The laughter with “The King of Old Trafford”

April 19, 2013

Hello and welcome, I’m June Simms with AS IT IS!

Today, we turn up the laughter with “The King of Old Trafford,” a show starring an Indian comedian in South Africa.

But first, we hear about the continuing controversy surrounding a recent trip to Cuba by one of the United States’ most famous music couples.

American lawmakers have criticized pop star Beyonce and her husband, rapper Jay-Z, for making a trip to Cuba to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Mario Ritter has the story.

Beyonce and Jay-Z celebrated their five years of marriage with a trip to Cuba two weeks ago. Large crowds of people greeted them as they walked hand-in-hand through Havana, the Cuban capital.

Trade restrictions bar Americans from visiting Cuba for tourism purposes. But President Obama has eased restrictions on travel

Trade restrictions bar Americans from visiting Cuba for tourism purposes. But President Obama has eased restrictions on travel to the island for academic, religious or cultural exchanges. The United States Treasury Department is responsible for approving such travel.

The Treasury Department released a statement following criticism of the trip. It said Beyonce and Jay-Z had gone to Cuba as part of an “education exchange” trip organized by another group.

Republican Party lawmakers have questioned why the trip was approved. One of them was Marco Rubio of Florida. He called on the Obama administration to explain how trips like these are permitted under American law.

Cuban-born Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also condemned the trip. In her words, if the activities undertaken by Beyonce and Jay-Z “are classified as an educational exchange trip, then it is clear that the Obama administration is not serious about denying the Castro regime an economic lifeline that US tourism will extend to it."

The rapper released what he called an “Open Letter” condemning

The rapper released what he called an “Open Letter” condemning the condemnation of the trip.

Thousands of United States citizens visit Cuba every year without official permission. In this case, the publicity that resulted from Beyonce and Jay-Z’s visit to Cuba may be what led to the request for an investigation into their trip. I’m Mario Ritter.

This is AS IT IS. I’m June Simms in Washington.

A thin man with light facial hair runs to the center of a theater stage. He is wearing skintight white shorts, a bright red football shirt, black socks and dirty white running shoes. Music from the 1970s movie “Rocky” plays from a loudspeaker.

He sits down in an old chair. The chair is perfectly positioned in front of a television, where he can watch his favorite team, Manchester United.

As he drinks beer and smokes cigarettes, the man shouts at the television. “Glory, Glory, Man United! Come on you Red Devils!

As the imaginary game continues, the man known as “Ricky” looks back on his career as “Durban’s biggest “charro” United fan.” “Charro” is a slang word often used to describe South Africans of Indian ethnicity in Durban.

“Ricky is a hard-drinking, 100 percent pure United [fan] through and through. He will die with this team.”

That is the voice of Dhaveshan Govender, a comedian based in Durban. He calls himself a “die-hard” Manchester United supporter. He created the character Ricky. His love for United started as a young boy when he would visit a family of cousins in Durban.

“In that house you either support United or you keep your mouth shut. When the game was on I’d walk in and there’s my uncle and my cousins and all, drinking the beers and the brandy and watching the game and shouting at these guys [Manchester United players on TV].”   Ricky and a few other characters gather at a Durban pub. The business is named “Old Trafford,” after Manchester United’s home field in Manchester, England. In this imaginary world, Dhaveshan Govender makes fun of the many South African Indians who are big supporters of Manchester United. He calls their love for the team, “Man United mania” in his performance, called “The King of Old Trafford.”

“If the end of the world happens and United happened to be playing, they won’t notice it. It’s that extreme fanaticism that I was trying to encapsulate with Ricky.”   The show is filled with different personalities, each acted out by Dhaveshan Govender.

In arguably the funniest part of the show, armed robbers enter the Old Trafford bar. The character Rajan describes the incident in language rich with South African-Indian slang and in a larger-than-life Indian accent.

“This machine gun ou he pull the trigger, he shoot a hole in the ceiling. Next thing all the bras are on the ground, face down! And then these robbers, they’re moving through. And they’re gripping everything they can find, man – wallets, watches, cellphones, chains. And all the bras now, we’re scared. So all the bras now, we’re just donating our wallets and watches and cellphones and chains – all the bras…. Except, Ricky…”

Then one of the men stands in front of the television, blocking Ricky’s view. Ricky kicks him as hard as he can.

“This ou flies across the room onto the pool table – eight ball, corner pocket! Ricky sit down; he shout at Siva [the barman] to bring him another beer. Meanwhile Siva’s crawling in the corner praying that these ous don’t kill everyone!”

Another robber then turns off the television, depriving Ricky of his beloved Manchester United team.

“Ricky gets super-red, he gets up, he takes this ou one time with a Kung Fu kick. This ou flies straight out of Old Trafford into the car park.”

Dhaveshan Govender is not sure why South Africans of Indian ancestry love Manchester United so much. But, he has a theory.

“It may not be true but I think Indians like to back winners and United is quite a successful club.”

Not all South African Indians like the funnyman’s sense of humor. But he says, “what kind of human beings are we if we can’t laugh at ourselves?”

That’s all for AS IT IS. I’m June Simms. Thanks for spending time with us today.