‘Chester is not just a mouthpiece on racism’

Cape Town – Having switched his black blazer and red tie with a jacket that makes him look like a barista, Chester Missing would like a word with his audience.

This chat will be facilitated by the man behind the puppet, ventriloquist Conrad Koch, as he takes a deep dive into white, privileged South African culture.

Following the successful tour of their last show Puppet Guy, Koch and his rubber associate will return to Cape Town to kick-start 2020 and the first season of the new Courtyard Playhouse at the Alexander Bar.

Titled How to End Racism, the new show marks a significant departure from Koch’s usual serving of comedy, as it aims to tackle a specific subject.

“I’ve never done a show that talks exclusively on race,” he enthusiastically explained. “As a white guy, you have to start with yourself.

“Stop pointing fingers at everyone, you don’t want other people to be racist. Start with yourself, then you can have any conversation you like.”

Koch’s upbringing is the foundation for the show. Growing up in Rondebosch and having attended Bishops Diocesan College and later UCT, he seeks to illustrate the qualities of middle-class living.

“I’ve had very hard political stuff in the past, but it wasn’t just a full hour of Chester dealing with this issue and it didn’t go into my personal narrative as much as I’ve gotten.

“The entire show is based on self-reflection and whether we’re qualified to have this talk. There was a time when I stopped talking about race exactly because I was unsure how to answer that.”

This dilemma is deliberated by Koch’s back-and-forth conversation with Chester, going so far to ask the puppet whether white people are even allowed to talk about racism.

“In South Africa, your identity means everything. We need to understand why it’s so problematic.”

Though showcasing a wide variety of puppet characters, Chester has long been Koch’s biggest star.

115914247 - 'Chester is not just a mouthpiece on racism'
Chester Missing has ditched the black blazer and red tie for a more casual jacket. He and his ventriloquist Conrad Koch want to talk about racism and have a good laugh.

Missing had his own segment on the satirical news programme Late Nite News alongside comedian Loyiso Gola.

Missing also made headlines in 2014 when he and Koch challenged a protection order acquired by Afrikaans singer, Steve Hofmeyr.

The judge ruled in favour of the puppet.

“Political satire is closed down purely through ignorance,” he said.

“When it comes to race, it becomes even more complex because you’re asking people to see themselves and the economic power of apartheid.

“If you say certain things, you will not get access to certain audiences.

“I have deliberately written a show for white people about race.”

He is confident that attending audiences will have a positive reaction to his conversations.

“A valid but problematic criticism of me in the past was, ‘you must talk to white people about these things’. I’m trying to do that.”

Koch hopes to tour the show beyond the Alexander Bar and Cape Town, specifically to younger audiences that reside in places where racism manifests the most.

“I’m excited about getting young South Africans involved,” he said. “Universities and schools have to deal with this issue. Young people are excited about dealing with this stuff.”

How to End Racism with Chester Missing is now on until Saturday.

Tickets are available online at www.alexanderbar.co.za.

Weekend Argus

115914248 - 'Chester is not just a mouthpiece on racism'

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