It is the curse of the humour columnist (a title which I can now claim in this inaugural column of mine, although I shy away from the term “writer” since it carries connotations of far greater tact) that, just because one spews forth a bunch of sexist, racist, bigoted, error-ridden, inappropriate, politically incorrect and downright offensive rubbish every week to a young, (generally) liberal, educated audience, one feels that one has the right to carry over this antisocial behaviour into one’s encounters in the real world.
Of course, this often has disastrous results, however amusing they may be to the observer. Free speech has its limits, after all. Nothing has brought this home to me more than at a recent 21st birthday celebration for a friend of mine, at which I gave a speech. I call it a “celebration” because no event with so many parents can be deemed a “party.” Since I have known Richard for 10 years, his parents decided that I would be the perfect guy to give a speech in his honour, being the “polite, respectable young gentleman” that I am, with an unsullied reputation and good grades. Clearly they don’t know me at all.
I got the call only two days before the shindig, which was not a good start. In a mad dash, I called all his friends searching for anecdotes, funny quotes – any dirt that I could find. Combining the few scraps I could find with my own memories, I compiled what I considered to be a hilarious speech.
“This’ll bring the house down!” I chuckled smugly to myself. To be fair, I had been told by Richard that only “we young ones” were going to be present at the festivities. Naturally, I wrote the speech with a somewhat, err, “younger” slant, which would’ve been fine if I hadn’t had a few quiet lagers beforehand for reasons of “Dutch courage.”
It started off well, with my tales of Richard’s days drumming in our band getting some laughs from the older and younger crowd alike. A few titters arose when discussing his artistic habits at the School of Fine Arts. Perhaps it all fell apart – and this is just a hunch – when I started systematically listing his past girlfriends and sexual exploits with aforementioned girlfriends, unfailingly including various one-night stands and the vast array of utensils employed with these women for perverted purposes.
But come on, it wasn’t that bad. His girlfriend and her parents didn’t really need to get THAT upset. Where’s your sense of humor, people? It’s not like he just started dating this girl; I mean, they’ve been together for a whole two months now! And since when have parents been so touchy about hearing the exact age at which, and method by which, their son discovered the joys of masturbation? I can’t be the only one whose parents introduced him to it; give me a break!
Okay, I admit that perhaps reminding his mom of the time she walked in on James shagging one of these girls and got a right eyeful of everything a mother should never have to witness was something of a lapse in judgment. But hello, I was drunk! The fact that I formed semi-coherent sentences at all was an achievement in itself. Why no one gives me credit for that I’ll never know.
At this point (so I’m told), the laughter was restricted to a couple of my friends at the back, who were holding their sides in agony, inhaling from the lead balloon that was my speech. I continued to plough onward blindly, like some kind of retarded workhorse. The air in the room was thick with the hope that the worst was over; “How can he possibly get any more inappropriate?” However, they underestimated the true extent of my social ineptitude.
I will never forget, as long as I live, the expressions on the faces of two adults upon hearing, broadcast to an entire room of their friends and family in explicit verbiage, that their daughter, while driving, administered a hand job to the very man whom they had allowed inside their home for months…
Did I mention I’m also available for children’s birthday parties and funerals?