This really happened, but it could have come right out of the Marx Brothers or Borat, a variation on the old false translation bit. In this case it would be funnier if it weren't quite so despicable.
Somehow — and it's still hard to fathom exactly how — this guy, who literally could not sign his way out of a paper bag, gets himself hired to do sign language for the deaf at the Nelson Mandela memorial service, standing beside and doing gibberish sign language for several high-octane speakers, including President Obama. Apparently he's done it before (for the money??), but his attempt to take his "act" to the big stage backfired when several deaf people took to Twitter to expose him.
Video below, full story here.
Supposedly we live in a more visual culture these days, but I'm not so sure. Those hand gestures fooled people?
UPDATE (12-17-13): I don't want to beat this story to death, but now there's this from NPR:
Mandela Interpreter Says He Was In Group That Killed Two Men
UPDATE (1-4-14): I am reminded by Aaron Watkins of this classic SNL bit with Garrett Morris and Chevy Chase:
Tonight: Songs of Liberty and Justice - Filed under: American Folk/ Country/ Western, Music, PLUGS Tagged: ACLU, Guitar Bar Jr, Hoboken, Songs of Liberty and Justice
6 hours ago