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SA comedians unhappy with Joost joke

2012-02-16 10:18
Margit Meyer-Rödenbeck
Cape Town - Some South African comedians think one should think twice before mocking a national hero who suffers from a debilitating illness.

A huge debate erupted on Wednesday after Die Burger reported on comedian Pierre Breytenbach who mocked Joost van der Westhuizen's motor neuron disease (MNS). Breytenbach mocked Van der Westehuizen on the kykNET programme Skerp.

"Sometimes something is just too black too joke about," comedian Margit Meyer-Rödenbeck, or rather Dowwe Dolla, said.

"The moment you joke about sickness or death, you trip yourself up. The nation's sympathy lies with Joost and his illness."


She referred to her show 007 in which she portrayed the breakdown of Van der Westhuizen and Amor Vittone's marriage. She removed this part from her show when Van der Westhuizen was diagnosed with the disease.

"It's hard with people like Joost, Steve and Riaan Cruywagen. They are public figures.

"One must also keep in mind that comedy is supposed to drive limits even further, and they (the audience) are not there so you can stroke their heads."

She has heard British comedian John Cleese say it is very ironic that people find the things that are complained about the most, the funniest.

She said she doesn't judge Breytenbach, but might not have gone as far as he did.


Comedian Kagiso Lediga said his main goal is to make people laugh. "If they don't laugh, you have failed."

Although he has nothing against blasphemy in his performances, he described Breytenbach's joke as tastelesss. "There aren't supposed to be sacred cows. But it is important to take the atmosphere of an event into consideration."

He said one is successful when the audience laughs - even if you make a joke that may be considered in bad taste.

But it requires sensitivity to the audience and atmosphere.

Stuart Taylor said he thinks a person exceeds the limit when you mock someone's illness.

"You must keep in mind, though, that Joost exposed himself quite a lot."


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