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Jun. 30 (GIN) – A popular Nigerian comic is losing fans fast as he goes on the attack over a rape joke that fell flat.

The joke sparked an exodus of fans who abandoned the comedian Bright Okpocha aka Basketmouth but not before leaving a long trail of negative tweets and other unforgiving critiques.

"Show me a man who is insensitive to rape and I'll show you a man who is capable of rape&whatever," tweeted the Nigerian novelist Chika Unigwe.

Basketmouth came under fire for posting a joke about the difference between dating "white girls" and "African girls". In a nutshell, white women are willing after a couple of dates, but African women keep holding out, so on the ninth date a bit of rape is required.

Most Nigerian and other African commentators failed to find the humor when the country is suffering from an epidemic of sexual violence.

Basketmouth’s defenders dismissed those who criticized him as over-sensitive, humorless, or just missing the satirical point.

Finally, he issued an apology of sorts: "I would never in a thousand lifetimes encourage rape, I broadcasted a joke that many clearly misunderstood and have found offensive and I sincerely apologize, the intention however was to highlight an unfortunate trend.”

Basketmouth is just one in a score of stand-up comedians to use the rape of women as a subject for a cheap laugh, observed Rachel Hamada for the blog “This is Africa” on the Guardian Africa Network. “He's the big goofy team mascot for those Nigerian men who think women are teases and there for the taking. #basketmouthgate opened up a whole debate about the subject of rape in Nigeria and beyond.”

She cited a tweet by writer Elnathan John: "There is a reason Basketmouth makes so many people laugh with female rape jokes. We condone it. It is not yet a big deal here… All rape is abominable, but I tell you if men got raped as often as women, there would be no celebration of rape jokes."

Another post on Twitter: "From an early age girls are taught to view themselves from the negatives that are heaped on them because men rape. It is girls' fault that men are depraved. We teach them not to walk alone after dark, not to be alone with boys, to wear 'decent clothes. Yet after all this, many are still raped. Why is that, Mr Basketmouth? BECAUSE BOYS AND MEN ARE NOT BEING TAUGHT THAT RAPE IS NOT A JOKE!"

After a year of stinging comments, the renowned comic last week rebuked his Nigerian fans and referred to them in an interview with Nigeriafilms as "hypocrites who cannot even understand a joke."

“The thing is, it's a joke. I crack jokes about my own death, do you understand, and people laugh about my own death, it's just a joke. Let's grow beyond this. Definitely, I'm not going to crack a joke about rape again, I shouldn't even be saying the word. I've learnt my lesson, but we shouldn't have limits. So I'm looking for another controversy, though not that type."

However, he boasted that the scandal helped him sell tickets for an upcoming show in the UK, where 600 people were willing to shell out $100 just to visit the show. w/pix of B. Okpocha

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