News from the Backby Carlos Amato / 03.10.2011
AS the “foreign correspondent” on e.tv’s news parody show Late Night News, David Kibuuka begins many bulletins with the declaration: “This place is shit!” Kibuuka has filed reports on the shitness of umpteen nations including Swaziland, Italy, Zimbabwe, India, Nigeria, Haiti and the US. Born in Uganda (his family moved to Jo’burg when he was 10), Kibuuka has taken some flak for his tetchy brand of journalism.
“At first, all the Zimbabweans complained to me on Twitter,” he says. “They said, ‘Why are you doing this to us?’ I just told them ‘You’re doing it to yourselves!’
In his report from Nigeria, Kibuuka complains bitterly that his wallet has been stolen by a baby he briefly held. “The Nigerians here loved it,” he says. “They told me I must go to Nigeria more often.”
Kibuuka performed his well-crafted solo standup show, “Dave Wasn’t Built in a Day”, last week at the Jo’burg Theatre. His journey from Kampala to Fourways (via Krugersdorp) has given him a wry, back-of-the-class perspective on the South African mind. “I’m constantly living in this dual world,” he says.
His standup persona is warm and whimsical – a far cry from the pomposity of his LNN character. “I’m not angry,” he says. “I don’t heckle people. My general thing is being the everyman’s crazy sort-of-friend. But I can’t premeditate that, which is the worst thing you can do. However, if enough people who know tell me I’m crazy, even if I don’t feel crazy, maybe there’s something to it.”
“My goal is to be exactly as I am offstage, onstage. Then it’s sustainable. I need to approach audiences in the same way I approach people in real life, because I find it easy to relate to almost anyone. Rich, poor, black, white, Indian, coloured – they all say, ‘He’s friendly, and he’s mad.”
Kibuuka is one of a platoon of comic talents behind LNN, which has won more than a million viewers in its second season. The core of the team – producer Kagiso Lediga, host Loyiso Gola, Riaad Moosa and Kibuuka – worked together on the Pure Monate Show, the popular SABC1 sketch series, a few years back.
Needless to say, their current project is way too politically tjatjarag for the public broadcaster.
Being young, mostly black and more or less middle class, the LNN team operate from a handy comedic vantage point. They grew up in a central sliver on the Venn diagram of South African culture; their ears are attuned to the foibles of all races and classes. To deliver the sharpest satire, you need some proximity to what you’re sending up.
LNN savours the idiocies of South Africa with indiscriminate zeal, lampooning all comers from Youth League blatherers to patronising DA madams, from gangster generals to superfly sangomas.
“It doesn’t matter who you are,” says Gola, LNN’s anchor. “You will get shat on by us.”
The show’s gamebreaker is arguably Moosa, who contributes “The Second Opinion” – a medical diagnosis of the week’s pressing issue. Among his best offerings was this one, broadcast during the “Dubul’ iBhunu” furore in May…
If anyone has the potential to emulate Jon Stewart’s satirical expertise on the South African screen, it’s Moosa. He has keen political insight and conviction to match his eye for the ridiculous.
“We need more political satire to help create a healthy society,” says Kibuuka. “Apart from it’s being funny, it’s important that black people are criticising the government on TV. In many African countries, if you’re black, you either support the rulers or you’re against them. Whereas we’re neither for nor against anything, we’re just being critical. And if a white guy was doing what Loyiso is doing, black audiences wouldn’t listen to it, it wouldn’t hit home.”
“And the guys in government know what comedy is, and a lot of them enjoy what we do,” says Kibuuka. “That said, we don’t hit as close to home as people think. Because we hit with the information we have. It’s speculation. But those guys might be like, you’re so far off the mark. If only they know the truth, you know?”
Gola opens each episode with a solo riff on the week’s political action. Blessed with a knack for mimicry and an elastic face, Gola is innately funny enough to make average gags work, and excels as a sardonic foil to his studio guests.
The show’s satirical crosshair is not confined to the corridors of power: the madness of ordinary South Africans is frequently skewered. One of LNN’s sharpest sketches to date starred Pitch Black Afro as Dr Victor, a traditional healer discussing the killing of suspected witches
Another memorable studio guest was Lediga as Constable Paswana, a rogue cop making the case for “instinctive”, preventive policing…
When it comes to YouTube hits, LNN’s top-ranking sketch is Moosa’s neat parody of Puff Daddy’s “Missing You” – as performed by an Al-Qaeda operative mourning the death of Osama Bin Laden.
*Catch LNN on e.tv on Wednesdays at 9.30pm. David Kibuuka also stars in the reality show Jozi Moving the City on Tuesday at 6pm on SABC1, in which he features as manager of crunk-funk outfit Jozi.