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February 10, 2017

Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny: Jerrod Carmichael at Mandel

The Major Activities Board (MAB) Winter Comedy Show this past Saturday night featured NBC stand-up comedian Jerrod Carmichael, with opening acts by third-year Off-Off Campus performer Val Bodurtha and 28-year-old comedian-writer Josh Rabinowitz.

Bodurtha’s storytelling humor drew ample laughs from the crowd. Her content was relatable and honest—from jokes about dating to family life—and her delivery was well-timed. She’s clearly seasoned as an Off-Off Campus performer.

Next up: Rabinowitz, the highlight of the night. With his boy-next-door charm and humbling sense of humor, he controlled every attentive ear. Rabinowitz was appropriately, self-deprecatingly UChicago.

The evening’s main attraction, Jerrod Carmichael, walked onto a dark stage and began by marveling at the church-like quality of Mandel Hall. His set started off slow... and didn’t improve. He seemed unprepared and at a loss for material throughout the show. When he did find it, it wasn’t funny. In fact, it was downright offensive.

Given his resume (Neighbors, The Goodwin Games, and, of course, his own eponymous sitcom), I assumed the crowd would be in for some top-quality humor, but the show was a disappointment. Carmichael relied on sexist jokes, and the audience responded in kind. The laughs were weak throughout, and there were long periods of time when Carmichael would shuffle around the stage in silence.

Carmichael joked that the best moment of his life was seeing a woman take a Plan B pill. And, yes, it got worse: The show hit a low when Carmichael began ranting about how his worst fear as a man was to be accused of rape. He only somewhat softened the blow when he added that he did his best to prevent this by not assaulting women. He then went on to say that he makes an effort to hold the door open for women because by doing so, he is showing them that he is not, in fact, a rapist.

Perhaps outside of a college environment, where most sexual assault cases go unresolved, these jokes are actually funny to some people. But here, they are not clever and they delegitimize the experiences of victims. It goes without saying that rapists are more than capable of holding doors open for people.

Jerrod Carmichael’s performance was a flop. He lacked even a fraction of the audience command that Bodurtha or Rabinowitz possessed. His jokes, at best, were in poor taste, and his apathetic delivery made them even harsher. It’s far past time to admit: rape jokes just aren’t that funny.

 

Editor's Note: The reviewer left the show before it ended.

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