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From Jocks to Jokes

by Robin Scher and Andy Davis / 19.11.2010

Have you ever seen the film Drop Dead Gorgeous? It’s a fantastic mockumentary following the contestants of a beauty pageant as they progress through the competition. Well, substitute small town Minnesota for klein dorpie Gauteng and the film’s lead Kirsten Dunst for a bulked-up Afrikaans gentleman and you’ll almost have an idea of the comedy potential that is Mr SA.

What could only be described as the offspring of Derek Zoolander and Vernon Koekemoer, Adriaan Bergh appeared on our screens recently, awkwardly answering questions whilst growing sweat patches appeared under his arms. Playing golf and rugby “on a national level”, he represents one of the many potential finalists’ of Mr South Africa 2011 – “the search for South Africa’s most desirable man”. Adriaan, along with his fellow competitors, are the latest comedy meme to hit internet land, providing further insight into the unique South African subculture most recently labelled ‘Zef’.

Ninja can take his faux-lingo and hip hop anger management antics, Albert Kruger is a far better role model to school you in the real Zef culture. His video, backed by the looped, never-ending intro to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ takes you on a tour of the hustle and bustle of Albert’s everyday life in Polokwane. From his promising Printer Cartridge refilling business (note the fantastic rainbow motif store sign), Albert introduces us to his confused and nervous ‘technicians’ – the scene literally dripping with small town racial tension that culminates with a strained ‘Ayoba’. Then onto his endeavours as an ‘inventor’ – I wait with bated breath for Albert’s first patented product to revolutionise the way we braai. The video continues from this point on as Albert shows us why he truly should be crowned Mr SA. Evidently pursuing an active lifestyle from lifting bowling balls to wearing floppy hats and jumping on logs, it’s clear that Albert is a worthy competitor, leaving us with his resounding insight on life, “Live until you die” – never a truer word spoke dear Albert.

Then there’s Peter Constandinou with his camp voice and his guns, driving to Joburg from Bloem “the second time this week I’ll be up in Joburg. That’s the passion and the drive for Mr South Africa.”

Witness Chase Watkin-Jones… seriously. We could write a whole story just on his name. And he’s also a bit of a ninja. Why he chose to video himself being bliksemmed by a black oke remains to be seen. Is it a strategy to win over the new South African voting public, or is it an allusion to the contemporary South African whitey zeitgeist? Who knows. All we can do is leave you with his wisdom: “Words might be immortal but you’ll be gone one day.” We urge you to get online and vote for Chase to get a tattoo.

Aside from the ridiculous cornucopia of comedy that these videos offer, they also emphasise the somewhat perverse and farcical nature of beauty pageants, especially when men are involved. Almost every competitor’s video features them showing off their muscled bodies as they take you through their daily workout routine and list of ‘manly activities’ they enjoy doing. Unwitting, over-testosteroned jocks offered up as cyber mock fodder. You have to love the democracy of the internet and how it feeds our baser desires to point and laugh.

At the same time, these videos have unwittingly exposed the massive chasm in South African society, a bas-relief between sincere mainstream self promotion a more savvy, sophisticated and ironically aware audience. They’ve obviously been produced earnestly, to position the semi-finalists as potential winners of the Mr SA crown, and therein lies their comedic genius. They invite us to laugh at them because of their vanity and audacious attempts at self promotion. They shine a spotlight on the arcane paradigm of body competitions and offer a real and rare glimpse of the often mocked and parodied South African mainstream, so frequently mined to produce acts like Corne and Twakkie, Jack Parow, the Vodacom ads and yes, you guessed it, Die Antwoord.

For this rare comedy gold, we are eternally grateful – thank you Mr SA, thank you Youtube, thank you South African corporate culture of gym boys and protein shakes.

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