From journalism school dropout, to so-so alternative folk singer Daniel Friedman aka Deep Fried Man has stepped into the limelight and is now an award winning stand-up comedian and a darling of the ZA Twitterati. With his first-one man act about to open in Sandton, the Fried One’s a far cry from those days when he was singing folksy stuff to a small group of friends. By MANDY DE WAAL.
Kentucky fried logic is that anything that’s deep fried has got to be tasty, right? Well Daniel Friedman’s no exception. He dropped out of journalism at Rhodes (because it was way too much hard work) to study drama and philosophy. Then he picked up a guitar and started singing alternative folk songs to groups of eight or so of his friends, who laughed at him.
Friedman wisely dropped the indie folksy act in 2010, but kept his guitar and reinvented himself as Deep Fried Man – a comedy act that’s deliciously quirky, wry and damn funny. A smart move because he was subsequently voted Best Newcomer at the 2011 Comic’s Choice Awards, the brainchild of that local comedy cult called John Vlismas. Now Friedman’s opening for Trevor Noah, appearing alongside Loyiso Gola and is set to debut his one-man show “Deeply Fried” at Sandton’s Old Mutual Theatre on the Square.
The submerged and sizzled in hot fat fellow got more than a good 15 minutes of fame online recently, when he initiated the #AskHelenZille hash tag in response to the DA leader’s request for questions. Deep Fried Man’s questions weren’t exactly what Zille was hopping for and included Tweets like “I am afraid of the dark. Is this normal for an adult or should I feel ashamed?” This fired a trend which eventually saw #AskHelenZille trending worldwide with a slew of hilarious Twitter Q’s, like the one from @naswho who asked: “Dear @helenzille. When in your mind did Greenday sell out?”
“The whole episode culminated in a lunch invite from Zille,” says Friedman, aka Deep Fried Man. “Some of my friends said ‘maybe she’ll fly you to Cape Town and you’ll go somewhere fancy like La Colombe’. I got a call from her assistant saying ‘Premier Zille is in Johannesburg and has to catch a flight back to Cape Town, do you mind meeting her at the airport?’ So I ended up having lunch with Helen Zille at The Spur at OR Tambo International. Definitely not what I expected.”
The deep fried one says all Zille wanted to do was go hang out at the Keg and Aviator, but he thought since they were at the airport things had to be done properly, so they went to the Spur. “I took my friend Simmi Areff because although I started #askhelenzille, he got involved in a big way and was one of the main reasons it trended. We were going to tell the waiters it was her birthday so they would sing to her and bring her ice cream with a sparkler but we chickened out.”
Daily Maverick chatted to Deeply Fried, who looks a hell of a lot like Steven Friedman (his father), and is garnering fans like Zapiro who thinks Deep Fried Man is whacky and unique.
Daily Maverick: Why did you study philosophy?
Deep Fried Man: To say that I studied philosophy is a bit of an overstatement. More accurately, I somehow passed philosophy.
Daily Maverick: What did you learn from studying philosophy?
Deep Fried Man: Nothing. I was an existentialist, so I convinced myself that life is absurd, and therefore there’s no point in learning anything.
Daily Maverick: Why “Deep Fried Man”?
Deep Fried Man: My real name is Daniel Friedman. It was a suggestion from my friend Dave, and I took the suggestion because it went along with the kind of musical comedy I wanted to do, which was an unhealthy kind of comedy.
Daily Maverick: Are women funny?
Deep Fried Man: Women are hilarious! Sitting there reading “Eat, Pray, Love” and talking to their friends about hair care products, spending half their time having mood swings which are either caused by menstruating, pregnancy or menopause. If that’s not funny, I don’t know what is! I really hope I don’t get beaten half to death by feminists for that last one. My tongue is firmly in my cheek. What you meant to ask really is “Are women intentionally funny?” Which is a bit like asking “Are men funny?”; or “Are Greek people funny?”; or “Are dentists funny?” Some are, some aren’t.
I think the stereotype that women aren’t funny stems from the fact that there is a lot of pressure on women to come across as sexy and demure, and being funny almost always contradicts that. So it maybe takes a bit more guts (I almost said balls) to be a funny woman, but I know plenty.
In terms of women who are funny for money, Tumi Morake is at the top of her game, and could compete with any male comedian, and there are quite a few other good SA female comedians. Internationally, I love Sarah Silverman, though she’s an acquired taste and hated by many, and I recently discovered Maria Bamford, who is great.
Daily Maverick: How did you end up playing “Ice, Ice Baby” to the Vanilla’d one?
