Just a glance at South African news headlines makes you want to run and hide under the safety of your duvet. From fraud and corruption, to political infighting, to celebrity scandals – it’s a lot to take in! Add loadshedding and a return to alcohol-free lockdown and it could drive you to drink (oh, wait a sec)… But the team at Die Ware Naarheid Met Schalk Bezuidenhout, a satirical news programme picking through the most buzzworthy headlines of the week, makes the gloomy news cycle a little less daunting.

Hosted by comedian Schalk Bezuidenhout, the man with the wildest hair in the news business, Die Ware Naarheid picks apart the headlines while throwing witty one-liners (some verging on dad-joke territory at times) your way. We spoke to Schalk, as well as show correspondent Bibi Slippers and show writer Scharl van der Merwe, about what it takes to put this weekly show together. And Schalk even shared a few haircare secrets…

Behind the ha-ha-headlines

Did you draw any inspiration from other shows to formulate your presenting style? 

SCHALK: My presenting style – I kind of found my own voice as we went along. It’s the same as stand-up comedy. You can have other people who maybe inspire you, but you need to develop your own voice. In terms of format and quality, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was probably our biggest inspiration.

How much of the show is scripted? 

SCHALK: We have to script a fair amount of the content as we need to make sure we come in at a certain time. But in the interview segment at the end of the show, we can have fun and adlib a bit.

Delivering a weekly news show is hard work. Tell us more about what it takes to stay on top of all the latest news developments. 

SCHALK:Being constantly switched on to what is happening in the news is obviously a prerequisite for working on a show like this. But being online constantly looking for stories, you run the risk of getting sucked into a news vortex and never settling on stories and getting down to writing.

And what is your writing process?

BIBI: The entire team – our producer, the three writers and our research assistant – meet up online first thing every morning. In these meetings, we share ideas and keep one another updated on our progress. For the next few hours, we work alone, relying heavily on WhatsApp messages and voice notes to run jokes and ideas by one another. In the afternoon we have another video-call team meeting, with all hands-on deck, to check the status of everyone's work. This process involves a lot of pacing around, stress-eating. We have a "there are no bad ideas" policy, which translates directly into many bad ideas and stuff we can't use at all. But we try to keep it fun and light and laugh a lot.

Are there some topics and jokes where even you go, “Guys, are we sure we can say that?” 

SCHALK: Our writing room is a safe space where all the writers are free to throw out any idea or joke they think could work. We then decide as a team whether we think it is too far or not. It’s a fine balance because our intention is never to offend, but with this kind of show you need to push boundaries. We often disagree and then we fight it out. But sometimes it’s just a call from the powers that be that we can’t speak about a certain topic or make a certain joke.

SCHARL: At least once in the process of writing every episode, there is an instance where someone says, "Can we say that?" We also have our script checked by lawyers, who sometimes say, “You can't say that." Our producer or commissioning editor will sometimes say, "Please don't say that," or "You can't say that,” and there have been one or two instances where the channel has said, "No." But generally we try to push ourselves. If we're not asking, "Can we say that?", we're doing something wrong.

SCHALK: I am on the writing team, so often I censor myself. There are certain things that you just know are going to spark unnecessary outrage, and if that outrage does not have a point, then what is the point?

Are you a news junkie?

SCHALK: Normally, I am not a news junkie. But when we are busy with Die Ware Naarheid, my job is to stay on top of the news. Yes, it’s depressing. But we find a way to make it as funny and digestible as we can.

Which guest would you love to have on the show and what would be your very first question to them?

SCHALK: I would love to interview the COVID-19 virus and just ask: “Why?”

Any tips on how you maintain your magnificent mane? 

SCHALK: In all honesty, don’t wash your hair too much. A bit of grease never hurt anyone, and it looks lekker. Just ask John Travolta.

Watch Die Ware Naarheid Met Schalk Bezuidenhout S3 on Mondays on kykNET (DStv 144) at 20:30 or on Catch Up

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