NO LAUGHING MATTER

11.20.14 12:45 AM ET

Bill Cosby Foe Hannibal Buress Joked About Date Rape

The comedian was right to call out Bill Cosby, but his material is littered with jokes about rape.

When Hannibal Buress implored a Philadelphia audience during a standup routine to “Google Bill Cosby,” he sparked a remarkable public outcry over Cosby’s alleged sexual assaults. In the weeks since, Cosby has lost much of the good will he built with the American public over the years, even as he was allegedly engaged in criminal behavior. Unmentioned, however, have been Buress’s own contributions to rape culture.

In his standup act, Buress has told rape jokes that explicitly imply sexual violence against women for a laugh. In his 2012 album, Animal Furnace, the comedian describes a scenario in which he meets a woman late at night, lies about his intentions to get her to go home with him, and mocks her attempts to ensure her own safety:

“I was out one night, it was 5 in the morning. I’m talking with this girl. I decided to take a swing. I said ‘How about we go back to my place for some food and some drinks?’ Most women would say ‘Yeah, that sounds cool.’ or ‘Nah, I’m all right.’ But what she said was: ‘What type of food are we talking about? And what drinks are we talking about? Do you expect me to have sex with you if I come back to your place?” If you come back to my place at 5 in the morning, eat all my food, drink all my drinks, and you don’t want to have sex, I don’t want you in my life at all. What type of person would do something like that? That sounds like something a sociopath would do. Come to your place at 5 in the morning, eat your food, drink your drinks, leave at 6:30 without fucking like it’s cool? That’s a passive burglary.

“And as soon as she said that, I should have clocked that this woman was crazy, but I was kinda drunk so I go, ‘Aww, she’s quirky.’

“So we talk for a little bit. She says stuff. I say stuff. She says stuff. I say stuff. You know how conversation works. I think it’s going well, so I go in for the kiss. She says ‘WHAT!’ You think you can just kiss me? Men think they’re entitled to whatever they want from women, they objectify us!’ Started going on this crazy feminist rant. It’s fine if you want to be a feminist, but I think 5 in the morning, after the bar closes, is a weird time to jump on your soapbox. ‘Men just want to fuck!’ [she said]. [Buress responds]: ‘Yeah, it’s 5 in the morning, everybody wants to, that’s why they stayed out to 5, because it didn’t happen at 2.’

“So we keep talking for some reason. She wants to know my address, she’s showing interest. I tell her my address. She wants to know my address, plus the cross street. I tell her. She texts it to herself. I said ‘What’s wrong?’ She says, ‘I have to be safe. Three out of 10 women who get raped don’t report it.’ I said, ‘One out of one dudes is walking away from this conversation.’ She said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said ‘You insane lady, that’s what’s wrong. And it sounds very risky to hang out with you. And I didn’t know this about myself until today, but I don’t hang out with anybody who quotes rape statistics. There’s nobody in my life who does that. That’s such a weird trait to have. I have to get away from you, cause I’m a black man in Scotland on a work visa. They’re gonna believe any bullshit you say.’

“She was super drunk in that moment. She couldn’t handle rejection. She kept saying ‘Hannibal, please. Let me explain.’ [He says] ‘No, you’ve explained enough with your words.’ [She says] ‘Why, Hannibal? What’s wrong?’ [He says] ‘You seem insane and unstable. That’s what’s wrong.’ [She says] ‘Hannibal, I just want to educate people.’ [He says] ‘This is a weird-ass time for that type of class.’ [She says] ‘Hannibal, give me 30 seconds.’ [He says] ‘No, I don’t want to talk to you.’ [She says] ‘Please stop walking away.’ [He says] ‘No. Go away.’ [She says] ‘Pla…’ [He says] ‘Hey lady, you’re acting like a rapist right now. Because I just said I don’t want to talk with you. You keep on talking at me. You are raping my eardrums and I feel very threatened. No means no.’

“So, we’re dating now.”

In just a few minutes of standup, Buress accurately describes rape culture and uses many of the techniques being employed to silence Cosby’s accusers. He makes frequent reference to his libido being inhibited by her autonomy, he dismisses all of her concerns as making him uncomfortable, and he ends the bit by conflating the experience of listening to someone complain about their sexual safety with actually being assaulted.

The one aspect Buress gets right, and it is an overlooked aspect of the Cosby scenario playing out in the public eye, is the racial element accusations often take. But Buress’s keen understanding of racism in sexual politics is subsumed by the rest of his argument. The concern he has for his own safety trumps hers.

Animal Furnace was not the first time Buress joked about rape. On his debut album, My Name Is Hannibal, the comedian muses about the origins of the phrase “rape and pillage,” saying:

“I think initially, they just wanted to rape and rape. That’s my thoughts. But they were like, ‘Guys, we gotta think of something else. We already established the fact that we’re raping. We gotta think of something else just to give the phrase a little more flavor.’ And so somebody’s like, ‘What if we say ‘rape and pillage’?’ And everybody is like, ‘What’s pillaging?’ And he’s like, ‘I don’t know, I thought we were focusing on the rape.’ So they continue raping and pillaging for some years. Then they had a meeting where they said, ‘Guys, we can’t say “raping and pillaging” anymore. Rape looks bad in the newspapers. The media is killing us. We gotta think to think of something else to say for when we send out the press releases.’ And they were like, ‘We should say “pillage and plundering.”’ And they were like, ‘What’s plundering?’ And he was like, ‘I don’t know, I thought we were focusing on the rape.’”

I reached out to Buress’s publicist for comment on the comedian’s rape jokes. She declined to comment.

Of course, the comedian was right to call out Cosby. Although the stories about him have been publicly available for years, he has lain low when accusers have stepped forward, biding his time until the public forgets and then stepping back into the spotlight under the assumption that everything is all right. And the public did seem to have forgotten, until now. It is also worth mentioning that Buress’s comments in no way negate the heinous crimes of which Cosby has been accused. Even an imperfect messenger is capable of delivering news everyone needs to hear.

But Buress should still acknowledge his own culpability in the larger rape culture that permeates almost all aspects of American society.

And that’s nothing to laugh about.