Comedy is steadily growing in the entertainment industry. PHOTOS BY ISMAIL KEZAALA & EDGAR R. BATTE
They are all over the entertainment circuit, trying to make us laugh with their routines. From the likes of Kenneth Kimuli aKa Pablo, Tindi, Fun Factory, Punked Bunch, to Mendo aka “Museveni”, all are hell bent to crack our ribs.
They seem to be omnipresent in our lives to the extent that not only are they on our local television screens, but they have gone global with Dstv screening their Comedy Club programme recently in Kampala where the likes of Mendo aKa “Museveni,” got to showcase their routines which in turn will be viewed by viewers all across Africa.
But are these comedians worth their salt? I believe not. Here is the problem with our stand-up comedians; you wake up in the morning, you find a comedian on radio as a presenter. Switch on your television, it’s the same comedian hosting a show. Go to a wedding, it is that same comedian as the MC to that wedding! How can one remain funny when they are all over the place?
Moreover, the same material used on radio will be used on television. The same sketch used on stage will find its way on an NRM Victory party of a top wig where that comedian will not only be the host of the party, but part of the entertainment package. How then can such a comedian maintain their comedy edge? How can they avoid being stale and irrelevant?
And the fact that most of the material in many of their routines is always floating around love stories, vulgarity, women, which some say lacks depth. In other words, finding a comedian to have a hilarious line or two on topics like the current strike by the traders or even having a go at current affairs is close to a miracle. They are that basic.
“I believe the future of stand-up comedy in Uganda is in danger,” says Herman Segujja aka “Museveni.” “The commercialisation of comedy has damaged the genre. You find someone at a game show, then radio, then TV, all this is to make as much money as possible. In the process of making money, the comedy brand of that individual slowly diminishes. The mystery of that individual, which made part of their comic success, slowly fades away.”
He goes on to say that many today are getting into comedy before clearly understanding the art-form. “You find people trying to use comedy as means of getting known. Few have even gone to school to understand what comedy is all about. What they do is get the mic and spill vulgarities and that is it! The professionalism in that genre is slowly but surely being eroded.”
Kenneth Kimulli aka Pablo has a different view. “Go and watch Chris Rock and see if he doesn’t repeat jokes! The same joke he said in Los Angles will be the same he will say in London or on his DVD! Repeating jokes is not a sign of decline. Actually, I think exploitation of the comedians by society is one of the big problems being faced by comedians.
You find someone telling you he is going to pay you Shs200, 000 for a 30minute stint and would pay millions to a singer for the same amount of time. What he doesnot know is that the amount of work a comedian puts in to make you laugh in those 30 minutes is actually the same a musician puts in to compose that song you are willing to pay millions for!”
Both comedians concur that the saturation of comedians endangers their act. “But I think that is because of the economic situation,” they both say.
Dstv which hugely gave Stand-up comedy in Uganda a platform when it launched its success show in 2009, Stand Up Uganda that searched for the funniest person in Uganda, believes stand-up comedy in Uganda is on the rise. “Stand Up Uganda, a programme that Dstv run in 2009, provided an incredible platform for comedy in Uganda.
It led to many comedy outfits like Mic Check, Pablo Live, and the Crackers! That definitely is growth both for the comedians because many have made careers out of comedy but for the genre in general,” says Tina Wamala PRO Dstv.
“Since the start of Comedy Club on Dstv, both the women and men featured on the show have displayed exceptional talent,” says Gaetano Kaggwa, host of the Dstv programme, Comedy Club. “I have seen this first hand from talking to them backstage, and I can proudly say that they are top notch and they can run against any comedians on other markets,” he adds.
So what is the way forward to rescue a genre that is still in its infancy from ruin. “We need to have these comedians start writing their material,” says veteran comedian Andrew Benon Kibukka. “The comedians think that stand-up comedy is about walking on stage and trying to make people laugh! No. You have to be professional; you have to write your stuff down. You have to have your gig directed! The likes of Chris Rock have a bunch of writers that help him come up with his jokes. We need to add professionalism to the art-form.”
The same is echoed by female comic, Tindi. “If we do not pull up our socks, we are in trouble. We need to realise that stand-up comedy is not all about jumping on stage and mouthing off anything! We need to realise how serious this genre is. Do you know that some of these international acts have even gone and studied that genre? It is that serious,” she says.
Well for some, the stand-up comedy honeymoon is over. So could the bubble be about to burst? The jury is out on that one. However in the meantime, it seems the march of standup comedy in Uganda is unstoppable. Come February 27, Dstv will air Mendo aKa “Museveni” and Anne Kansiime on their flagship show Comedy Club. The whole of Africa will have a taste of stand-up comedy made in Uganda.
By ROBERT KALUMBA, Daily Monitor