Hagen Engler walks on the witty side

The writer believes you can make fun of anything, as long as you get the tone right.


With 11 or so books published so far, including In The Maid’s Room and his latest offering, Black Twitter, Blitz & A Boerie As Long As Your Leg already being raved about, there’s no discounting Hagen Engler’s talent for writing about the funny side of life.

This surfer dude/Afro-rock/musician/editor/awesome dad/master braaier and selector of bikinis for Bonang Matheba chats to The Citizen about lekker Joburg, suiping cool drinks like a boss and learning to laugh at ourselves.

Where do you find the time and ideas?

I do a fair amount of book work – writing, editing and ghost-writing. Basically, you find time because a person needs to hustle and keep those income streams flowing to supplement the day job.

Tell us about your other creative outlets?

I do some spoken word poetry, and perform as a guitarist and vocalist with two bands: The Feel So Strongs and The Near Misses. We’re known as The Worst Band in Joburg TM. I’ve also dabbled in screenplays, TV writing, surfing, mountain climbing and running until I want to vomit.

Are you the most famous person to come out of PE?

I am, unless you count Siya Kolisi, Zolani from Freshlyground, Athol Fugard, Derek Alberts, Schalk Burger, Danny Jordaan, Graeme Pollock and Shashi Naidoo. If you do count them, I’m simply a legend in my own lunch hour.

What was it like growing up in PE?

For me, it was paradise. Life was mostly about touch rugby and cricket in the park, kleilat (mud-slinging) fights at the river and suiping cool drinks outside the BP garage like a boss. I got into surfing … my first writing efforts were about the surfing culture, so perhaps it was the beach vibe in PE that set me on my life path.

Why the move to Joburg?

I was a copy editor at YOU magazine in Cape Town when a job came up at FHM in Joburg. Cape Town’s sea was far too cold to sustain my surfing habit, so I was ripe for a move. I soon found I had a natural affinity for selecting bikinis on Bonang Matheba photoshoots and for streaking around Randburg in my underpants – all in the name of content generation, of course.

Was it easy adapting to Joburg?

Joburg’s massive. I’ve read there are eight million people across the entire urban agglomeration and it supports various scenes and subcultures. Whatever you’re into, you can probably find a way to express yourself. Joburg’s lekker that way.

What do you do career-wise these days?

My nine-to-five gig as a senior writer at Ogilvy PR. I’m still writing books and have a screenplay about a dystopian urban sci-fi adventure that needs polishing.

How do you balance family and work?

It’s a priority thing. Top of the list is my gorgeous daughter Liso, who just started Grade 1. One must find room for work, music, creative writing, hanging with my girlfriend and arguments with my Google Play device. I can also be found making a fool of myself in the weights section at the gym, and braaiing on my balcony!

Given our current political climate, can we still find humour in our country?

Certainly, but it does require some delicacy, diplomacy and awareness of the evolving values of society. You can make fun of anything, as long as you get the tone right. Done with gentle humour, satire can entertain and educate.

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