Is our political life enriched or undermined by humour that makes fun of the people in power?
In today’s programme we explore the world of political comedy asking if our political life is being enriched or undermined by humour that makes fun of the people in power. What role does comedy play in society?
When it comes to satire does anything go, or are there lines beyond which it simply is not funny anymore?
We hear from the personal experiences of cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, also known as Zapiro, who has been sued several times by Jacob Zuma, the South African president. He talks about one of his cartoons called The Rape of Lady Justice:
“I’m a satirist. That means sometimes I’ll try to be funny and other times I will just do something that is really shocking or just makes you think – if I think this is what is necessary. We had someone who was trying to become president of South Africa who had a lot of corruption charges hanging over his head and who was trying to get the corruption charges washed away by threatening and bullying the judiciary with the help of a bunch of his allies. And I portrayed that in the drawing ….
“What’s happening is there is sort of a hypothetical kind of anvil that’s hanging over our heads that could come down, but at the moment … the threat is there but they retreat …. We in South Africa have had a fantastic period of being able to say whatever we want and make the jokes we want to make.”
Also in the studio is the only Jewish Xhosa-speaking stand-up comedian Nik Rabinowitz and comedy pioneer Kagiso Lediga.
And joining South2North from New York is American-born Palestinian comic, Dean Obeidallah, to talk about his efforts to counter Islamophobia in the US. His film, The Muslims are Coming, won an award at the Austin film festival.
“I think most Americans are very open-minded, and comedy is a great vehicle to reach out to people. They are laughing, they are feeling good about you, and then you can slip in a little message to break down some stereotypes …. [Comedy] is an agent for change. It can be used to raise issues, educate people, inform them.