World renowned comedian, Ricky Gervais, says that you can make a joke about anything. As long as there’s context. Context is important in humour, whether the joke lands or not. So I’ll contextualise this article. Anton Newcombe, the lead singer of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, recently said a poorly articulated rape joke at the band’s Sydney gig the other day. So poorly articulated that he used it more as an insult. A dickhead punter at the back of the hall kept yelling and screaming while Newcombe went about one of his infamous rants and whinges against his band and other bands associated to the BJM ‘family’. He’s got a bit of a temper, and for anyone who’s seen the BJM x Dandy Warhols doco ‘Dig’, they’d know all too much about Newcombe’s anger issues. If you haven’t seen Dig, check it out on YouTube, someone uploaded a copy. But now, in 2018, it seems Newcombe’s charades are more of an act for the audience rather than an actual dig at his fellow bandmates. I’d know, I was at their Brisbane gig last Thursday night. He rips into them for not keeping in time, abuses the drummer who should know what a 4/4 beat sounds like, and pauses the show to give a dig to whoever he can. The crowd loves it. They applaud like some cheap circus monkeys. Myself included now that I think about it. So flash-forward to their Sydney gig, and some dickhead continues to scream and yell at Newcombe while he’s already pissed, maybe internally grieving for his late friend Mr Bourdain, and some dude is trying to get a rise out of him; trying to provoke the bear. Trying to see what the fuck he’ll do. And then Newcombe makes a comment on rape. Specifically saying, “Whatever, you’re a dickhead. Your mum probably screamed like that when she was being raped and that’s how you were born.”
Rape is bad. Just so you know my stance on the whole thing. I don’t condone it. And In light of the comments at the gig, a woman has created a petition for the remaining BJM gigs to be cancelled.
She writes, “In light of the horrific comments regarding sexual assault by Anton Newcombe at The Brian Jonestown Massacre show in Sydney last night, the Forum and Principal Entertainment should immediately cancel all upcoming BJM shows to protect all audience members from such abuse… The “joke” is horrific and this kind of behaviour cannot be tolerated and should not be by Principal Entertainment and The Forum.”
She finishes by saying gigs should be safe places. And I agree. I felt safe at their Brisbane gig. My partner felt safe at the Brisbane gig. And I’m sure this woman felt safe, up until Newcombe made a rape ‘joke’. But personally, I feel like cancelling the rest of their tour is not going to solve the problem. If anything, it’s a knee jerk reaction to try and find a solution. Ricky Gervais says a rape joke in one of his Netflix specials. More specifically, an incest rape joke. Is there a petition to get that down from Netflix? Or a petition for Gervais to never perform stand up again until he gets his act back together?
My comments aren’t in support for Newcombe, he shouldn’t have said a poor rape comment, especially on stage with a mic in front of him. But the reaction to cancel the tour is a bit much. I can’t say for sure because I wasn’t at the Sydney gig, but I don’t think the safety of the venue changed after the comments. People weren’t being touched as soon as Newcombe muttered the words into the mic. Newcombe didn’t touch anyone, he insulted someone with a rape comment. The lowest and most unintelligent insults. But I understand a joke like that can trigger people, especially victims of sexual assault.
The real issue of safety comes from the comments that the woman received after she made the petition. The woman had awoken the next day to online threats of rape by a man in Sydney she had never met before, after already being harassed and abused online for starting the petition. That’s extreme behaviour. And once again, that behaviour moves us back as a society. I don’t want to use the woman’s name because it’s irrelevant to the article, but she has now taken the matter to the police.
Cancelling the tour won’t stop Newcombe, maybe the petition will give him the fair kick in the head that he deserves, but it won’t do much else. Newcombe should of course apologise, but he shouldn’t be cast out to sea because of an inappropriate comment he made. He’s done much worse in his life than say one rape comment at a gig in Sydney. We pay money to see an ex-heroin addict play on stage. A man who used to fight members of his band, and audience members, at almost every gig. We want that excitement from our rock stars. It’s what we’ve paid for, especially if we are paying to see BJM. But instead of throwing physical punches in the crowd, he’s thrown a verbal one. And yet, we don’t know how to react that.