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Comedian Cameron Esposito talks rape jokes, Rape Jokes on The Opposition

Cameron Esposito, Jordan Klepper
Screenshot: The Opposition With Jordan Klepper

Introducing his Thursday interviewee (or “opponent,” as his ironic blowhard calls them), Jordan Klepper mentioned that all the proceeds from comedian Cameron Esposito’s new standup special are going to charity. “Comedy doing good in the world?,” Klepper’s pompous pundit asked incredulously, “I just don’t see it.” But, as the actual Klepper (who’s getting his own show now that his right-wing alter ego has had his cancelled) knows, Esposito’s new standup special, the provocatively titled Rape Jokes, is actually achieving some rather ambitious goals. For one thing, all the money raised by the special (available on Esposito’s website) is going to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. (It’s already raised about 30 grand.) And, for the other, the special, as Esposito asserts, is engaging its audience on the subject of sexual assault in a way intended to “move the conversation further.” Luckily, as Esposito says of her perilous task of making jokes about sexual assault entertaining rather than “cheap,” she told Klepper brashly, “Maybe you can’t tell rape jokes, but I’m a very talented comic and I can.”

Esposito (also a former A.V. Club contributor), referring to the fact that she is a survivor of sexual assault, answered the fake-skeptical Klepper’s question about how male comics respond to Esposito’s gauntlet-tossing about their own, often-shitty rape jokes by deadpanning, “Men love to be challenged. Especially, men love to be challenged by lesbians.” While the pair never touched on Klepper’s network-mate’s infamous “Wouldn’t it be funny if that [audience member who objected to his roster of rape jokes] got raped by, like, five guys right now?” incident, one suspects his example informs Esposito’s advice to male comics, “Have a point... Be an artist who cares enough about your art to be good at it.” Esposito explained to Klepper (who, even in his right-wing asshole character, was clearly uncomfortable even saying the word “rape” so often during the segment), that, as a comic, she’s constantly getting feedback on her act, and that male comics who grumble about being “oppressed” by those complaining that their hacky rape jokes aren’t any good, need to toughen up. As she put it, “Anybody who can’t take feedback is, like, probably not a great artist.”

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.