Epic Journey

From the Director’s Notebook: Johannesburg, South Africa

South Africa presents a constant stream of half-full/half-empty scenarios with which to fill an outsider’s perceptual cup. What tipped half-full into overflowing for me was the warmth and humor of its people – most of whom genuinely embrace the possibilities of a society that, on paper and judged by its parts, seems laughably impossible.

A nation that is primed to export a conveyor-belt of world-class comedians like the sensational Trevor Noah only witnessed its first black comic 16 years ago. Yet despite (heck, defiant of) these complex realities, a simple dream abides: A rainbow nation, at peace with itself and the world. It’s a critical time for South Africa. Mandela, the embodiment of hope, is in poor health, and the next election will be decided by the “Born Frees,” a generation untroubled by the past but impatient with the present.

So what is the future? And where does comedy fit into all of this? The answer to the first flows from the second – comedians, like all South Africans, must continue holding the government accountable to the rainbow blueprint, meeting every evasion and hypocrisy with truth-tipped missiles of mass disruption. Comedy distills to fine vintage during oppression and explodes in the face of power when set free. Given the state of comedy in this state of insane potentiality, I like South Africa’s chances. A lot.


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