In light of the controversy comedian Daniel Tosh created by joking about rape in a comedy club recently, his upcoming Comedy Central cartoon "Brickleberry" seemed to be at a crucial juncture at Comic-Con.
The animated show about forest rangers focuses on adult characters. Rumors swirled (but even RumorFix commenters were pointing out inaccuracies) in the run up to the panel that the cartoon was frantically getting scrubbed of any rape jokes before its Comic-Con debut.
The panel on Friday afternoon was hardly packed, but was populated with Tosh-faithful. The pilot for "Brickleberry," which was shown at the panel, is an equal opportunity offender – with or without the reportedly excised rape jokes. It was, however, all about jokes involving animal cruelty, abuse of the disabled, sexist jokes, racial jokes, bestiality jokes, you name it.
"As sick and twisted as that [pilot] is, it was actually pretty tame compared to what comes after," said voice actor Tom Kenny, who plays Woody on the show. Kenny is better known for voicing SpongeBob Squarepants.
Comedy Central has deployed a light touch when it comes to softening the subject matter.
"When Fox passed it was the greatest thing that could have happened,” said executive producer Waco O'Guin. “This show belongs on Comedy Central. When Fox saw that they said, 'we can't air that, that's insane.' When Comedy Central saw it, they said, you guys can go further."
Daniel Tosh did not attend the panel, though he did record an introductory video.
They presented the ASPCA commercial that is set to Sarah McLaughlin's "Angel," and by changing the background music, measured whether or not the commercial had potential humor. The comedic duo proceeded to plot examples of inappropriate topics on an X/Y axis, defining which topics were safe or not so safe for a comedian to tackle.
Rape was not plotted on their skit's graph.
"Apparently in (Tosh's) act, he was trying to make that point that anything can be funny," said Paul Sabourin of Paul &Storm, "but from what I can tell he was doing it in a pretty unartful way."
"That's the thing," Storm DiCostanzo said, "there are topics that some people never will think are funny."
But he was quick to point out that comedy clubs, like the setting of Tosh's rape joke and confrontation with a fan, used to be places where things were expected to get uncomfortable. "Now, of course, anything that's said anywhere can potentially be said everywhere," DiCostanzo said.
"Exactly," Sabourin said, "just ask Michael Richards."
"As comedians, and not knowing all the facts, we're not here to judge," DiCostanzo said, but in the wake of an internet maelstrom, "a simple apology and one that's unequivocal, is usually a good thing."
And although Tosh made apologetic statements on Twitter, "When you're a comedian with a television show and that kind of profile, you have to, certainly, at least be aware that trying to walk a tightrope like that carries a greater degree of danger for you if you fall poorly. Which, it appears he may have done so," Sabourin said.
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