Dark Humour - a Look at South African Comedy

Topics: South Africa, Africa, Comedy Pages: 3 (672 words) Published: August 9, 2006
Dark humour

Like the place itself, African humour is a berserk mix of people, languages, cultures, irony and contradiction. There is very little sensitivity in African comedy. But there is something refreshing in being politically incorrect and irreverent, saying without thinking and not reducing reality to a string of empty euphemisms.

Do not speak of a rhinoceros if there is no tree nearby.
Zulu Proverb

When you take a squirrel out of water, it contrives a plot against you Duala Proverb – West Africa

He who lives the longest has the most old clothes
Zulu Proverb

He on whose head we would break a coconut, never stands still Yoruba Proverb

Afrikaans is the world's youngest language with a grammar all of it own. Afrikaans draws from Dutch, French and Flemish, but pays homage only to Afrika, the motherland. It is a language with an uncanny ability to beat a description out with a dull instrument. An ‘elevator' is a ‘lifting-box', ‘gatvol', a rather crass term meaning ‘fed up', literally means ‘full hole' and the traditional Afrikaans sport bokdrolletjiespoeg means "buck droppings' spit". Or how about ‘voetstoets', the expression used for ‘as is' or ‘buyer beware', which translates directly to ‘push by foot'?

If there is one comedian that strikes a chord with all South Africans, it is that modern day Charlie Chaplin, Mr Bean. Often played in shop-front windows to attract a crowd of onlookers or on screens above bank queues to keep the clientele subdued, Rowan Atkinson's antics never fail to floor us.

Politics is always at the tip of every African tongue. A local comic strip, Madam & Eve, satires the relationship between an upper middle class madam and her two domestic workers, poking a barbed stick at the rampant crime rate, low wages, latent racism and government bureaucracy. Having gained a little international accolade and a vacuous, low-budget sitcom, Madam & Eve is South African angst laid bare.

The king of Afrikaans comedy,...
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