ShapeShifter

The life and times of Chester Missing (and ventriloquist Conrad Koch)

(Click here for more "Shapeshifter" articles such as this one.)

Comedian and ventriloquist Conrad Koch, the brain behind famed political puppet Chester Missing, has been in the news a lot recently. Through Missing he has increasingly spoke out against racism and launched an all-out social media assault on Steve Hofmeyr after a series of bizarre and racist tweets by the singer. Koch (or, in fact, Missing) shamed Hofmeyr’s sponsors into withdrawing their support. The singer took Koch to court and lost.

Who is Conrad Koch?

“I don’t know who or what the hell I am!” jokes Koch. “I’ve never been anything before Chester. I’m nobody and a problem. I’m a 37-year-old opinionated liberal."

Koch went Bishops, a very prestigious private school in Cape Town’s leafy southern suburbs.

“I found it very controlling,” laments Koch. “I was a weird little kid that talked to a puppet. Yet they made me play rugby. The teacher told me you came to Bishops for a set product. That’s not really education, I think. It moulds you; it gives you the language, the discourse of power and teaches you how to get on at Investec or be the CEO of Standard Bank. But does it keep in touch with what's going on in the real country we live in? I'm not sure.”

Koch started doing comedy while studying anthropology at the University of Cape Town. “What do you say to a guy with a master's degree in anthropology?” asks Koch. “Burger and chips, please!”

Who is Chester Missing?

Missing started out as a "coloured" South African, but that changed as Koch’s understanding of his own craft developed. “I reinvented him and he became the sort of latex dude that didn’t look like any race,” says Koch. “Is he black? Is he Mediterranean? He could be black, but maybe he is coloured? He could be Zulu or Moroccan.

“Chester specifically makes claims to confuse your idea of race. It gets quite complex in my head. I have my critics though, which I’m fine with.”

Koch says it makes sense to always refer to Chester in the third person. “This guy is winning awards all on his own! He gets booked for his own gigs. If I go to hotel rooms they have no idea who ‘Conrad Koch’ is. ‘Oh, Chester Missing? Room 48!’”

Why did Chester Missing pick a fight with Steve Hofmeyr?

“I fought Hofmeyr, because it’s easy,” says Missing. “He’s so racist his dog has to stop him from barking at black people!”

“I didn’t try to destroy Hofmeyr economically. He can still play at gigs and make money. He can still sell CDs. All we’re saying is that the moment corporate South Africa endorses him it means racism is all right.

Why did Dan Roodt physically attack Missing?

“It was hilarious!” laughs Missing. “I got attacked by a white supremacist! It was like; ‘Who's your daddy? Steve Hofmeyr is my daddy!’

“I asked him why Steve wasn’t at court; was he scared of facing his own racism? So Dan Roodt stuck his hand out and grabbed my face!

“I wasn’t hurt; I’m made of latex so he basically picked a fight with a condom,” says Missing. “It’s ridiculous!”

(Click here for more "Shapeshifter" articles such as this one.)

Chester Missing’s gags, admittedly, doesn’t always translate well into text. Watch this video below (or listen to the Soundcloud clip below the video) for the complete interview and a good laugh (or cry).

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