That's what people are saying about him- people who knew him. He was a kind man, generous to his friends, did a lot for charity and blah, blah, blah.
He also- this keeps cropping up- was technically brilliant. No-one could time a line the way he could.
He denied he was a racist. Or sometimes he did. He was just a funny man telling jokes, he said; the racist persona was an act- so lighten up. Who knows? But if it was just an act doesn't that make it worse?
Doesn't it make him unprincipled?
But I don't believe he ever really thought things through. I think he was lazy. He'd found a style that worked for him- and by the time people started asking awkward questions about it he was too old to change. If he'd been a thinking man he'd never have gone down that path in the first place.
I don't want to dance on his grave. He's part of our social history now. He belongs to us, we can't disown him and maybe it can be spun as proof of just how tolerant we are that all through our era- in spite of the race relations bureacracy and middleclass morality and the rise and fall of alternative comedy- it was still possible for a fat, ugly, white man in a tux to make money- pots and pots of money- telling playground jokes about coons and pakis and poofs.