SOME of my best friends are bigots. Before you set the Human Rights Commission on my behind, allow me to explain.

Contrary to popular belief, some of the worst racists and sexists in the world are actually decent, God-fearing, well-meaning and nice people. Yes, nice.  We seem to have corrupted the real meaning of bigotry to refer almost exclusively refer to the mean, violent fellows with D-cups, size-48 beer bellies who wear size-42 Springbok jerseys and travel to Ellis Park for the sole purpose of hurling racial taunts at “Beast” Mtawarira.

No, that’s just a particular brand of bigot; the vacuous, ignorant and unsophisticated kind. That doesn’t mean the polished gentleman with a Masters degree from the London School of Economics who chomps on Cuban cigars at the country club is any less bigoted because he’s sufficiently sophisticated to know what to say and what not to say in public.

If I had to pull a statistic al figure out of my colon, I’d probably estimate that about 99.99% of humans are bigoted in some way or another. Yep, that’s right. I think pretty much everyone is a bigot. I know just how much that assertion drives the nouveau black consciousness crowd up the wall, seeing as “black people can’t be racist”. Don’t get me wrong; I think society is correct to punish the dumb, rabid racists among us.

As a humour writer, satirist and every other label that’s been slapped upon me, I often get asked if there are limits to what one should joke about. I used to give the standard, politically correct answer:  which is, “Yes, some things such as death, sadistic violence, child abuse or rape can never be funny.” As a cop-out, I’ll maintain that there’s nothing funny about any of these phenomena.

However, a Twitter conversation between comedian/actor Ricky Gervais and some of his followers gave me a serious moment of pause. He reckons that of course one can joke about anything as long as the joke itself is really funny, clever and tasteful.  In the two years or so since, I read up on the matter and solicited the opinions of comedian and satirist friends. Now I tend to agree with Gervais.

I believe that there are people who wake up every morning and before they’ve even brushed their teeth or sat on the throne, they look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves, “OK, what can I find today that will offend me?”

Comedian George Carlin, easily one of the funniest individuals I have ever listened to, also believed that censoring humour practitioners was a form of thought control. His rationale was that any joke will offend at least one group of people. I agree.

I believe that there are people who wake up every morning and before they’ve even brushed their teeth or sat on the throne, they look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves, “OK, what can I find today that will offend me?”

I should know. You would be shocked at just how many angry e-mails I receive from readers who take catch offence at my innocuous weekly hallucinations. I once even had an angry blogger start an online campaign to boycott this newspaper because of my misogyny.

My crime? I wrote an article, with my tongue firmly in my cheek, arguing that men are simpletons who are driven by only one motivation in life:  to find females willing to engage in nocturnal scrums.

Oh, and to prove just what a bigoted woman-hater I was, I’d also referred to Mrs N as “the wife” as if she was just an object in some other column. I was gobsmacked! I’ve since come to accept that anything I write will offend those who seek to be offended.

But back to inappropriate jokes. An old varsity friend who survived a horrific car accident that put him in a wheelchair once lamented the fact that after the accident, people walked on egg shells around him, as if the crash had incapacitated his brain.

To illustrate his point he shared a joke that he tells people to make them relax around him. “The other day at the mall I saw a guy in a wheelchair park his car in a bay for able-bodied people,” goes the joke. “So I rolled up to him and effed him up. We’ve all got to stick to our end of the bargain.”

I thought it was hilarious and burst out laughing until I looked at the ashen-faced individuals around us, grinning nervously. Then my friend turned to me and said, “See what I mean?”

In 1999 lived in the (then) exclusively Indian suburb of Isipingo Rail in the south of Durban in 1990. I think the Bill Faure TV series Shaka Zulu was being repeated by the national broadcaster because each time I walked past a certain this house, the kids would stand outside, simulate the Zulu war dance and sing, “Bom bom bom bom bom, bom bom, bom bom!” When I related this it  at around the dinner table, Mrs Naidoo, my host, was mortified that I was  found finding humour in the situation.

Look, I appreciate that the kids were acting out a terrible, bigoted stereotype about me being a Zulu man — but full marks for creativity, hey. It’s better than the cretins from Tilbury in the east of London who would make monkey noises at me when I walked past.

I guess what I’m saying is that I think all you people are bigots. But if you’re going to insult me, be funny and creative about it.

I now invite your angry e-mails telling me how apartheid has damaged my oppressed mind and what a self-hating native I am.

I like that sort of thing.

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