A NATION THAT LAUGHS TOGETHER
South Africans have down the years been accused of not being able to laugh at themselves or find humour in their shortcomings and diversity. It was an understood outrage some few years ago when Desmond Dube was ordered to apologise for a sick below-the-belt ethnic joke he made about amaShangaan, who by the way are my neighbours here in Bushbuckridge. And it continued to be surprising when some people would pick a bone with Kagiso Lediga’s Pure Monate Show for always making one-line sexist jokes about women. Which raises a bigger and broader question about South Africans’ inability to just brush aside their issues and laugh. Are women not supposed to be subjects of jokes and comedy?
Why do we have to be bluntly stupid to finally afford a moment to laugh? Why can’t we be able to laugh at our own intelligence instead of folliness? SABC 1’s highly repeated Emzini Wezinsizwa is one such prime example of people only finding laughter in stupidity. People find it amusing because the characters are far from intelligent and paint a distorted biased image of hostel folks. It is not yet known if hostel dwellers also find it funny the same way township people usually laugh their bowels out. Emzini is a cheap depiction of the surreal unreal in a way that is meant to create further stereotyping of ethnic groups and their attitude towards each other. When will time come when South African television will produce comedies of the calibre of SABC 3’s Sex and the City and Will & Grace? Well, one has to listen to the dialogue to pick the humour and it’s not always predictable. I swear that Friends is an intelligent person's comedy, the same way as Eve. Comedies like Sex and the City educate as well, thus they don’t just serve as celluloid hallucinogens to divorce people from hardcore reality. All such comedies are doing is to say, "look at yourself, laugh at yourself, love yourself with all your faults". The four single women in the comedy are all independent, making being single and carefree something hip. They do talk about PMS and pap smear in a manner that would leave Lediga and David Kau green with envy. However the Pure Monate Show scores a reasonable seven out of ten if compared to American attempt-at-comedy Moesha. Surely, you don’t need to be a music star or celebrity to make people laugh. Or you don’t need to be handsome to make women drool. Handsome is the depth of a man's pocket not a six pack on his abs. Mr Bean's Rowan Atkinson is not gifted in the looks department but still manages to draw a laugh or two and a swoon whenever he twists his nose as if he was a K9. However poor Brandy Norwood in Moesha resembles a fly that has just landed in a glass of milk, or is it a freshly painted wall? Whatever picture she seems to have just stepped into, her vulnerability is no laughing matter, one finds himself cringing throught the whole episode. Actually people need to be put on local anaesthetic to endure the pain of watching her embarass herself. She’s a celebrity who should stick to what she knows best, the same way celebrity George W Bush wouldn’t draw a laugh even if he sticked his tongue out with his thumbs in his ears and screamed, "I am Kenneth Nkosi!". Somehow, Bush is funnier than Norwood.
South Africa’s answer to Girlfriends, SABC 2’s Stokvel also failed to fly. Quite frankly, even in a metropolitan society it will still need a giant microscope to find cartoon character men like those in Stokvel. Let alone the girls who are so hyper and optimistic one will be forgiven for thinking they took overdoses of happy pills before co-existing in Stokvel, which resembles a ghetto heaven, Valhalla in hell. Another ghetto heaven which sadly could only be interacted with is Madam and Eve which I always argue that it is a cheap interploration of formerly SABC’s Suburban Bliss. For the life of television whoever thought that developing a cartoon strip into a comedy show will work must have been a cartoon character in their past lifetime. Brother man is on a re-incarnation tip. Forget that it won an award in Europe because you don’t live in Europe plus Africans and Europeans don’t come from the same mental conditioning. We don't have Eves in our houses but aunts who are allowed visitors. Pundits would say, "not cut from the same cloth". It is more like what was called Unicity, where was the humour? The only two shows worth a laugh because they didn’t make silliness their themes were The Steve Harvey Show and Seinfeld. Although they were watered down comedies and were only good, not when critiqued on their merit but only when compared to local flops like Ashifa Shabba, Mazinyo dot Q, Mponeng, Fela’s TV, Mzee Wa Two Six, Comedy Cabin, Fishy Feshuns and Khululeka. What's so wrong with South Africa when comedy characters like Jacob Zuma, Thabo Mbeki, Siphiwe Nyanda, Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka are allowed to go unsatirised?
Imagine that boy who once entered Mbeki's Cape Town residence and wore his white gown inscribed TM, drank his 12 year old wine and slept on his bed for a few days. Imagine that boy found showering in the President's bathroom, using his towels inscribed with the words, 'President of South Africa', maybe even running a fat bill on his phone, frying chicken wings in his micro-oven and maybe even smoking his pipe. Don't you think the Police Docket would have made for a funny read? Or Nyanda, after the break-in in his house where allegedly an AK47 was stolen. Imagine him being asked where he got the kalashnikov and whether he declared it when he was Chief of the Army. "Mr Nyanda, what was an AK47 doing in your house?"
