Why Esquire must continue to push boundaries
Esquire Singapore|May 2021
As a humour columnist of sorts, NEIL HUMPHREYS explains why he feels like the last man standing and believes Esquire continues to go to places other publications cannot reach.
Penn Ey, Chee

A former sex worker was not impressed with my recent performance and told me so.

As I was standing with my wife and daughter at the time, the encounter was a bit awkward.

As the three of us were attending our first Pink Dot Rally together, the woman’s accusations were somewhere between incongruous and surreal.

She hadn’t liked one of my recent Esquire columns. In fact, she’d hated it. I respected the opinion, if not the timing. My little girl was with me. We only wanted a pink balloon.

Instead, I was criticised for using archaic terminology (prostitute, rather than sex worker, which I apologised for) and accused of mocking the sex industry (which really wasn’t my intention).

The column triggered a heated discussion at a Pink Dot Rally and then a fierce debate online. The column encouraged me to speak with people in the sex industry to discuss where I had inadvertently caused offence. The column would not have existed in another publication.

Esquire reaches parts that other publications can not—or will not—reach.

In this column alone, I’ve danced along merrily to satirical tunes that focused on domestic abuse, depression, the plight of migrant workers, climate change, repealing 377A, the impact of excessive consumerism, and the aforementioned sex industry, whilst throwing in the odd knob gag in my usual self-deprecating tone to reassure readers that I haven’t gone the full Oprah Winfrey.

But I do occasionally feel like the last man standing in the diminishing field of mainstream humour writers in Singapore, a country that still insists on taking the business of a sense of humour seriously.

Of course, this is not a piteous plea for martyrdom. Perspective should never be a problem for a white, straight, middle-class man unless you happen to be Donald Trump, Piers Morgan or a bit of a prat (the lines blur across all three).

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