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I’ll Have Your Jaw

by Andy Davis / 17.07.2012

Philanderer, racist, kak musician… Steve Hofmeyr has been called many things. And it’s about to get worse. Comedy Central are unleashing their popular Roast concept on South African celebrities and the first person to receive the pain will be none other than this boere cowboy of kitsch. The likes of John Vlismas, Loyiso Gola, Nik Rabinowitz and Trevor Noah are going to have a field day. It’s an apt choice that the first South African to follow in the footsteps of Pamela Anderson, Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen and William Shatner will be Die Hof homself. We thought we’d ask him a few questions.

Mahala: How did the Roast of Steve Hofmeyr come about?

Steve Hofmeyr: They just simply contacted me and asked me if I would be interested. Having seen only one episode of it, I thought it’s a lot of fun. I think it’s very direct. It’s certainly a Roast and not a general conversation, but there’s nothing there that worries me too much. I think it’ll be a lot of fun as long as I get a turn to speak I’m very happy.

I’ve watched some of those Roasts, like the Donald Trump one…

I believe the Donald Trump one was harsh, I didn’t see that.

All of them are harsh man. The guys go for the jugular. Are you worried that you’re going to lose your temper or get upset and storm out?

You’re right! No, I’m not worried about that at all. What they’ve got to make sure is whatever they say, they are ready for a return… and that it’s broadcast-able, I suppose. That’s what they’ve got to worry about. There’s not a Steve Hofmeyr joke that I haven’t heard, or that I haven’t told, so it doesn’t really bother me that much. It’s the context. It’s humour. It’s good. It tells you something about the healing of a nation if it can start laughing at its holy cows and I think it’s good. If you walk up to me in the street and asked me the same thing or insulted me I would have your jaw, but this is not the context, you know. You have to agree to appear on it and you have to understand the boundaries.

Totally. Look, you’ve obviously been in the news for your views around the politic situation at the moment. Farm murders. A lot of people have called you racist. That stuff’s going to come up. Is it a laughing matter? Can you have a joke and a laugh about that?

That’s a good question. The holy cows aren’t always laughing matters. I don’t think identity is a laughing matter, but I need to warn them that I have as much ammunition as them if they are going to go that way. I think insulting someone’s race or culture is never a good thing. When I do it, I don’t do it with a smile, I try and base these convictions on actual facts. I do race observations. I do not do politically correct denials of those. Racism is something totally different. Racism is discriminating negatively between the two, not distinguishing, but discriminating. So I don’t understand why people call me a racist. I don’t like being called a racist, but I don’t care if I’m right or wrong even, I care if I’m true to my convictions. And that’ll go for any of the subjects they bomb at me when it gets to the Roast.

Listen, I think you’re helluva brave because I don’t know if you’ve seen much South Africa comedy but it’s all about race. Fore warned is fore armed, you’re going to get grilled about the race stuff. I’ve got no doubt.

The thing about race is that you’re not attacking the individual, you’re attacking the collective and even they will count their words and understand the boundaries but they must know that I get a turn to speak at the end and I’m fearless. I’m probably more fearless than them. I don’t care how it sounds to other people, it’s got to come out.

I know that these things are quite rehearsed and I don’t want to say ‘staged’ but is it something that you’ll go into a studio and you’ll work with the comedians on the jokes and you’ll work on your bit, because it’s quite nice to reply if people say certain things. How much of it is scripted? How much of it is kind of mediated?

I suppose all comedians are scripted. At some stage we’ll all sit down with some ideas. I can only start really thinking about my rebuttals when I know who the panel is and who the MC is. That’s my problem. I’m a celebrity, nobody knows anything about you. In South Africa, you run the risk of having a whole panel of comedians who are total non-entities. We only know them as comedians. Where in the case of Charlie Sheen everyone on the panel was a celebrity and there were a hundred and ten things you can take them on. So we have our little restrictions in the local version and I think our biggest restriction is we need celebrities who are roasted and we need a panel who can be roasted. I mean you can’t roast somebody you know nothing about.

Are any topics off-limits? I mean you don’t have in your contract that you can’t talk to me about X, Y and Z. I know that you’ve made the tabloids before around illegitimate children and relationships gone bad. The tabloids love that stuff. Is there a moment where you’d be like “Jus ous, why would you go there”?

No, I didn’t give them any restrictions. You need to know that I’ve been Steve Hofmeyr for 25 years. I go on stage every night. Every night I go on stage, I turn on all the lights and ask a thousand people to ask me anything they want, make any joke about me. So really, I’ve heard it all. The Steve Hofmeyr joke that I haven’t heard or I haven’t told myself, simply doesn’t exist. I think they run the risk of repeating themselves. They’ve got to watch out for that. But most importantly, even though we are speaking of holy cows, it is a comedy roast. If people start laughing it’s still going to be funny and if it’s funny, I will laugh.

And that gets us into the whole world of what is funny? A lot of stuff is kind of that cringe humour that you watch where it’s like yoh that’s bad.

You’re right. It’s where those two meet. Between the controversial and funny. I saw Charlie Sheen took it quite well but what can you do. You just sit there and smile or you stand up and smack somebody… but you signed the contract to do it, you know.

I think knowing some of these comedians you should mock charge them a little. See if they flinch a little bit. I reckon you’ll get quite a good reaction.

Maybe. Maybe throw a cup of tea at one of them. Why mock it, just do it. What the hell, it’s comedy isn’t it? Take a cup of tea and chuck it down John Vlismas’ throat. I’d love to do that.

South Africa at this stage, there’s this kind of over-sensitivity to everything. Like the reaction to The Spear painting and it’s typifying all the important debates that we need to keep having. Everyone’s got a thin skin. I’m hoping that this roast series will be really popular and hopefully push us to not take ourselves so seriously…

I agree. That’s my primary reason for agreeing, that somewhere along the line comedy can remind you of how ready you are to laugh at yourself and we’ve got to get to that stage in South Africa. Of course the mortality rate and being the rape capital of the world is not a funny matter but lots of other things are.

What’s the worst insult you’ve ever received?

Ag it was an insult about my family and friends. I got a pretty tough hide by now. As I told you, there are not many Steve Hofmeyr jokes going around that I havent heard or told myself. When drunk.

What did you do?

I beat up the journalist. The media made it out to be an insult about my shoes, to trivialise my reaction.

What’s the best chirp you’ve been on the receiving end of?

I spend plenty time in the company of chirpmasters. On Twitter they come around every
minute.

*The Roast of Steve Hofmeyr takes place at the Lyric Theatre, Gold Reef City, Johannesburg on 11 September.

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