For comedians, a little controversy is often necessary for success. And though it’s easy to offend people, it's also easy to write off people as being too easily offended—so what determines if a comedian has gone too far?
Well, that, of course is completely subjective, although history has shown us that surefire way to draw complaints about your work (and therefore, more eyes on it) is to hone in on race, sex, and politics. Often, you can take the relatively easier route to drawing up some angry press by simply use dirty words in a public setting. In the age of Internet commenters, though, comedians can be sure that people out there somewhere are listening, and they're ready to take to Twitter to call for their heads if they feel upset.
Daniel Tosh found himself at the center of this debate after trying out a joke about rape during a set. The joke brought a mountain of shit down on him, even as comics like Louis C.K. weighed in to defend a comic's right to try and fail at making people laugh. C.K. himself came under fire for a Saturday Night Live monologue that poked fun at child molesters, proving that in comedy, sometimes the people who defend others often end up being defended, as well. Sometimes, the pressure calls for an apology—see Tracy Morgan, Michael Richards, and Bill Maher. Other comedians, like Lisa Lampanelli, refuse to say sorry.
Obviously, Tosh's career wasn't sunk by the joke., and he is more or less free to perform material that is controversial and offensive as he wants. In comedy, even if you're called out and beat down by people with opposing views and strong senses of what is and is not acceptable—as many of the men and women on this list of controversial comedians have been at one point or another—you can rest assured that there is always another audience willing to look past it and buy a ticket to your next gig.