When you think Debora Patta (pictured), you automatically think “hardcore”. After her producing the e.tv hit show 3rd Degree, on which her interviewing style was nothing short of brutal, it became clear that Patta came from a school of journalism that was unforgiving and unapologetic.
So it comes as a surprise that one of South Africa’s toughest journalists is going to be hosting a comedy show on Comedy Central.
Titled Colourblind, Patta will announce the comic line-up of the night, which includes Ndumiso Lindi, Tumi Morake, Chris Forrest and Joey Rasdien.
“I love comedy and I thoroughly enjoy South African comedy. On Colourblind I’m not going to be the main funny person on the show by any stretch of your imagination,” said Patta. “The key word is ‘host’. People should focus more on the talent on the night as I merely play the role of what was once known as emcee, which I believe is now called programme director. That’s all.”
Sensing that people were curious to know why she’d associate with something like this given that she hadn’t done it before, Patta said: “It was an opportunity for me to work with John Vlismas, whom I think is a super-talented and incredibly smart comedian.
“Comedians are occupying a space that sometimes journalists do not go to, which is providing sharp, insightful social commentary on crucial issues. Some journalists do it, but we are just not doing it enough. Comedians are at the forefront of doing it, and they do it satirically.”
Playing to her serious nature, Patta confessed that while Colourblind was a comedy show, it wasn’t meant only to entertain, it also had aspects of sensitive material that would get the crowd talking.
“This is not a show that will leave you warm and fuzzy. I think good comedy should leave you a little bit uncomfortable. Colourblind is for those with an open mind, as it is smart comedy,” said Patta.
As the title suggests, Colourblind will tackle one of South Africa’s most sensitive topics – race.
Patta feels that through laughing at ourselves, we can learn a lot about each other. “It was important to once again look at one of the most enduring fault-lines in our country, which is race. So here we’re looking at means of discussing it without it resulting in a fight,” she said.
Given that it is a comedy show, and Patta is the last person we think of when it comes to jokes, it is going to be intriguing to see how she fits in as host. “I am really terrified because I think South African comedy audiences are quite hardcore. They know what they like and respond instantaneously. It’s not like you are going to wait for a while before they respond.
“So sure, there is that pressure, but John and I have worked on something. I am not doing something different from what I usually do, but only a few words here and there have changed. I don’t want to give it away, but part of it is me playing myself in a way that has hints of stand-up,” she said.
Working on this project has illuminated her to the amount of work that comics put into their craft.
While a good comic will make the audience laugh, Patta discovered while working on Colourblind that comedians put a lot of dedication into their acts to succeed.
“I’ve had new insight on how hard comedians work. People think it is just something that happens, yet it takes an incredible amount of diligence. Comedians get away with saying things that we would like to say as journalists but can’t.
“It is something that we should be proud of and a great fruit of our democracy. A lot of things are wrong with this country, but one thing that we have got right is the freedom of speech and comedians use that really well,” she said. As for the line-up, Patta would not be drawn into talking about her favourites. “I have seen them all. As individuals they have something special to offer. Besides I am the host, I can’t pick favourites,” she chuckled.
• Comedy Central Presents Colourblind Live at the Lyric Theatre, Gold Reef City, Ormonde, Joburg, on Friday night and on Saturday.