One of Malta’s most experienced comedians, Steve Hili is renowned for his dirty jokes, toilet humour and for dressing up in a tight mankini. So when activist group Occupy Justice and blogger-activist Manuel Delia announced that he was headlining a show last Sunday as part of their programme in the run-up to the anniversary of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, my curiosity was piqued.
And my anticipation grew as my eyes started to rest on some members of the audience gathered in front of the Attard parish church. Former PN leader Simon Busuttil and his partner Kristina Chetcuti were there, as were Opposition MPs Karol Aquilina and Therese Comodini Cachia and former PN president Ann Fenech, and of course Manuel Delia and members from Occupy Justice and other loosely affiliated activist groups.
As the hobnobbing started gaining traction, Hili jumped on stage and, in a very Steve Hili-ish manner, instantly set the tone for the night.
“Ok, gentlemen. Give me the noise you make when you fake an orgasm.”
Uncomfortable chuckles, people staring at each other as though waiting for a cue to begin, and a couple of people letting out noises that were kind of moans and kind of laughs.
“It looks like Manuel clearly has a lot of experience,” Steve said suddenly, pointing at the man who has been at the forefront of the campaigns for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The crowd roared with laughter and Steve instantly took advantage of the jubilant mood to start tossing jokes about Maltese society and politics left, right and centre.
“I’m from Senglea, a beautiful city. Is anyone else here from Senglea?”
You could hear a pin drop.
“Yeah, of course not. Who was I kidding?”
From Michelle Muscat’s self-description as a socialist to the Planning Authority’s controversial private jet decision to Adrian Delia’s frequent targeting of foreigners, no one was spared.
The jokes sometimes veered into avenues that would probably elicit outrage on many people’s Facebook feeds.
“I like my women the way I like my secret companies…17 and black!”
“I often draw a dick on my vote, but Jason Micallef once ran on my district so I was concerned that that picture could count as a vote for him!”
Then came the hilarious analogy of the current state of the Maltese political scene to a Formula 1 racing track.
“Joseph Muscat is racing ahead in a brand new shiny car with a massive spoiler, while Adrian Delia is 40,000 miles behind in an old Skoda Favorit without petrol that is being pushed by Clyde Puli, because he’s the only person who still supports him…and that includes his wife! Meanwhile, Partit Demokratiku are on rollerblades moving in the complete opposite direction and Alternattiva aren’t even in the race, they’re still waiting for the bus to arrive!”
If Simon Busuttil thought he was going to get away with it, he was mistaken.
“There’s Simon Busuttil in the crowd,” Steve said, a comment which elicited claps of admiration from the crowd and betrayed their political affiliation.
Then came the punch line. “Oh look, Simon. You’re finally in a party that actually wants you around!”
With Maltese politics in a toxic state as the country braces itself for the one-year anniversary of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder and the local and European elections next year, Steve ended his show with a nugget of wisdom. I don’t remember how it went exactly but it had to do with how comedy should be applied as a healing mechanism and as a weapon to make people in power feel uncomfortable.
And I daresay that it worked. Instead of shaking their heads in frustration at the “desperate state” of Malta’s political situation and at the unwillingness of the majority to stand side by side with them in their activism, the people in the audience left the event smiling and laughing.
In a society that takes itself too seriously too often, Steve Hili’s show was a timely reminder of the power of comedy.