether she’d been raped, saying “the power of my show is lessened if anybody says, ‘she’s been raped, that’s why she says this’”.
But the 40-year-old says most women, including herself, can lay claim to having experienced some level of sexual assault.
Asking For It is on at The Stables (Perth Cultural Centre) February 7–13. tix at http://www.fringeworld.com.au
by JENNY D’ANGER