Deep Fried Man: When I first started doing comedy I was also an arts and entertainment journalist, so I went to interview him. My guitar was in the boot so I decided to serenade him with my rendition. Luckily The Times were there and they filmed it. The best part was the way Snap’s Turbo B spontaneously joined in as beatboxer. “To The Extreme” was one of the first albums I owned. And through Vanilla Ice, I was eventually exposed to “real” hip hop like NWA, De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, Tribe Called Quest and Public Enemy. So I do have a soft spot for him.
To an extent me still being interested in him is me “being ironic” (as much as that makes me sound like a dumb hipster), but I really liked him when I met him. He was once the shit, now he isn’t the shit anymore and he knows it. He has humility and a sense of humour about his fall from fame. Which is more than I can say for MC Hammer who I also interviewed. He is still under the delusion that his music is “important” and he’s a star.
Watch Deep Fried Man playing “Ice, Ice Baby” to Vanilla Ice:
Daily Maverick: Is South African politics funny?
Deep Fried Man: It certainly is. There is a certain politician whose name begins with M and ends with A (I am not talking about Madiba), and he must be funny because 90% of SA’s comedians devote 90% of their material to him. But ja, with a polygamist president, a vice president with a name that almost seems it was designed specifically to confuse white people, a leader of the opposition who spends half her time tweeting, a renegade ANCYL, plenty of tender fraud, open toilet fiascos and a bunch of really obscure lunatic parties like the African Christian Democrats, the Freedom Front, KISS and the IFP (apologies if some of those parties are now defunct, I’m not sure), SA Comedians live in a comedy goldmine. And if they can’t work out how to turn any of the above into laughs, there’s always Julius jokes.
Daily Maverick: A Jewish alternative folk musician had audiences who laughed at him so he became a singing comedian. Doesn’t that sound a bit like the set up for a punch line or the sell for an Adam Sandler movie?
Deep Fried Man: It really does! “Default American Movie Voice: He was a singer who everybody laughed at. Now he must go on a journey to determine whether he can stop writing depressing folk songs and become a full-time comedian instead. Adam Sandler is… The Deep Fried Man”. Who’s gonna play my love interest? I’d hope for Rashida Jones but she probably wouldn’t stoop so low. As long as Rob Schneider doesn’t pop up in the end shouting ‘You can do eeeeet’. That would be annoying.
Daily Maverick: Who are your comedy giants and why?
Deep Fried Man: In terms of musical comedy:
In terms of stand-up, the first comedian who opened me up to the possibilities of alternative comedy was John Vlismas, when I saw him at Grahamstown when I was in high school. And the first comedy album I loved (after Bill Cosby when I was little, which I can barely remember) was Eddy Murphy’s Raw. At the moment my best comics are Jimmy Carr, Mitch Hedburg, Steve Wright, Zach Galifianakis and Patton Oswalt.
Daily Maverick: What makes you laugh?
Deep Fried Man: The absurdity of life in South Africa. The absurdity of life anywhere. The absurdity of people, who are all just tiny specks in a vast and uncaring universe. And dick jokes.
Watch Deeply Fried’s idiot’s guide to singing the SA anthem:
Daily Maverick: Rock gods pull the ladies? Do you pull the ladies being a singing comedian?
Deep Fried Man: If you’re in a club and it’s after 2am and all the rock gods have left already with all the hottest girls, the singing comedians may get the leftovers, provided they’re drunk enough.
Daily Maverick: Is there a battle of the sexes? If so who’s winning?
Deep Fried Man: The hermaphrodites. They quietly sit on the fence, plotting to take over the world while the men and women battle it out.
Daily Maverick: What’s the funniest joke you’ve ever heard?
Deep Fried Man: If such a joke existed it would be the most dangerous knowledge any comedian could possess, and I would have to keep it a secret, or all the other comedians would hunt me and torture me until I reveal it. Maybe I actually do know the funniest joke in the world, but if so I’m saving it until everyone starts saying I’m overrated and “not as funny as I used to be”. I will unleash the joke at a time of need and save my career.
Daily Maverick: What’s the dumbest?
Deep Fried Man: There are too many dumb jokes for one to take the lead. The ones that come in Christmas crackers are usually the worst. I also think any joke about default stereotypes like how black people can’t swim, white people can’t dance, Indian people always hunt for bargains and coloured people have missing teeth is pretty dumb. DM
“Deeply Fried” will be on at Sandton’s Old Mutual Theatre on the Square from 22 November to 3 December 2011.
Photo: Deep Fried Man by Gavin Goodman
"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it." ~ Salvador Dalí