Our Story, By Us
< Current local time in Suriname – Paramaribo
Suriname funny Wesje man returns to St. Maarten
By Marvin A.Hokstam
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten–Wesje is coming back. When the funniest man in Suriname performed in St. Maarten last year, he cracked up everybody lucky enough to get one of the coveted seats in the Cultural Center on Back Street. Now he’s returning to bring the house down in October. Twice the comedian, with twice as much in his repertoire, with a show that’s literally twice as much as last year. Wesje: “I have grown over the past year and St. Maarten will experience it.” Twice. The show will run on October 8 and 9.
Dubbed “Wes for Pres (President)” this performance is a huge hit in Suriname. A satiric, hilariously funny look at reality in the Southamerican republic, it’s this show that anchored Wesje as a brand name. “I started doing this show before the elections (of May 25). It makes people think about the way we should all work together to achieve advancement for our country,” he says. During his performances he inhabits his comical Surinamese personas like a chameleon and delves into Suriname politics, giving his own spin on real life incidents; albeit with due respect for the office of the President for instance. “I never made jokes about (former) President Venetiaan and I show the same respect for President Desi Bouterse. All political favor should be placed aside when it comes to the highest office,” he says, serious for a minute, then quickly returning to how funny the Wes for Pres show is: “I had people rolling over the floor, but at the same time the show was so close to reality, and its message of cohesiveness so strong, that some people couldn’t hold back their tears,” the comedian said.
He had sold-out performances in Suriname; it went that well that every time his phone rang, he would worry it was yet another person trying to get tickets. In fact, when he was called to set up this particular interview, he thought it was for tickets.
The show took him to the Netherlands as well. “People there loved it; even Dutch people who you would think wouldn’t get everything,” says Wesje.
Wesje was born Steven Westmaas in Paramaribo, Suriname’s cpital; if one were to believe the story of how he became a comedian, he was cracking up the staff of the baby ward just minutes after he came to earth. “From when I was young, I was telling jokes and performing at family gatherings,” he says. His popularity in the former Dutch colony exploded after he produced a couple of side-splitting commercials for local telephone company Telesur, starring his fictional character Tommy Kroesnadath, a flamboyant Surinamese man from Indian descent.
“People will remember that I did Tommy when I was in St. Maarten,” Wesje recalls. He says an even “worse” version of Tommy appears in Wes for Pres, as does a new Maroon personage. In addition there are three Wes fro Pres dancers to bring the non-comedic relief. Suriname DJ Cat will take care of the music. The show will be done in Dutch, with here and there some Sranan Tongo, the two languages predominantly spoken in Suriname. Wesje promises another comedic roller coaster ride. “I had a very good time in St. Maarten last year. The interaction with the audience was great and that helped to set up a great show. I went over the allotted time, because I had just as much fun as my audience. We’ll do the same thing this time around. People should make sure that when the show starts they have already been to the restroom; better yet, if you’re not sure you can hold your bladder, come wearing Pampers.”
The show is organized by Surinamers Norbert Graves, Lucien Benschop and Steven Tjin A Ton, in collaboration with the Cultural Center. “Last year we did one show and from when the curtains came down I started getting calls from people who regretted missing the performance. So this year we’re doing two shows. Tickets cost US$ 25, but Wesje is giving twice the show he usually gives, so people will get their money’s worth in laughter,” says Graves.