On the Couch with Pieter-Dirk Uys aka Evita Bezuidenhout
– Danica Hansen, The Weekly Gazette, 2 November 2017
At a media conference on Tuesday, 31 October, the alter ego of Pieter Dirk Uys, Evita
Besuidenhout announced that she has made herself available to run as president of
the ANC in a stunning display of satire, as the preamble to her umbizo at the Sneddon
Evita gave a speech about her Luthuli house kitchen, her three “Barack Obama-beige”
grand children and the importance of freedom of speech, as well as freedom beyond
Sporting a design from the Denis Hurley Centre, the sensational lady of the hour
oozed ‘mzanzi’ flavour with Shweshwe print and iconic Evita charm.
The loveable Tannie Evita Besuidenhout has become a household name in South Africa.
From the TV screens of the 90s to the hashtags of modern social media, Tannie Evita
has brought light hearted-laughter with an undertone of serious thought. Recently,
The Weekly Gazette met the man behind the make-up, to talk about his legacy of satire,
social change and the serious side of comedy.
WG: Do you think that Satire has more power to create social change than politics
(or activism) and why?
PDU: Satire is a wide umbrella under which many things can shelter. Usually it’s
defined as ‘tragedy+ time= satire’. Here in SA there is seldom the time, so what
happens today must be confronted tonight. Often it is aimed at targets with vicious
comment. Sometimes it uses a gentler approach to seduce the audience into a comfort
zone, and then wham! them with a cotton-wool ball with a blade in it. They then are
shocked to see some blood. In my opinion often more lasting than politics or bitter
WG: Do you think that women have more power to create change than men? Why?
PDU: Yes, for good and not so good. Power seldom changes anyone. Patience and a bit
of humour can go a long way. And most women are better at it than men.
WG: When did you first have the idea to use comedy as a vehicle for social commentary?
PDU: It was not an idea; it was a necessity. During the apartheid years it was usually
illegal to laugh at politicians. To get them to laugh at themselves was the first
strike in the battle to dismantle their ego. There is also a difference between comedy
and humour: comedy is the joke you remember to tell someone else; humour is often
very personal and is seldom ‘funny‘ — it is mainly laughing at fear and making that
fear less fearful. Apartheid was never funny — the hypocrites who sold it as an accepted
way of life were/are.
WG: Have online channels like Youtube made it easier to express your views without
PDU: I have never bothered to cut my foot to fit the shoe of censorship. I just tried
to invent ways to say things that don’t fall into their definitions. In the past
it was to learn the Publications Act off by heart and trap them with their own law.
Today it is avoiding that red line of racism that creeps into so many attitudes and
criticisms of government and power. YouTube is a wonderful dirt bin of treasures
and trash. Evita se Perron has a channel and on it we have stored many gems. Especially
her weekly ‘Evita’s Free Speech’ reality chat.
WG: Have you achieved all that you want to achieve as Evita, or do you still have
a lot of goals? Anything planned for the future?
PDU: I spend about 2% of my time on her, mainly dieting for this woman who doesn’t
exist. As long as she is real enough for the women to recognise the woman and the
men to forget the man, Evita will have her own echo in the noise of politics. She
is always 10 years older than me which is quite a relief. Politics will lead her.
WG: Was it always your dream to be involved in comedy? What did you want to be when
you were a kid?
PDU: The theatre usually chooses who it wants as a slave. I wanted to be a teacher,
but then was high-jacked by drama at UCT and have been doing it since 1967. So I
know nothing about anything and everything about something!
WG: Would you define yourself as a comedian, performer, activist or writer… or something
PDU: ‘Entertainer’ is the most complete description of what I do — and if it doesn’t
entertain there is very little point in wasting people’s time.
WG: Is it true that Evita was named after Eva Peron? Are there any similarities/
differences between the two?
PDU: The editor of a Sunday newspaper in which I had a weekly column during 1978/79
gave her the name. She was then a character in the column who once a month shared
the gossip about the then Information Scandal. He called her the ‘Evita of Pretoria’.
It was at the time of the musical too, so I read a biog of Eva Peron and found the
perfect blueprint for the life of my Evita. Eva Peron died; so far mine hasn’t.
WG: Did you draw inspiration from Australian comedian Barry Humphries’s character
Dame Edna Everage- tell us a bit about how the lady of the hour came to be?
PDU: I am a great admirer of Barry H and especially his early work which had a darkness
that suited the times. Dame Edna of course was a great inspiration and still will
be. But she is a social monster, my beast is a political virus.
WG: If you were not a performer what would you do?
PDU: I have no idea — because being a performer means I could be anything I choose.
Isn’t every job in life a performance? Probably a writer.
WG: Do you think South Africa is going through uncertain times? What are your hopes
for the future of the country?
PDU: Yes, uncertain times are usually seen as negative energies, but then as Evita
says: The future of South Africa is certain; it is just the past that is unpredictable.
WG: Do you think that comedy / satire can bring healing for social / racial / gender
problems of the past/present?
PDU: Yes and yes and yes — but it must never look like a list of intentions. Use
all the weapons of mass distraction to help the people to laugh at the things they
don’t dare to even think about. A sense of humour helps on every level. Social, racial,
gender issues can suffocate themselves with a woolly scarf of moral high ground fabric.
WG: Has comedy changed you?
PDU: From day to day, minute to minute, second to second. I stick to my definition
of 49% anger / 51% entertainment.
WG: How did it feel to be on TV and branch into advertising?
PDU: It all depends on the fee.
WG: How have you used comedy to educate / inform the community on issues such as
PDU: Laughing at fear and making that fear less fearful was essential with regard
to HIV — which was also totally unfunny. But sex is a gas. And talking to learners
about sex was an eye-opener for them and me.
Complete the sentence
My dream holiday is…sitting in my garden and watching the bees have breakfast in
My perfect day would be…today if I don’t allow the memory of yesterday to spoil it.
If I had a super power it would be…to be invisible and just watch and listen.