SA satire paves the (democratic) way


Satire is characteristically subversive and always takes on “the powers that be’. This
makes “the powers’ very nervous as satire reflects society and analyses political issues
through the use of sharp and outrageous humour.

There are a few examples of great satire on South African screens, such as ZA News
(which is streamed on the Internet) and comedian Loyiso Gola’s Late Nite News (LNN)
on free-to-air commercial channel

Thierry Cassuto of ZA News says that although satire has not been seen much on
South African screens it is appreciated all over the world. “The difference is that most
countries have more local TV channels than South Africa and because there is more
competition, so broadcasters have to be more innovative and daring.

“Locally I think that LNN is a great show to have on TV and we wish there could be more
satirical shows across all our channels. Satire is great for democracy.’

Partick Conroy, group head of News, explains that the broadcaster commissioned
LNN as it had been looking for a satirical show for several years. “When Kagiso Lediga
and Loyiso Gola approached us with a pilot for LNN, we felt it had potential. This was a
first in South Africa; nobody had really taken on the task of getting a satirical news
show off the ground.

“The learning curve was steep and the team struggled in the first season to highlight
hypocrisy and make witty political points in a humourous way. However, the second
season has found its rhythm and we have commissioned a third season.’

Both ZA News and LNN have proved to be very successful. Cassuto explains ZA News
began streaming on the Internet 18 months ago. “We have had over two million views
and moved to a mobile platform to increase the access to our videos. ZA News will also
launch soon on MXit.’

Savvy audiences

Andrew Wessels, Diprente executive producer, director and editor of LNN, believes that
audiences know and appreciate more than they get credit for. “The significance of LNN is
the democratic right to be doing the show in the first place. It allows us to educate
society through this style of critical comedy and to spark debate on issues. I think that
is one of the main reasons why it is successful.’

Tamsin Andersson, Diprente producer of LNN, maintains that there needs to be more
satire on South African televisions. “We need to start using TV to challenge government
and society. has been quiet brave in this regard because LNN breaks new ground.’

Conroy says has taken a long term view with LNN. “The show has been successful
and we have a very good working relationship with the team. Satire is always going to
push the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable for public consumption and we work
closely with the LNN producers to insure that the content is thought provoking, witty
and funny.’

He makes the point that satire is an important part of any democratic society and
something that is currently lacking in South Africa.

Humour appreciated

Loyiso Gola is humbled that the show has been so well received. “People from all walks
of life like the show; even politicians generally like the show even if we speak against
their ideas and political organisations. They appreciate the humour, however a few
conservative groups have complained about some of our content. We speak freely as we
have the freedom to ridicule anything and everyone. gives us the space to be

Cassuto adds that ZA News has had no complaints, only compliments. “Archbishop
Desmond Tutu, DA leader Helen Zille and even Cosatu’s Zwelinzima Vavi have praised
the show and their puppets. Now we’d love to hear from President Jacob Zuma and
from ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.’

Asked how he goes about sourcing and developing content for LNN, Gola responds:
“We have about 12 writers, we brainstorm and the ideas start to flow. Kagiso Lediga,
the head writer, contextualises the ideas and turns them into a script. He then hands it
to me to do final edits. We do a read through with graphics and footage an hour before
the show is recorded, where we time the episode. In the final read through, a lot of the
gags are cut for various reasons, including any pertaining to stories that have dated. I
have learnt so much from Conrad Koch and Riaad Moosa, who are my comedy mentors.’


Wessels says that the biggest challenge is dealing with audiences who are not
necessarily educated in satire and parody. “People have to understand what we do in
this context. It’s sometimes difficult to be impartial because the comedic instinct is to
parody anything that asks for it. We do strive for impartiality though because we don’t
want to be perceived as taking any political sides. Political figures should not be allowed
to get away with talking kak; if they do they must expect critical feedback from society.

“Media is a platform for self expression. Commissioning editors should be braver in commissioning shows that challenge people because it stimulates healthy debate. People should not be so sensitive.’


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