John Wizards

John Wizards, the band built around Cape Town whizz wonder John Withers, just might have made one of the most magical albums of 2013. The self-titled debut combines a range of global sounds, with the African flavour on top. It definitely gets us in a good mood. We spoke with John about humour in music and how to tell a joke properly – and in the end he cracked one with us


Phone interview by Brenda Bosma, photos shot by Nico Krijno in Cape Town, South Africa


‘I would love to have a whole repertoire of jokes in my pocket, though’



On the album there’s the song ‘Leuk’, which means ‘nice’ or ‘funny’ in Dutch. What is so ‘leuk’?

Actually there’s a funny story to that song. I have a friend whose parents have a holiday house near the coast. Once a year they open up the house to people who need a place to stay or who want a holiday place. These people looking for a place leave a note on this message board. On one of the notes a kid had misspelled his name. He signed it as ‘Leuk’ instead of ‘Luke’. Me and some friends ended up reproducing all of the quotes that were up there and signed them as ‘Leuk’.


That’s a sweet prank.

We thought so too. Sweet pranks are nice.


There’s also the song ‘I’m Still a Serious Guy’. Are you?

I used to be. For instance, when I was younger I never really liked reggae music. I thought it was a little silly. I think I just became more of an open person as I got older. Now I really enjoy it.


Are you the one to crack jokes in the band?

No, no – that would probably be our bass player, Alex.


Do you know one yourself or can you reproduce one of his?

Maybe… give me a moment… It’s not something I usually do. I would love to have a whole repertoire of jokes in my pocket, though.


You know how some people laugh before they get to the point when telling a joke?

Well, yeah, that’s usually what happens to me. I end up laughing way too soon and it ruins the joke. Maybe that’s why I don’t have a collection at hand: I know it almost never gets through.


That sounds like a Catch 22. Do you also ask people if they get the joke after telling one?

Well, I never get to that point. As for me getting other people’s jokes: I think I do, but I never can seem to remember them unfortunately.



Analysing humour has been compared to dissecting a frog. Nobody enjoys that. Also, the frog dies.

That’s probably true. It’s such a funny thing to think about why it is you’re laughing exactly. It has something to do with timing and the energy you radiate. Sometimes someone will tell a joke and people will acknowledge it. Then someone else in the group elaborates on it with the right amount of energy and enthusiasm and everyone will laugh much more. I’d probably put myself to the former group. Luckily I laugh enough.


Your music is very joyful.

Thanks. It’s also maybe a side that’s a bit neglected in music.


Do you think humour belongs in music?

Definitely, it’s something that you should be able to find in music. It’s nice to shed a light on both ends of the spectrum, the serious and the light side.


Do you think you can come up with a joke now?

For a moment there I thought that I’d got away with it… I can only think of one really terrible one, though. It’s a joke I ended up hearing when I was a child. I think this is how the joke goes. You might have a similar thing in Holland – I’m sure loads of countries have these kinds of joke. Here it goes. There’s an Englishman, a Chinese man and a Mr Van der Merwe, a typical South African surname. So, you have these three characters. They meet this leprechaun and he tells them if they’ll slide down the rainbow and shout what it is they want at the bottom of the rainbow it will be there. The Englishman slides down and shouts: ‘Gold!’, and falls into a pot of gold. Then the Chinaman slides down and says: ‘Girl!’. A beautiful woman awaits him at the bottom. Then Mr Van der Merwe goes down the rainbow and while he’s going down he just goes, ‘WEEEE!’.


That’s really funny.

Well, I’m glad you laughed.





John Wizards are at MC Theater, Amsterdam on 15 November and at Roodkapje, Rotterdam the next day. Both shows are free for Subbacultcha! members. You can also catch them at Tivoli, Utrecht with Money on the 18th.