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Marketing essential for comedians

Paul Nyakazeya

THE ability to make people laugh is indeed a great gift and one which is hard to come by. Those blessed with this treasured talent should be respecte

d by society for the contribution they make to the world of entertainment, because an all-too-serious life is boring for most people.

At times the human mind needs to relax so that it may reach its intellectual peak.

The Zimbabwean stage has been graced by various talented comedians. It is however sad to note that comedians have remained unsung heroes in Zimbabwe. One cannot explore the landscape of comedy in Zimbabwe without mentioning the late Safirio Madzikatire, popularly known as “Mukadota” or Baba vaRwizi.

He was a talented comedian and stood very well against the world’s greatest comedians such as Bill Cosby or Martin Lawrence.

When the Mukadota series was re-screened on ZTV last year, people could not help but marvel at the aesthetic quality of his work.

The series reflected good organisation and dealt with a wide range of issues, which still apply today even though the series came to an end 18 years ago.

He was also a singer whose songs are still appreciated by a lot of people today.

Universally, broadcasting stations are known to be the greatest promoters and exploiters of actors. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) is no exception.

While it afforded Mukadota resounding publicity, records made public have revealed that he did not gain much in terms of remuneration.

A man of such outstanding talent in the world of comedy should have departed this world a very wealthy man. Sadly however, the reality was different. Although he left a remarkable legacy, he blossomed at a time when the black acting effort in the country was in its infancy.

Mukadota’s works are of quality and have stood the test of time. He laid a strong foundation for future comedians.

The late Simon Shumba, also known as Mutirowafanza, belonged to a later generation of actors.

He was another comedian who emerged at a time when people were more enlightened about the role of comedy in both education and entertainment. Many were gripped by his electrifying humour.

However, many people also felt that Mutirowafanza did not exploit his talent to the fullest when he had the chance. Making full use of his heavy Manyika accent, he appealed to a wide range of viewers and should have tried to increase his visibility. But after a short stint on television, he seemed to sink into oblivion for quite some time before making a reappearance.

When he did, his performance was greeted with mixed feelings. The story line was predictably moralistic.

Another comedian, the late Philip Mushangwe or Parafini (Baba vaSorobi) gave a good account of himself most of the time with his amazing eating habits.

Viewers always gave Parafini a chance, even at a time when his sense of good humour appeared to have deserted him. But he had the potential to get the best out of his talent, had death not intervened.

Zimbabwe International Film Festival Trust (ZIFFT) director Rumbi Katedzo told independentxtra that it was time artists and producers looked at comedy as a business and those with the talent mastered the art of marketing themselves and attracting investment.

“There should be a marriage between art and business to achieve meaningful investment in local production,” said Ketedza.

She said such investments would ensure that artists and their families live a decent life when they leave the stage.

“Producers need to produce more, this means more work and money. As a community, we should appreciate our own. It is encouraging that local talent is being appreciated these days, this makes their work easier,” she said.

She encouraged local artists to establish a strong support base at home before going abroad.

The arrival of Lazarus Boora, in the role of “Gringo” heralded a new era in the world of Zimbabwean comedy. Gringo arrived at a time when the whole comedy scene was fast changing and comedians were getting more recognition.

He showed that he was a talented humourist. His presentation was flashy, dramatic and brilliant. He however left the scene a sad man lamenting the poor remuneration.

Enter Edgar Langeveldt. Many feel that he should take every opportunity and continue exploiting his talent. Despite the lack of investment in the industry he is one of the established comedians who have taken his works outside Zimbabwe.

Langeveldt has managed to settle well in both theatre and television.

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