‘Like Frost/Nixon, with hummus’ | Karl Stennienibarra and Il-Mullah

We catch up with ‘Il-Mullah’ from Satiristan and Karl Stennienibarra from Bis-Serjeta, ahead of their live on-stage debut this Sunday at Hard Rock Café, St Julian’s.

Karl Stennienibarra and Il-Mullah – Malta’s online satirical giants.
Karl Stennienibarra and Il-Mullah – Malta’s online satirical giants.

Let's cut to the chase: one of you is a purveyor of 'serious' investigative journalism, the other is a renowned source of local satire. What led you to team up and perform during a stand-up comedy show?

Il-Mullah: I've been offered a silver platter worth €3,000 (it has 'George' written on it) and a good sum of money by a person we cannot mention. I can only say he has resigned recently, and that he's German.

Karl Stennienibarra: Firstly I object to the term 'stand-up comedy'. For one thing, we'll be sitting down at a desk. As Daphne Caruana Galizia would say, standing on a desk is downright baxx and hamallu. I was approached to interview Il-Mullah by a fellow who looked like a leprechaun. Hence why it'll be taking place on St Patrick's Day. It'll be a Frost vs Nixon kind of affair, but with more hummus.

Are you grateful to Maltese politicians for effectively granting you a living?

M: Yes life is very hard in our caves. We rear goats to make cheese and front the bills... oh wait... I read 'grating' there. We've never had it so good.

KS: I'm coming to the conclusion that you think you're interviewing Norman Vella here. As you may have noticed, I have hair, and am only being a bit of an a**hole to you.

READ MORE: The last bastion of 'serious' journalism | Karl Stennienibarra

At the time of writing, what are your hopes for the outcome of the election?

M: The Mullah is in secret talks with all the serious parties (PL, PN and tal-Ajkla) to prolong the campaign even further. AD disagreed because they ran out of money and they can no longer sell Carmel Cacopardo's eyebrows to Enemalta in exchange for energy.

KS: I hope that people remain calm whatever the result. No scratch that, I hope they beat the crap out of each other, so I have something to write about.

Who, in your opinion, has been the most noteworthy politician to deserve your attention over the past year, and why?

M: The obvious replies would be Franco Debono, Marthese Portelli, Kirsty Debono, Jason Mic - ah wait you said politicians - and then Simon Busuttil, Silvio Parnis... but hey, we should not forget the big man himself, a man whose last year in parliament is a sad milestone for us. We'll miss his verve, his voice, his undoubted negotiation skills. Ninu Zammit is retiring.

KS: Marthese Portelli. The newsroom goldfish have really taken a liking to her. Every time I click on a picture of her campaign photo they put their little orange faces to the glass of their bowl and try to make the same face as she does, with great success.

READ MORE: Q&A with the Grand Mullah of Maltese satire

What are you most looking forward to after the election passes?

M: Watching Hadd Ghalik. It's the Mullah's guilty pleasure.

KS: The bitter disappointment that Eurovision will bring with it.

Would you say that the Maltese people are an 'intelligent' race?

M: You don't watch Hadd Ghalik do you?

KS: Well, I'd say we're in a Goldilocks area of the Mediterranean. Up north, the amount of time the Italians can keep the same government is about the same length of time that Silvio Berlusconi can hold an erection without the use of Viagra. Down south, it's not so much how intelligent you are as how many guns you managed to hide away post-Gaddafi.

Are you ever accosted on the street by fans? How do you react to their appreciation of your tireless, thorough work?

M: I am not very well known, so I am often accosted for a lighter or indecent proposals by middle aged men in Sliema (Prada, salt and pepper types) to have sex with one of my goats. Most of them are accountants, it turns out.

KS: There's been many a time when a fan has come up to me on the street and said, "Hey, I loved you in Argo, but Pearl Harbour was rubbish. How's Jennifer Garner?"

Is there a special person in your life, or is the pursuit of the truth - serious or otherwise - an all-consuming endeavour?

M: The pursuit of truth is an all-consuming endeavour as long as somebody else does it for the Mullah.

KS: There are very few groupies in journalism. Miriam Dalli once smiled at me though.

Are you confident that you'll dominate the stand-up comedy scene in the same way that you did the online world? What can your fans expect from the show on the 17th?

M: We ask our followers and the Mujaheedin to come and see us with an open mind. We'll give them an enlightening experience (I copied this from an art exhibition brochure, apologies for the bullshit). I wouldn't call it comedy. There's nothing funny. And we're not standing up either. Karl suffers from arthritis.

KS: I hope I can dominate Il-Mullah. In a platonic, Turkish oil wrestling kind of way of course. We'll still be friends after the interview.

Karl will interview Il-Mullah during the 'St Paddy's Day Special' at Hard Rock Café, St Julian's this Sunday. Other performers include Frank Zammit, Bo White and Joe Depasquale. Organised by The Wembley Store Boys. Doors open at 19:00. Search for Satiristan on Facebook, and check out Karl's work on bisserjeta.com

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