Sharp wit a welcome light for weary Saffers

Keeping the smiles on people’s faces is what Durban’s Rory Petzer does. Benson, right, chips in while Pongo wonders what all the fuss is.

Keeping the smiles on people’s faces is what Durban’s Rory Petzer does. Benson, right, chips in while Pongo wonders what all the fuss is.

Published Jan 28, 2023


Durban - On a typical day, Rory Petzer wears many hats, from executive radio producer at East Coast Radio, lecturer at Boston Media House, 100% South African load shedding T-shirt entrepreneur and still finds time to drop a few tweets that make some forget their troubles for a second.

The South African Comedy Award winner lives in Gillitts with his partner Yoshen and two dogs, Benson and Pongo.

“Often when I am sitting at work, I miss them and I think ‘I wish I could go home to Benson and Pongo’ and I get home and they come running to me. I don’t think that people miss their kids as much as I miss my dogs because kids can be annoying and dogs aren’t. Kids have you queuing for ID and a driver’s licence and dogs don’t need to have a million rand a month for school fees. Benson did go to school as a puppy and he learnt to sit and wait and go down, of which he was the best in his class. I love those two,” he said.

Having tackled the problem of milk costing R120 for a six-pack, he also likes to joke about load shedding, peering into the darkness to try to find light in it.

“A lot of people on my Facebook page often thank me. During the coronavirus pandemic, I did a video with four characters about meetings during the time of corona. It took me through it and I wanted us to find the funny in that situation ‒ many of us were trying to adapt to online meetings and there were many blunders, from people forgetting to mute themselves on time, farting or someone walking in the background naked. We made a parody video on that. There is always something funny on a topic and on Twitter I post about four or five tweets daily on topics that affect everyone,” said Petzer.

He said satire was his favourite type of comedy and thinks South African Twitter is the best in the world because we can laugh at ourselves, even as we try to fix things.

Petzer turned to comedy for that reason: to find the funny in everything.

“Comedy stops you from crying. I always try to find the funny in the news or anything that happens. Often when I make a joke about SA sports, I think of a joke halfway through the match that would only work if we lose. It is also a nice creative release for me, because if I also did not laugh I would be moaning, too,” he said.

His current quip is: “Always be nice to everybody because you don’t know how long they have been without electricity.”

Petzer said he had never told anyone besides friends why he went into radio.

“When I was 13, I was living in Gqeberha which was PE then and I won a competition at Algoa FM to go to Johannesburg with the breakfast show host at the time, Daron Mann. It was in March, on Red Nose Day, and there were 12 winners from different commercial radio stations around the country the show would be broadcast on M-Net.

"We had to take a key from a bowl and unlock a door of a miniature house and the key that opened would be the winner of a R450 000 home in Cape Town ‒ I didn’t win. On that weekend Daron Mann said to me: ‘Rory, if you want to have fun and make okay money, go into radio. It’s a joll’.

“When I came home I told my parents I want to go into radio because Daron Mann said it is the best thing in the world and they were like ‘Okay whatever, Rory’. In my 20s when I was studying media there was a sports presenter position at Algoa FM because Derek Alberts had just left and I applied and got the job.

“Fast forward two years later I became his producer. So the man who told me years ago to get into radio and I made it my life’s mission to get into radio was now working with me. I told him about this and he did not even remember that story that well,” said Petzer, describing that time as memorable.

Producing for Phat Joe was extraordinary: “I had heartburn every day, it was very stressful. That was the craziest time because Phat Joe would always go off-script. He was here (at ECR) for a while, not very long, but I learned a lot from him and I will never forget it because it was the most fun I have ever had.”

His top tips for anyone wanting to get into radio: “Decide that you want to get into radio and never forget that because your subconscious decisions will lead you in that direction. Do it religiously and never give up. Become a nuisance ‒ continue to send your demo to your favourite station’s programme manager. Listen to the radio all the time. The same goes if you are a writer: you need to read and write. When I listen to my students’ assignments I can tell that some of them do not listen to the radio because of their sound,” said Petzer.

He also runs ultra marathons “to clear tabs in my head”.

How to fix Eskom? Follow his electrician’s advice, “but not in a hurry because I still have his load shedding shirts to sell”.

"When I asked my electrician how I can have lights on always he said it was easy. I needed to get an inverter, a battery and some solar panels on my roof and I'll never be out of electricity. I thought to myself why doesn’t Eskom do that then? Can’t they also hire an electrician to ask ‘what do you need, Clive? OK, install a battery, inverter and solar panels on their roofs? Eskom must just do the same thing we’re doing,“ he said.

His favourite comedian is Ricky Gervais from the UK who is also passionate about originality: all his jokes are written himself. “I’ve never used a pun that I didn’t write myself. I cringe when I hear other comedians use a joke I have heard before.”

Petzer plans to present his one-man comedy show this year.

The Independent on Saturday