"I'm from MK". Damn, I don't want to go further, I'll leave it to Kau, due to his ability to make jokes about the SABC Blacklisting saga and Dali Mpofu. Picture that, in the United States no one can make jokes about a man called Marion Knight, otherwise known as Sugar Bear or Suge but here people can crack jokes about how Zuma should be given his 'mshini' so that he can spare our eardrums from bleeding everytine he sings that he needs his 'mshini' as if he borrowed it to us. About Mlambo-Ngcuka? Where was she when there was a break-in at her house and her laptop stolen? Let's speculate about the information in the laptop of a deputy president? Something to do with the trip to Dubai? The Real Arms Deal Report maybe? The Real Reason Zuma was fired maybe? Or maybe, very much maybe some downloaded music from her CD collection, which still makes it illegal, subject for Operation Dubula? We are just speculating. I'll spare the politicians who have lost cellphones my dry jokes because I'm still wondering about the entries in their Phonebooks. I guess one could bump into the numbers of Bush, Kofi Annan, Robert Mugabe, Tony Blair, JZ, Nelson Mandela. I swear to you if someone tried to sell me a cabinet minister's phone I would buy it just to copy the Phonebook and get rid of it before the goons from Musanda track me down and 'eliminate' me. Throw it in a fireplace. "...the same way celebrity George W Bush wouldn’t draw a laugh even if he sticked his tongue out with his thumbs in his ears and screamed, "I am Kenneth Nkosi!"
Damn, South Africans deserve more than being portrayed as stupid, xenophobic or tribalist to induce their laugh. US Golden Girls, Wayans Brothers, Who’s the Boss and Major Dad made people laugh because they explored intelligence and exploited it as a joke. Louis Motors in the 1980s and Orkney Snork Nie Met Permissie were also brilliant, which makes one miss the ‘80s. Damn I'm nostalgic about 1986 - minus apartheid of course. The big shortcomings of US comedies is their obsession with race and gender issues. Some of their one-line jokes are downright corny, while their themes can’t be divorced from those obnoxious between songs skits in rap records. A poor depiction of ghetto surreality. Those Yankees need a mediator, someone bigger than Chris Rock and Tucker, someone the size of Cedric the Entertainer with the witty humour of Kau. Dube’s cheap comedy is the same as Eminem pleading naivety at his bashing of black people based on an encounter with a not-so-true black woman back at 8Mile Detroit. Should he have allowed his bedroom experiences to shape his perception of the whole race? Why do South Africans laugh at such nonsense when American comedies raise them but can’t laugh at a joke about President Mbeki and his pipe even if it was funny? We still want to know if Mbeki is so lenient towards Zimbabwe because Uncle Bob fixes him with tobacco for his pipe or whether he is passive towards King Mswati because he sorts out his 'real stuff' taste? Funny, laugh now.
Americans cracked jokes about Bill Clinton and laughed. However some people were, deservedly so offended by a sick joke about the late Steven Biko. But he might have martyred for all darkies that does not mean he is above being satirised. Does this really mean we can’t laugh at ourselves? Trivial, the jury’s still out. American comedians like Eddie Griffin will shout one-liners about Rodney King and the late Rosa Parks and nobody calls them to account but we can’t even start re-enacting the Mzwakhe Mbuli bank robbery. The tallest man with the bassiest voice and a CD that is playing in the bank sound system at the time of the robbery wearing a balaclava screaming 'give me the money'. Imagine, the poor clerk was already holding the poet's CD thinking he will autograph it only to realise that if he trips it will be autographed with a slug across the wax. Wow, I'm only speculating. Kau, where are you? Kagiso, come on don't act like you don't know this story, especially being that tall as well. There is a joke making rounds today about a man who went to a library to borrow a book titled, How to Commit Suicide and was denied because he wasn’t going to bring it back. That would really make people laugh. There are stories South Africans need to expand on and start laughing at themselves, the same way Louis Motors, Sgudi Snaysi, SOS, Scoop Scoombie, A Day at the Races and Comedy Showcase used to, and continue to do today. Maybe journalist Lesley Mofokeng was right in a column he wrote, "Perhaps the problem is that most of the local sitcoms are produced by Roberta "Mama of Comedy" Durrant’s Penguin Films". Which at the end the only funny moment is the trademark sneezing penguin. Truly, we’re not that stupid or amused, especially when penguins are forced to sneeze and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals acts passive because they were not enticed by Tony Yengeni. Ha-ha!