Vito Calise Reviews: Cameron Esposito’s “Rape Jokes”

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Columnist, radio producer, and film school graduate Vito Calise, is reviewing all the comedy specials he can see. You know him from SiriusXM’s Bennington Show, The Interrobang’s Big Brothers podcast, and as the star of the first ever Instagram young adult drama series, The Halls. Born and raised on New York City’s Upper West Side, Vito went to Chelsea’s School of Visual Arts, has danced on bars as a bartender around Manhattan, operated a mechanical bull and was even a doorman for a week. He loves comedy and he’s a straight shooter, sharing his thoughts on comedy specials with you. This week he takes on Cameron Esposito’s Rape Jokes, which is being released via Vulture.com and on Cameron’s own website.

Cameron Esposito’s Rape Jokes

“The fact that a special can be funny and work while also pushing a more serious message is pretty powerful and a testament to how important comedy is.”

Cameron Esposito’s “Rape Jokes” is an interesting special. She put this together in 6 months, which is significantly less time than she would normally spend crafting a special, and put it up on her website with no set price. She just asks you donate what you can to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). The reason she chose to do donations instead of selling it herself is that the theme of the special is “Rape Jokes told from the perspective of someone who has been a victim of sexual assault”.

The special isn’t 100% sexual assault focused; some of Esposito’s best material in the special are her stories about growing up Catholic. As someone who grew up Catholic her issues with the representation of Jesus really rang true. There’s also a great quick bit about constantly being afraid of being pregnant without having sex because of Mary. None of the jokes are mean spirited or trashing religion–  a crutch so many comics will go to right away– and it’s refreshing to just get jokes about religion, not against it.

Her material addressing men getting upset about what they can and can’t say in the workplace gets the special off to a strong start.  The majority of the hour zooms in on sexual misconduct and assault. She even targets comics who make jokes about rape in a positive light but thenclaim free speech.  What they’re really getting is “feedback”, she explains. There are Trump jokes, just like 95% of comedy specials, but it’s all done within the first few minutes and go with her overall theme well. Esposito has an interesting delivery alternating between using a posh kind of voice, and varied facial expressions to land her punchlines.

This isn’t one of the Great Specials, but I don’t think the point of “Rape Jokes” was to be a perfect comedy hour. Esposito seems to have been looking to make a statement to get a message out to a broader audience and using standup as the tool. That’s not to say it isn’t funny and there aren’t great jokes. The fact that a special can be funny and work while also pushing a more serious message is pretty powerful and a testament to how important comedy is. This is better than most of the specials I’ve reviewed so far and is worth the watch.

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