"In Kazakhstan the favorite hobbies are disco dancing, archery, rape, and table tennis."


Okay. Why is that funny? Who is the butt of the joke? Rape victims? Nah, I'd say that the butt of that joke is Kazakhstan, or, at least, the caricature of Kazakhstan that Sasha Baron Cohen has constructed—a borderline-medieval old world racist mud-hole. He's satirizing the casual misogyny of a certain set of crusty old anti-Semitic post-Soviet eastern European men in stinky suits. And I have no problem with that. Though I could be wrong! Again: no such thing as joke police! Culture evolves! Hooray! (This joke is almost certainly offensive to Kazakhs, but someone else can be in charge of the anti-Kazakh-joke manifesto.)

[Update: As several smart people have pointed out, I missed something obvious in my reading here. The point of Borat is that he gives people the opportunity to expose their own prejudices—the fact that anyone is willing to take this character seriously is extremely telling. Duh.]


2. Louis CK

"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."


Here's why this joke doesn't make me feel like shit: Louis CK has spent 20 years making it very publicly clear that he is on the side of making things better. The oppressors never win at the end of his jokes. That's why it's easy to give him the benefit of the doubt that this joke is making fun of rapists—specifically the absurd and horrific sense of entitlement that accompanies taking over someone else's body like you're hungry and it's a delicious hoagie. The point is, only a fucking psychopath would think like that, and the simplicity of the joke lays that bare. That said, Louis CK is possibly the greatest comic in the world, but that does not mean that he is always right. I think even Louis CK would tell you that. And I guarantee you he puts himself and his audience through at least this level of scrutiny on every joke. That's why the jokes are good.

3. John Mulaney


"Late at night, on the street, women will see me as a threat. That is funny—yeah! That is funny. It's kind of flattering in its own way, but at the same time it's weird because, like, I'm still afraid of being kidnapped."


Comedians are just people telling stories about the world, and it is okay to laugh at horror and talk candidly about ugliness. This is one of the best "rape jokes" ever, because it's an honest commentary on our fucked-up cultural climate. The butt of the joke is John Mulaney. The woman running away from John Mulaney is not being mocked. This is a joke about how scary it is to be a woman and how easy it is for men to be oblivious. This joke is helpful.

4. Ever Mainard

"The problem is that every woman in her entire life has that one moment when you think, 'Oh! Here's my rape!'"


Pretty simple: This isn't a joke about women getting raped—it's a joke about the way that rape culture, which includes rape jokes, makes women feel. It's like the difference between a black comic telling a joke about how it feels to have white people treat you like you're stupid all the time vs. a white comic telling a joke about how stupid black people are.

So there you go. See? Nobody is saying that you can't talk about rape. Just be a fucking decent person about it or relinquish the moral high ground and be okay with making the world worse.


I'm not a comic, but I've done comedy (and told jokes I regret), I've lived with comics, I've dated comics, I write jokes for a living, and I've had both transcendent and crushing experiences in comedy clubs. I'm not saying all of this because I hate comedy—I'm saying it because I love comedy and I want comedy to be accessible to everyone. And right now, comedy as a whole is overtly hostile toward women. I remember the (brief) vicarious thrill I felt the first time I saw Anthony Jeselnik say abusive things with shameless cheer, and I was an Adam Carolla and Howard Stern apologist for years. I get it. But I'm a grown-up now, I'm slightly sheepish about my younger self, and I'd wager that in 15 years most of the rape-joke apologists will be embarrassed that this conversation even happened.