Zuma is definitely on to something with that laugh

2015-04-03 15:54

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Heh, heh, heh. It’s that booming laugh that had so many people so uppity during the state of the nation address. President Jacob Zuma’s sense of humour has certainly been under the spotlight. His incessant giggling while making comments about dictatorships or while parliamentarians are being assaulted or when he’s being criticised has angered South Africans who believe that he’s laughing while his fellow countrymen are crying.

One can only imagine the giggling that went on when the presidency was drafting its now infamous April Fool’s press release that announced three nonsense vacancies and fooled quite a number of journalists into reporting on it. And then there was the backlash by those who were caught by it.

Poor old Uncle Mac. The president's spokesperson just wanted to make people laugh. It may have been called lame and in bad taste by the people who fell for it. But it was all a bit of harmless fun, following a rather silly tradition that dates back to at least the 14th century, as recorded in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

And it’s not as though the media didn’t find their groove.

One April Fool’s prank involved Zwelinzima Vavi, the now former general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions who, the Daily Maverick claimed, was moving to head up the Economic Freedom Fighters. A retail website, One Day Only, ran a “special” on medical marijuana.

Humour, like most other things in life, is subjective.

The TechFinancials website was forced to apologise after running a story that said that Telkom boss Sipho Maseko was leaving to head up Eskom.

And a nanny looking after a newborn in Johannesburg nearly lost her job after she told her employer that someone was breaking into the house. The alarm company was dispatched, community policing forum members rushed to the address and the cops were called. Only to be met with... cue the Zuma chuckle ... “April Fool”.

Star of the Week and new The Daily Show host Trevor Noah found out about subjectivity the hard way when he had to defend himself against a backlash rising from jokes he had made about Jews and women.

Noah was also the subject of an April Fool’s joke by the Now website, which claimed that he had lost his The Daily Show contract because of those jokes.

Let’s hope Zuma saw the funny side of City Press’ attempt – that he would finally pay back the money that was spent on his Nkandla home.

Our readers loved it too. City Press’s Nkandla claim that notched up about 48000 Facebook “reaches”, and the story on the presidency’s joke had nearly 24 000.

By yesterday morning, the story on the website had notched up nearly 13 500 page views, and the presidency article nearly 8 000.

But the best thing about that story is the video with Zuma laughing. That “heh heh heh” is contagious. Having a particularly bad day? Watch it.

He may chuckle when he should be looking serious or thoughtful, but our president may be on to something. Taking life too seriously leads to stress, which leads to all sorts of health problems. Last year, a United States study found that laughter decreases stress levels, improves memory, burns calories (10 to 15 minutes obliterated 40 calories) and protects against heart disease.

If this is true, then our president should be around for a long, long time. Does the thought of this send your heart into palpitations? Maybe you should watch his “announcement” again.

If Zuma just doesn’t do it for you then there are other people who have had South Africans running YouTube on repeat.

Remember that time when our now finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, had the country in stitches when he came a-cropper while being interviewed by the SABC in 2008? It’s so funny it will make you fall off your chair with laughter.

Or the Rastafarian who just couldn’t sing the national anthem at a rugby match? Ras Dumisani’s rendition at a Test between South Africa and France in 2009 has to go down in history as one of the worst. The faces of the Springboks as they tried to remain patriotic till the end were priceless.

Or how about the 2010 TV interview involving AWB secretary general André Visagie. Who? How about Don’t Touch Me On My Studio. Remember now? The video went viral, the phrase was remixed, and last year Mr Visagie was given a five-year prison sentence for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

Don’t forget South Africa’s most famous sign language interpreter, whose name would have been on the lips of the world if people could pronounce it. Thamsanqa Jantjie caused quite a stir in 2013 when he made up his translation at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela.

Which brings us right back to where we started: at Zuma, stumbling over a rather large number in his 2014 speech at the handing over of title deeds to the Mala Mala land claimants. 939 million 3000 and 60 000 is a hard number to read.

It's a crazy world that we live in. Maybe we should follow our leader's example and laugh. But only when it's appropriate, of course.

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