The sign language interpreter who butchered his way through Nelson Mandela's memorial service last week was lambasted in an "SNL" skit over the weekend, along with the president's infamous selfie and his handshake with Raul Castro.
For the show's cold opening, veteran cast member Kenan Thompson dressed as interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie, the man who says he experienced schizophrenic hallucinations as he stood with Mandela's family members and world leaders on stage and translated their remarks Tuesday in Johannesburg.
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Thompson's character stood behind President Barack Obama, played by Jay Pharaoh, and mimed nonsensically though a press conference on the president's various Mandela funeral service gaffes.
"I felt like Lemony Snicket because I experienced a series of unfortunate events," Pharaoh's Obama said. "I mean, first I got roped into taking a selfie with the blonde, female Danish prime minister
. Some people said Michelle was angry at me for that, but I talked to her afterwards and I can assure you, she was furious.
"Then I got caught shaking hands with Raul Castro
. In my defense, he told me he was Edward James Olmos. And finally, there was a sign language interpreter who clearly had no idea what he was doing."
The sketch got big laughs but, in reality, the fake interpreter was a huge scandal. According to South Africa's Sunday Times
, Jantjie is not even a qualified sign language interpreter.
"Thamsanqa is not an interpreter," Bantubahle Xozwa, religious and traditional affairs head for the African National Congress, told the Times. "He was disqualified years ago on the basis of his health. He was interpreting at the memorial service in his personal capacity."
Jantjie reportedly has a history of mental health problems and even faced murder charges a decade ago when he allegedly joined an angry mob in burning two people alive. The charges against him were dropped when he was found mentally unfit to stand trial, the Times reported.
"Saturday Night Live" airs at 11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC.
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