Review: Loyiso Gola, ‘Unlearning,’ on Netflix

Loyiso Gola, aka “the Jon Stewart of South Africa” before his fellow South African comedian Trevor Noah actually replaced Stewart instead on The Daily Show, has a new hour of stand-up out on Netflix.

Gola performed indoors in Cape Town with pandemic protocols in place.

As I wrote in Decider:

He titled his hour Unlearning. So what’s to unlearn?

Gola shrewdly uses a metaphor we all can get behind to introduce the concept. Your Apple iPhone software upgrade. Why do we comply? Why must we comply? Because, he argues and jokes, we cannot get stuck in the outdated past, where our apps no longer work, or where, perchance, we find ourselves trying to quote and live by the same societal norms as they did in the Bible, when they had zero technology.

He then turns a Marlon Brando impersonation into a teachable moment, telling us that the Italian and Italian-American mafia so enjoyed The Godfather films that their lives began to imitate art, instead of the other way around. To which Gola asks: “How much of your life is living off of other people’s expectations of you?”

And how much does he allow his expectations of others influence his actions?

These are much deeper questions than simply rethinking or unlearning the concept of diamond engagement rings, the high price of lobster, the shape of wine glasses, or why women started shaving. Although those ideas all provide fodder for bits.

It was only when Gola began traveling outside of his country that he understood just how much all of us needed to unlearn the history white people had been teaching us, and it helps to hear this new lesson from someone who grew up under South African apartheid, whose own mother and grandmother’s lives and destinies were forced upon them by racism and segregation.

As we’ve seen Black Lives Matter protests over the past year, or #StopAsianHate in just the past week, or calls to action against white supremacists, Gola’s calls remind us he’s not only not a fighter when it comes to bars and strip clubs, but also not a fighter when it comes to the rest of his life. He suggests a more positive step forward instead. Blacks need to unlearn their inferiority complex. Whites need to unlearn their superiority complex.

It worked for Gola’s mother. Perhaps it could work for all of us.

Read my full review on Decider.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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