Dirty jokes in the Me Too era, as told by Tom Segura
I’m going to say something I don’t, as a feminist, normally care to say: This can be a hard time to be a cis white male. And by that, I mean that this is a time where being a cis white male doesn’t afford you all of the same outsized privileges as it once did. This is a time where a cis white male must taste the self-consciousness, the second-guessing and the self-editing that women and people of color live with and have lived with every day for centuries. This doesn’t mean that cis white men are experiencing something unfair — it simply means that they are just now, for the first time, experiencing discomfort. And yes. Discomfort is hard.
Now that we’ve gotten the preamble and the disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to the meat.
With Hollywood creeps being driven out of the woodwork in droves, it can be difficult for someone like me — a woke, feminist and highly privileged white girl — not to be waiting around for yet another creepy, dick-wielding shoe to drop.
Enter a surprise date night. My boyfriend and I dressed for the chilly (aka 60 degree) January weather and inhaled fried appetizers at the only black-owned restaurant in downtown San Diego before taking our seats in the historic Balboa theater to sit through nearly an hour and a half of a cis white(ish) (his mother is Peruvian) male talk at us: Tom Segura was about to take the stage.
I’ve enjoyed Segura’s comedy in the past, as I paint my kitchen, or need to stay awake on a late-night road trip. He’s a funny guy… Bikes!
But I have to admit. I was worried. From Aziz to Louis, I was ready for another disappointment — I was reserving some adoration, knowing that there exists this cloud of shitty male behavior hanging over my relationship, as a fan, to any male celebrity.
Tom Segura sees that cloud too. And in the Me Too era, Segura, on the first night of his Take It Down tour, navigated the waters with deft and yes — funny! — agility.
He opened his set commenting on The Wall — the monolithic political symbol that defines January 2019. And promptly remarked “and that’s it — that’s all my political material.”
Segura’s set, marked by nuance, addressed issues of race, of “sexual misconduct” (a term who’s euphemistic inaccuracy makes me shudder), of inequality. It also addressed screaming children and poop. You know — comedy.
Not all of us have the same sense of humor; not all of us appreciate fart jokes or jokes that make us think. But for me, the best comedy is both — part fart joke, part mental gym. Great comedy implicates itself, it implicates the audience, and then offers a narrow escape — a playful toeing of the line on which we are all at time villainous, but we never become villains.
Segura did this throughout his set. But he did it most poignantly in a bit that was so initially cringe-y that I thought it may define him as yet another vessel for the most fragile of masculinity, in which, at last, the punchline absolved us all of the cultural weight of that dark cloud.
He did that thing — you know it well — where a man brings up equality. My eyes rolled with an intensity that my boyfriend on my right and the stranger on my left must have heard it. He began down the well-worn path of the “benefits” of inequality between men and women that typically invokes the expectation that men pay for dinner and drinks.
He describes a scene he experienced during which he witnessed a woman masturbating while sitting in a bar, and upon reporting her to the bouncer… nothing happened. And then remarks on what would have happened had there been a man publicly masturbating in a bar. He’s mostly accurate in this musing.
But then. “I’ve gotta admit — I kind of admire the balls that it takes to just whip it out anytime, anywhere.” I’m paraphrasing. Full stop. You’ve lost me. What. The. Fuck?
We are heading towards full-blown villainy here at highway speeds, and the chill in the audience confirms that I am not the only one who feels this way.
And then he rescues us, he rescues himself: “No Louis fans here, huh?”
The relief was palpable. In this moment, Segura acknowledges the cultural climate and his perceived position within that framework. Most importantly, this acknowledgement makes it clear that Segura himself understands that he does not operate in a vacuum and that there is some level of culpability placed upon him by his cis-ness, his white(ish)ness, and his maleness, without ever painting himself a victim.
In this moment, Louis C.K. and men like him become the punchline. The rest of us are allowed to breathe.