'SNL' spoofs fake sign language interpreter

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
Yahoo News

Saturday Night Live

Obama Mandela Cold Open

Obama Mandela Cold Open

"Saturday Night Live" devoted its opening sketch to what was last week's most bizarre story: the scandal surrounding the sign language interpreter who said he has schizophrenia and was hallucinating while signing at Nelson Mandela's memorial service.

Kenan Thompson portrayed Thamsanqa Jantjie, the interpreter, during a speech given by President Barack Obama, played by "SNL's" resident president, Jay Pharoah.

Jantjie “clearly had no idea what he was doing,” Pharoah's Obama said, before Thompson's faux fake interpreter appeared from behind the podium.

The real Jantjie apologized for his performance, saying he had vision of angels coming into the Johannesburg stadium as world leaders, including Obama, paid tribute to late South African leader.

The Associated Press showed Jantjie video footage of him interpreting on stage at the Mandela memorial service.

“I don’t remember any of this at all,” Jantjie said.

Experts, though, said Jantjie’s odd gestures didn’t look like they were "caused by schizophrenia or another psychosis."

South Africa's Cabinet Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile apologized Friday, vowing to reform the way the country screens its interpreters.

There was, however, one positive outcome from this week's focus on sign language — fake or otherwise — for the sign language community.

“Sign went global today,” Oscar-winning deaf actress Marlee Matlin tweeted. “Thank you #SouthAfrica!”

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