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Make Laugh, Not War: ZANEWS' Sassy Satirists Release 'House Of Discards', 'Game Of Cronies'

"You can tell a lot about a country's democracy by the state of its satire."

24/07/2017 14:52 SAST | Updated 25/07/2017 21:05 SAST

Winter has indeed come, and some of SA's sassiest satirists are hard at work to take the mickey out of those left in the political cold.

In Game Of Cronies, one of the latest creations of the Cape Town-based puppeteers of ZANEWS, protagonist Mmusi Maimane fights to finally rid himself of the Democratic Alliance's infamous tweeting tannie Helen Zille, ultimately leaving her to wallow alone in the chilly postcolonial breeze.

If this isn't icy enough, the naughty puppeteers also released House of Discards -- the story of Steve Bannon, executive chair of Breitbart News turned White House chief strategist for Donald Trump.

You'll want to watch this video (above). It'll make you covfefe all over the place.

Game Of Cronies and House of Discards, however, are only the latest side-splitting satirical treats from the multiple award-winning ZANEWS crew. Their story begins, roughly, nearly 20 years ago when executive producer Thierry Cassuto and Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) took a Mandela puppet to the South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) in hopes of securing a weekly satirical show. A half-hour pilot was made, then mysteriously pulled by the public broadcaster. Yes, even back then (you can't blame everything wrong at the SABC on King Hlaudi).

Not to be too discouraged by some of the SABC's own puppets, uh... people, in charge at Auckland Park, the team took to the skies in 2009, producing a series of masterful skits. Puppets On A Planetook off with haste with sponsorship from the Mail & Guardian and Kulula.com, the delightfully tjatjarag all-economy-class-carrierof puppets from Julius Malema and Robert Mugabe, to Zille and even Jacob Zuma (... at least before the Gupta money started flowing, after which it was first class flights from Washington to Waterkloof).

One of the team's flagship productions, Puppet Nation ZA, eventually made the small screen, but it's the ZANEWS Network online -- with the fitting tagline 'Make Laugh, Not War -- where the large repository of scintillating content lives.

Speaking to HuffPost SA, producer and head writer Karen Jeynes said while they would still love to win over a mass mainstream audience on a traditional broadcaster, online audiences have grown immensely.

"Luckily in SA this is a growing space. It's more and more accessible, and it's not as niche or exclusive as it might have been five years ago," she said.

Along the way, ZANEWS has scooped multiple awards including Best Comedy at the SA Film and Television Awards for several years in a row and many others since 2010.

Jeynes said as satirists, they really want to make South Africans laugh, but also to ask questions and think.

"There is a lot of news that is depressing, its hard news, and people can get quite overloaded and overwhelmed by it," she said.

"Sometimes it's easier to access it or deal with it or even come to understand certain things when they're broken down for you, presented with a bit of a smile and a laugh at the same time...".

"You can tell a lot about a country's democracy by the state of its satire," she said. That the ZANEWS team, and many other satirists, have the space to produce their critical work in South Africa, she said, "speaks to the fact that we still have so much freedom of speech in the country".

That we do, and we anticipate ZANEWS -- among other satirists -- will continue using that freedom to put the captured, cowardly, cunning and comical firmly in the spotlight, with riotous (and sometimes cathartic) laughter along the way.

For more world-class funny from ZANEWS, visit their webpage here and learn more about their team here.