Andy Mason embarks on a fascinating journey through the history of South African cartooning, tracing a vigorous lineage of satirical art that begins in the colonial period and continues unabated to this day. For hundreds of years, democratic societies have set aside a space - the 'jester's space' - where satirists are given license to taunt and mock the powerful. This tradition has survived the bitter struggles of South African history, and the ongoing encounter between pen and sword continues to produce powerful, sometimes agonising images of a nation battling to accommodate diversity and come to terms with its own identity. It's a thunderous saga of ink and blood, told in a succession of satirical images, some hilarious, some dark, some deeply shocking, contextualised and interpreted by the author. A cartoonist himself, Mason brings an insider's eye to his scrutiny of the lives and works of South Africa's visual jesters, paying homage to larger-than-life figures like Daniel Boonzaier, Derek Bauer, Joe Dog and Zapiro, but also shining a light on the work of little-known artists whose quirky drawings provide alternative views of our social and political history.
Told with an autobiographical slant and based on interviews with most of South Africa's top cartoonists and satirists, What's so funny? provides a unique glimpse into the world of our visual jesters, how they go about their work, where they find their ideas, and what drives them in their frenzied pursuit of the next laugh.