“You’re a humorist, I understand,” the rights regulator said.
“I’ve been accused of that,” I replied.
“You amuse your readers.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Why do you amuse your readers?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe I was amused as a child and can’t break the cycle.”
“You make fun of events, issues, groups, individuals,” he said, taking another tack.
“I don’t usually make fun of identifiable individuals. I invent the individuals I spoof.”
“You spoof yourself, though.”
“Exactly. You spoof unequally.”
He was right, of course. Until he pointed it out, I hadn’t realized how unfair I’ve been. While making fun of myself, I’ve neglected to ridicule others. Apart from me, I spoof no one in particular, just everyone in general.
“It hadn’t occurred to me that excluding other identifiable individuals might be discriminatory,” I said.
“Exclusion is always discriminatory.”
I promised to re-think my literary strategy and seriously consider libeling real people.
“You’ll be happy to know that I spoof identifiable groups,” I said. “I’ve made fun of the Irish, politicians, academics, editors, doctors, lawyers …”
“Have you made fun of the Spanish?” he interrupted.
“Not yet,” I replied. “But I’ve mocked Spanish fly.”
“You include the Irish in your satires but exclude the Spanish. Are you anti-Hispanic?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Then why do you do it?
I didn’t know why. I still don’t. And yet, while taking pains to spoof the Irish, I’ve consistently neglected to lampoon the Spanish. Maybe I harbour some deep seated prejudice I’m unaware of. Or, maybe because my forebears were Irish, I’m more familiar with their comic deficiencies. Whatever the reason, I’ll have to do something about it.
“I’ll try to make amends,” I said.
It was easier to say than do. Apologies are always in order, but I wasn’t sure to whom I should apologize or how. I suppose I could say something like, “I’m sorry for ignoring your ethnic absurdities while exposing mine. It won’t happen again.” That should be reassuring.
“You write a lot about men,” he said.
“I happen to be one.”
“That’s no excuse for excluding women.”
“Ah, but I include women,” I said, reciting the titles of several essays in which they appear. I thought I had him.
“Not in numbers that reflect their share of the population,” he replied. I didn’t have him after all.
“I’ve made fun of feminists,” I said, hoping to assuage the guilt.
“In a representative number of essays?”
On the contrary, he had me.
I told him I’d try to make amends for that, too. I said I was genuinely sorry for not revealing often enough that there’s something funny about feminists.
“It’s troubling,” he said, “that except for a very few essays, anyone reading your work might assume feminists are incapable of making fools of themselves. It’s a clear case of negative stereotyping.”
“You mislead your readers about feminists.”
“I had no idea.”
“You mislead them about animals, too.”
“Now, here’s where you’re completely wrong,” I said, confident that my animal rights record was unassailable. “I’ve made fun of dogs, cats, horses, cows. gophers, groundhogs, rats, cougars, wolves …”
“That’s nothing compared with the animals you haven’t made fun of.”
“Nothing?” I was incredulous.
“You’ve marginalized untold numbers of our fellow creatures,” he said.
Yes, I could see that now, and he hadn’t mentioned insects, the most frequent victims of my satirical negligence. My insect rights record is appalling. Why, I haven’t even baited bed bugs, caricatured cockroaches, or lampooned lice, all of which I am familiar with, sometimes intimately. Imagine how many unfamiliar insects I have likewise neglected.
“Is there any hope for me?” I asked.
He thought long and hard. “Perhaps,” he eventually said, “if you were to devote your writing talents, such as they are, to drafting a charter of humour rights and freedoms.”
“I wouldn’t know where to begin,” I said.
“Begin with freedom of spoof and the right to levity.”
“Include me in one of your essays.”
I said I would, and I did.