Tough times for comedians

WHEN popular Ugandan comedian Anne Kansiime performed in Zimbabwe, all her shows at 7 Arts Theatre and Harare International Conference Centre were full houses.

Kansiime is also a household name in her country and her engagements now include participating in several high profile advertisements including those of DStv.

For others like the internationally renowned Trevor Noah — a South African — being a comedian has turned him into an instant millionaire as he hosts his own television comedy programmes.

In 2005 our own Edgar Langeveldt was honoured with a Prince Claus Award from the Netherlands within the theme “humour and satire”, for his role as a stand-up comedian. He won 25 000 euros. As a singer he won the Carnivore Lyrics Contest in 2011. He shared this award with writer Penny Lendrum.

Like Kansiime, there was a time in the late 1990s and early 2000 that Langeveldt could single-handedly fill up theatre venues like 7 Arts Theatre and Reps Theatre. In his performances, his satire dealt with subjects as contrarieties, social abuses and social injustices. He poked fun at his own as well as other communities.

But not anymore!

And when Kansiime came to Zimbabwe filling those venues — HICC and 7 Arts Theatre — while sharing the stage with local supporting comedians, there was hope among local theatre circles that at last Zimbabweans were embracing the genre and that this could be a good paying industry.

As the comedy craze caught up with local audiences, the non-performing economy pulled down its emergence and audiences ran dry.

Inspired by Kansiime’s shows, local comedian Victor “Doc Vikella” Mpofu tried to host weekly comedy shows at Jazz 24/7 in the capital but his initiative did not last as fans were no longer attending the shows due to the harsh economic situation in the country.

Jazz 24/7 management, however, revived the programme and it is now being held monthly and so far Samantha “Gonyeti” Kureya, Admire “Bhutisi” Kuzhangaira and Prosper “Comic Pastor” Ngomashi have showcased at the joint.

The joint’s manager Johannes Muchadenyika told the WeekendPost that the first three editions of the comedy shows were brilliant but that the momentum died as people were turned off by repetitive shows which had nothing new to offer.
“Comedians are few in this country and even the comedy-loving-crowd is also small, so we couldn’t produce fresh stuff week-in-week-out. Once they discovered that the shows were monotonous, they started withdrawing,” he said.

City Sports Bar manager Mathias Bangure said they just host comedy shows once in a while to avoid monotony.
“We do not have a number of comedians in Zimbabwe, they are few as compared to musicians and as a result, if we give them weekly or monthly slots we fear we might end up giving less value to our patrons.

“As a result, we choose to host them once in a while,” said Bangure.

Former Jah Prayzah manageress Filda “Mother Filda” Muchabaiwa who is now managing comedian Pramastove once told this publication that comedians need to share the stage with musicians to break monotony.

“I manage a comedian and an artiste in form of Gonyeti (Pamela Zulu) hence most of the time I make them share the stage with music acts as this gives them time to rest and prepare new stuff.

“Comedians should just share the stage with different musicians and this strategy will work well for them,” she said.
Since the closure of Book Cafe, comedians are struggling to get a permanent home with joints such as Sopranos and Reps Theatre still hosting comedians mainly because of the nature of their clientele.

“Comedy is doing fine at Sopranos. I think all shows have potential of coming out nicely depending on how you market them,” said Sopranos owner Clint Robinson.

Zimbabwean comedian, Carl Joshua Ncube has since embarked on a world-wide tour after noticing that it was hard to earn desired income from local market.

He has so far toured countries such as South Africa, Uganda, United States of America and United Kingdom among others and it seems to be paying off. —Vasco Chaya

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