011211 satire TV show, ZANews. ZANews is the brainchild of cartoonist Zaprio and director and executive producer, Thierry Cassuto. Picture: Handout/Supplied

Tweeting, toilets and her bold choices in make-up and clothing are easy things to tease Helen Zille about behind her back – but satirical TV show ZANews has gone a step further than that. It has welcomed Zille into its studios to be in on the joke – and Zille is laughing. Hard.

ZANews is the brainchild of cartoonist Zapiro and director and executive producer Thierry Cassuto. It uses puppets and a pseudo news style to highlight current events and laughable political blunders. But never in its three-season history has the show invited the butt of its jokes onto the set.

The main joke throughout the episode is Zille and her puppet alter ego sitting in a dressing room, debating how to dress, do make-up and skin care. At one point Zille tells her puppet: “You have a decent basic structure, but you could use a bit of botox between the eyes.”

Her puppet believes Zille has the skin tone of “a piece of sanded oak”.

“Zille watches the show... but we had heard she wasn’t happy with the complexion of her puppet. She asked: ‘Why does Zuma’s puppet have beautiful Lindt chocolate skin?’ “

In one dressing room scene, Zuma’s puppet – whose complexion is like shiny chocolate – comes in the dressing room and charms Zille by saying: “You are looking particularly stunning today, did you do something with your ears?”

ZANews coaxed Zille onto the show by tweeting her and asking her to vote for them for best politics and business blog in the SA Blogs awards.

Along with giving her puppet the useful advice that she needs to “calm down”, she asks her why she is so opinionated when she gets onto the topic of criminalising HIV transmission. The show climaxes with talk of condoms, with Zille giving Tutu and Tata, the puppets of Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela respectively, a special Christmas gift.

“She know how to not take herself seriously, yet she takes issues seriously… whether or not you agree with her politics,” said Cassuto.

ZANews hopes the next politician to appear will be Zuma, who apparently likes his puppet. Cassuto said Cosatu’s Zwelinzima Vavi has expressed interest in appearing too.

The show airs every Sunday at 9pm on TopTV or can be viewed online at www.zanews.co.za or on the show’s Youtube channel, ZANewstv. - The Star