Daniel Tosh shouldn't be celebrating the 200th episode of his signature show this week.
After all, any program with a recurring bit called “Is It Racist?” isn’t asking for trouble. It wants a full-scale social media war in our PC age.
And yet not only does Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0” show few signs of cancellation, it marks a special anniversary tonight. That’s 200 episodes in which Tosh sets aside any and all societal niceties to make us laugh.
(Warning: this article features videos with mature language and trigger warnings aplenty)
“Tosh.0,” which airs at 10 p.m. EST, promises a new “Where Are They Now?” segment featuring past guests. It’s all part of the show’s eighth season. So how does the series thrive while other comedians might be in humor re-education camps by now?
Here are four reasons behind the show’s endurance:
1. Equal Opportunity Offender
Tosh doesn’t just poke fun at race relations. He takes on stereotypes of all kinds, from all sides. Rednecks. Liberals. Conservatives. Southerners. Hipsters. If there’s a comic meme tied to a particular group, Tosh and his writing team will tag it. Mock it. Use it or abuse it, if need be.
It helps that Tosh delivers each line with an impish grin. He’s the school boy who smiles so broadly at his own fart jokes it’s impossible to get mad at him.
Audiences ready to be offended by one joke will soon hear about a half dozen more. That onslaught often leaves viewers bewildered, their readiness to be offended smited by the sheer number of gags.
A progressive viewer might wince over a Bernie Sanders gag, and then roar as Tosh takes on someone who embraces traditional marriage. The formula is consistent, and it works.
i agree with bernie that rich people got us into this mess, but there is zero chance that poor people get us out. they’ve got no drive.
— daniel tosh (@danieltosh) April 12, 2016
It’s how fellow Comedy Central show “South Park” skirts by potentially controversial issues. It, too, hits every target possible. That way, the ideological sides have less to complain about.
2. That Comedy Central Brand
The channel known for its no holds barred roasts and shows like “The Jeselnik Offensive” sometimes dare us to be outraged.
That’s our stock in trade, the channel all but shouts via its programming. And a show like “Offensive” was scientifically engineered to drag us out of our safe spaces.
In our PC age, few arenas are fully protected from social justice warriors. Yet the notion that an entire channel exists to make us laugh does afford its stars a dollop of protection.
That’s the bunker from which Tosh toils away each week. It’s not NBC, or AMC or another media outlet. It’s all about comedy, and even in our starched shirt era we sometimes get that message.
3. No Interviews, Please
We don’t know much about Daniel Tosh, comedian and TV show host. Why? He’s simply not saying.
Go ahead and Google “Daniel Tosh Interview.” What did you find? Likely not much. Tosh conducted a smattering of interviews earlier in his career. You’ll find rumors of him dealing with a social anxiety issue, but we don’t much more beyond that.
Since then, he’s gone mostly radio silent.
i don’t want to alienate my fan base, but i wish you were all dead.
— daniel tosh (@danieltosh) April 6, 2016
Consider how rare that is. Very few entertainers avoid the press.Jack Nicholson famously eschewed the late night talk show circuit. It’s one reason he carried a mystique about him into his 70s, despite the fact that many people felt like they “knew” him from his various roles.
Yet Nicholson would talk to some press outlets, offering a glimpse of his inner workings in the process. Nothing more.
Adam Sandler takes a different approach. He generally avoids print/online Q&As. He has no problem depositing himself on the couches of “The Tonight Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and other venues.
That limited seclusion means we don’t quite know what makes him tick. That gives Sandler a dash of mystery, something that a series of awful movies slowly eroded over time.
That goes double for Tosh. Who is he? Is he married? Does he think he ever goes too far? What inspires his humor? How does he create “Tosh.0?”
We know none of those answers. Plus, we can’t tie, or twist, anything he’s said in the past to a potentially “problematic” sketch from his TV show.
It’s standard procedure to exhume a star’s content after he or she says something diabolical. Consider how some scribes scoured Woody Allen’s film resume after allegations he sexually abused one of his own children emerged.
4. Funny Defense Shield
“Tosh.0” is offensive, upsetting and occasionally cringe worthy. Some clips feature people hurting themselves or popping gargantuan blisters just to see the river of pus that will emerge.
But more often than not it’s just plain funny. The last season’s worth of shows have taken a creative dip, losing the sense of comic uniformity which held previous seasons together. Still, most episodes pack enough laughs to make the show matter.
That cushions the blow of a potentially outrageous gag or punch line. It’s hard to furrow your brow when you’re laughing.
Our PC Age Packs a Punch
Tosh hasn’t entirely dodged those SJWs. In 2012, he told a crude rape joke during a stand-up performance. And, as is often the case today, someone shared their disgust via social media.
The comedian served up a series of contentious lines that attempted to point out that any subject, no matter how dark, can be funny. That’s been a part of the humor conversation for decades, dating back to Mel Brooks’ work on “The Producers” film.
Only not everyone is on the same page. And it only takes one aggrieved soul to rock social media.
One audience member attending the Tosh appearance in question wasn’t amused about the rape jokes. She posted her complaints via Tumblr, and the social media outrage spigot went full blast.
Tosh later offered an apology, of sorts.
“All the out-of-context misquotes aside, I’d like to sincerely apologize … The point I was making before I was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them.”
just found out david duke is a big fan of the show. not sure who he is, but happy to have him. new #tosh tonight at 10.
— daniel tosh (@danieltosh) March 1, 2016
The incident inspired a Change.org petition to remove Tosh from Comedy Central entirely. Despite garnering north of 35,000 signatures, nothing of substance happened to his career.
We’ve yet to hear Tosh apologize for his “Tosh.0” antics. He may never have to, which is a triumph in and of itself in our PC age.
“Tosh.0” FAST FACTS
- The show premiered on June 4, 2009.
- Comedy Central already greenlit a ninth season.
- Tosh once used his Comedy Central platform to raise money for a fellow comic’s fight against brain cancer.
- Tosh is the executive producer of “Brickleberry,” the Comedy Central series that ran for three seasons.