Interview with Leon Schuster
Andrea Nagel from Timeslive.co.za had a question and answer session with Leon Schuster, our favourite prankster just before the opening of his latest movie Schuks Tshabalala’s Survival Guide to South Africa 2010.
Do you think that comedy is a good way to create light political commentary?
Many filmmakers have used this medium to do just that. This is the first time I have incorporated political satire into my candid-camera gags. Racism is such a sensitive issue worldwide, but it is a reality and I poke fun at it. Also, my audience expects me to be politically risky.
Do you think South Africans find it easy to laugh at themselves?
It is one of our greatest strengths as a nation. If you look at what we have had to contend with as a nation, perhaps it is this ability that has helped us cope.
What made you go back to your roots, playing practical jokes and doing candid-camera skits?
My audience. I have been asked over and over to do another candid-camera film. I am always guided by my audience.
Have you ever encountered an unpleasant reaction to your gags?
Well, I have angered people, but that is often what I set out to do in order to capture their most natural reaction to the situation. I have also been klapped hard a few times by some of my victims, but mostly, once people find out it’s me, they’re forgiving.
Do you believe that because you’ve assumed all the colours of our rainbow nation, you understand what it feels like to be in someone else’s skin?
It’s very difficult to fully understand what all our different groups have to endure, but doing this work might have given me a little insight. I really like people and do try to understand what moves them.
You’ve been described as a barometer of the national mood. If you agree, what do you think it is at the moment?
We are a great nation and in spite of everything we have had to contend with, we are pretty upbeat at the moment. We have the World Cup, there are flags flying everywhere and once again, we are uniting around a great event. Of course, crime and the economy are major concerns but, for now, we are looking forward to enjoying ourselves.
What did you enjoy most about making the film?
It extremely hard work. People recognise me very easily after all these years, so I have had to invent increasingly elaborate disguises. I was in make-up for up to six hours every day. That being said, I loved the reaction of some of the victims, the guys in the snake gag in particular.
What do you want audiences to take away from the movie?
People want to see me getting a good klap or two and, in that sense, they will certainly not be disappointed. Most important, I want them just to sit back and have a good laugh.
Politicians play quite a prominent role in this film. How did they react (behind the scenes) to being “Schuksed”?
Helen Zille and Alan Boesak were really good sports. I think they enjoyed it.
How do you come up with your pranks?
Observation. I love watching people. They are the source of my inspiration.
Are you a prankster off screen?
I have always been a big prankster. It is in my nature.
Do you have an international audience?
I have a moderate international audience and would like to expand it.
What is it that South Africans love about your movies? What is it about your films that people relate to?
I’ve been with this audience for so long, I think I know it reasonably well by now. That includes people of all ages and race groups. They regard me as a friend, one of them and perhaps that is what they relate to.
Picture: ELIZABETH SEJAKE