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Arjen Lubach’s fears in ‘Stars on the canvas’

“I’m going to make such a big mistake,” Arjen Lubach announced. Now come big mistakes of all shapes and sizes and Stars on the canvas (Broadcaster Max) is an occasion with a low risk of damage, but still. Lubach had to choose between three portraits that were made of him, during which he said he changed his mind a few times.

He had just had a wonderful conversation with presenter Özcan Akyol. Before posing, Lubach had said he felt embarrassed at the prospect of being looked at by three painters. That’s right, in front of the artists, Akyol and the camera, he was disintegrating in discomfort. He looked away—and was quick to add that he always does in conversations. He made a small medical disclosure, but at first wondered aloud if he was going to do it. Or he asked: “What do you want to hear, Eus?” – and then give the kind of insight that Akyol was fishing for.

It was the discomfort of a man full of reserve who did not want to disappoint his audience, was acutely aware of it and in the process, sometimes with one hand over his mouth, let go of things that were undeniably real. On obsessive-compulsive disorders (“I may treat myself to something irrational sometimes”) and fears (“Hypochondriacs also get cancer.”)

All this artist Wolf Hekkema had heard and it led him to a great painting depicting Lubach as a hand puppet controlled by a version of himself. All interpretations were open about the nature of the puppeteer: did he represent the program maker’s fears, his professionalism, his rationality, his irrationality? Lubach eventually shrank from Hekkema’s ambiguous canvas and chose another beautiful work. Hopefully the hand puppet will be bought by his friends to give him as a present for his birthday.

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Jokes and media criticism

In the meantime, the Sunday viewer devoid of Lubach has been able to go to the satirical Plakshot by Roel Maalderink. With his combination of topical jokes and media criticism to be taken seriously, this is indebted to Lubach, although Maalderink does not make his program from the slick decor of a TV studio, but from the exalted clumsiness of his living room. There his brother and roommate sometimes walks through the image with a sulking: “I live here too.”

Maalderink became known for his absurdist street interviews in the online program Voxpop. Also Plakshot contains detached street conversations. He comes to collect quotes for a later obituary by Freek de Jonge and asks whether he should have driven an ice cream cart “at his age”. Or he is trying to recruit candidates for the new Talpa program Waterboarding for a good cause: “Do you have a thing for water?” He promptly meets a young man who begins to explain to him that waterboarding is “not ethical.”

We also saw Maalderink dressed as ‘Clown Jari’ in the corridors of the House of Representatives, a few meters away from Jinekinterviewer Jair Ferwerda. He told Jesse Klaver and Lilian Marijnissen silly jokes and stunned Farid Azarkan when, after a serious question about low literacy in South Rotterdam, he suddenly put on a wig and fop nose (“That’s what the editors have to do”). Azarkan, gripped by acute clown fear, ran away.

Last week there was also a phenomenal threatening joke at the address of unvaccinated: “51 is my mailbox / bang bang bullet in your head so / or you are going to prick / or you are going to choke […] can you taste my sperm/ nice Moderna.” For example, the guild of Dutch satirists (Freek de Jonge does not have eternal life either) has gained an original talent. Or Maalderink is a hand puppet by Arjen Lubach, that’s also possible.

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