Okay, I know this is actually a blog about food – but occasionally I do lift my head up from the eternal slop-trough of my own life and focus my pigesque face on something that’s not covered in a cream sauce. And because this is my corner of the internet where I get to park whatever random, ill-informed nonsense gets trotted out as a result of those experiences – I’m taking a slight detour from the food stuff for just one morning.
I hope you’ll indulge me. God knows you’ve been doing it for three years, you should be used to it by now.
South Africans seem to have a knack for turning seemingly innocuous and mostly innocent things into deadly weapons. Penises, paintbrushes, car-tires, plastic bags, fashion-sense, and 15-seater vehicles manufactured by Toyota; ultimately it appears that our most exportable and marketable talent is instantly being able to figure out a way to kill someone with a Hello Kitty lipstick.
Need to turn a Get Well Soon card into something that could kill a full Bolivian diplomatic delegation, assigned to investigate the particular sense of loss felt when you realize that there will be no more episodes of Quantum Leap? Find a South African. Want to permanently silence a Thai airhostess with Travel Scrabble? Dial +27WHATEVER.
Well, it saddens me to add another thing that, in our hands, get’s hopelessly twisted, abused and made to stand in the corner blubbing about how crap it is and ultimately fashioned into a dishearteningly lethal hitting-thing in our rough and unsubtle hands: and that’s a Q&A after a standup comedy show featuring international famous guy – Eddie Izzard.
Before I carry on any further – I just want to say clearly and distinctly: South Africans are olympically bad at expressing themselves in public, and should not be allowed to say anything to anyone in an open forum.
And just in case you were gearing up to call me an Imperialist Colonialist fuck-face, I’m inescapably South African, I tar myself with the same brush. I have the green book and everything.
We will, without fail, when presented with the opportunity to sum up a zeitgeist, to articulate that thing that we’re all feeling but just need someone else to say for us – load up both barrels and then barge off to go foot hunting.
So, Eddie Izzard – wildly famous, funny and mega-accomplished stand-up comedian comes to South Africa to attempt a pretty intense form of personal exploration loosely aligned with Nelson Mandela’s 27 years as a political prisoner. Specifically, he planned to run 27 marathons in 27 days in a sort of symbolic tribute to Madiba’s years spent incarcerated by the Apartheid regime, something Mr Izzard felt he should have done more to actively try and stop at the time (other than not buying oranges with the word “Cape” on the box – which was actually the source of one of his funniest bits of the night), hence all the running.
It’s sort of gimmicky, sort of mind-blowingly awesome – and also, it didn’t really work. Eddie had to bail after four marathons, because you know…this shit is hard. But all credit to the guy, he stood up and said so, refused to back out, will attempt it again, and just for good measure decided to throw in an impromptu show for the people of Johannesburg. And because he’s interested in people, humanity and all the things that happens when you put the former in a room to discuss the latter, decided that the second half of the show should be a Q&A to discuss the general question of how “We, as a country, feel we’re doing.”
Wow. Big fucking mistake.
Not because we’re a politically-charged cross-section with a crackling and electrified sense of the nuance of our own social landscape – so much so that it threatens to boil over and become a forceful and informed debate leading to insight and understanding of our current condition.
Because we’re all dumb shits, and when there’s a microphone in our faces, we can’t decide if we’d prefer to be; sycophantic, self-promoting, ignorant, in love with our own voices, whiny – or just go for broke and shoot for all of them in a cosmic big bang of awfulness that, if a mad scientist decided to harness, could possibly lead to the invention of something worse than strawberry-flavoured condensed-milk in a tube.
Seriously. It (obvs) started with Jacob Zuma’s cock, as represented by that stupidly mediocre painting, and just spiraled from there. And after about 30 minutes or so of people complaining about…
- Government and why it doesn’t care about white people,
- Why they weren’t more famous as a comedian,
- Eddie Izzard not performing the “Star Wars Canteen” because some fat guy had demanded it from the back,
- Another stab at why no one was acknowledging how good they were as a standup comedian…
…the most insightful things that were said about our own situation were coming from the foreigner sitting on the stage who was only there because he wanted to know how we felt. All while Kagiso Lediga did his best impression of a moderator desperately trying not to be too embarrassed on our behalf.
Politicians often talk about “taking the temperature of the room” – in which case our room was the embarrassing uncle who gets drunk at Christmas and then very loudly tells the story of how you “accidentally” fingered a dog when you were four.
We were offered this golden opportunity, dare I suggest, a once-in-a-lifetime moment to make an impression, to set ourselves forth as people who grasped the issues that we face and had feelings and insight into how to overcome them, and instead of seizing it and sucking the juice out of the occasion, we kind of stuck our finger up our own collective nose, wandered off into a corner to pee on ourselves and then whined about how everything smelled funny.
Did I mention that this was all being filmed for a documentary? Oh, the horror.
We are better than this, I just wish that we’d behave in a way that let other people know from time to time.