This nation needs to laugh at itself a little. Personal experiences in the last few weeks have left me with a sense that we need serious comic therapy, in which the whole nation is the butt of the big joke. But there are so many jokes floating about. The biggest jokes have been told by the likes of Mthwakazi Republic Party, MDC-T and Zanu-PF.
State of the Art with Admire Kudita
So many jokes
We have the fantasists who fantasise about expelling others from the land of their ancestors. We have a political party that opposed a personality cult only to erect their very own cult yet masquerading as a democratic alternative. We are not ready for democracy.
We have another party that sees nothing wrong in its ministers importing snow graders. As long as these jokes persist, we have the leaders we deserve. Exactly.
Speaking of humour, tonight at the Vista in Bulawayo, Umahlekisa is holding its fifth anniversary celebrations.
“We are celebrating both our ups and downs in the journey so far,” the comedy club founder Ntando van Moyo (real name Ntandoyenkosi Moyo) said. The club was founded five years ago and used to be hosted by local eating houses before moving to bigger venues. Over the years the club has hosted the likes of award-winning comedians Carl Joshua Ncube and Clive Chigubhu.
“A comedy club is an institution that promotes the practice of comedy in all its live perfomance genres except for theatrical productions. It’s mainly targeted at the cosmopolitan persons with disposable income who want a refined form of entertainment in a relaxed thought engaging atmosphere,” Moyo explained.
“In other countries, the clubs actually have their own venues which offer strictly comedy and relaxed entertainment, but due to financial and infrastructure challenges here we have to use existing facilities and carve ourselves into their market.”
Ups and downs
“The ups have been establishing ourselves as the leading comedy club in the country as well as grooming comedians who have gone to make a mark on international stages, as well as locally while managing to remain comercially viable as a club with self funds.”
“Comics like Long John, Mandla the Comedian and Skhanyiso That Guy. The downs at times have been failing to draw big crowds and getting our comedy to other towns which is still our aim.I should say this year we are proud to be venturing into Harare big time.”
Comedy properties such as uMahlekisa Comedy Club require corporate support. They are incubators of comic talent as well as playing a critical role in getting society to laugh. They can be useful allies in pushing brands. Bus Stop TV in Harare seems to be making headway.
“Well for us it has been slow but we have found some partners like Skys Metro FM, Boom City, the Vista, Sharifas and Knockout Burgers, who all provide various technical support, as well as services ,” reflected Moyo.
“We offer business entities various oportunities in terms of branding, promoting their brands, doing jokes and clips that create their product awareness among, use of our comics for campaigns and events among others.”
Going for broke
It is time Umahlekisa Comedy Club adopted a marketing strategy for going national. What are the challenges to going national?
“It’s time we did (go national) which is why we are tapping into the Harare market. The challenges have to do mainly with partnerships. But we will be launching monthly comedy nights there (Harare) at the end of this month we will make an official anouncement by the end of the week after tying down a few items with our partners.”
The use of social media can be a way to access national and international audiences. “We are currently exploring the online avenue and yes a business strategist would help a lot. We have utilised social media I would say not as agressively as Bus Stop Tv. The challenge is it’s easier for Bus Stop Tv as they are mainly into skit comedy which is a whole lot different from what we do. Also linguistic and population appeal comes into play. Bus Stop Tv dwells much in (a) vernacular that is understood by most Zimbabweans and we use mainly English and articulate issues that apeal to our target market which as I mentioned is more cosmopolitan,” said the uMahlekisa Comedy Club boss.
Indeed, the likes of Uganda’s female comic Anne Kansiime and South Africa’s Trevor Noah have crossed boundaries doing comedy in English. Perhaps the uMahlekisa Comedy Club is onto something.
“English is always best as everyone can understand and relate. With South Africa and Swaziland it’s even easier because im fluent in some of their local languages. It’s always good for a comic to know many languages,” Moyo said.
Money in comedy?
Where is the money in comedy? Or rather where should the money be in? I know that the Kevin Harts or the David Chappelles of this world have television shows and features on platforms such
“Yes the money is in television and radio shows, brand endorsements as well as support services like humour consultancy and concept generation which are things that seem to be an oversight locally,” admitted the comic.
Friday night at the Vista
The pioneer of stand up comedy in Zimbabwe is Edgar Langeveldt. I know Edie from way back. He started this stand-up comedy thing in the nineties. Alongside Ntando, Clive Chigubhu and Mandla N, tonight at The Vista, Langeveldt is a headline act that will get us to laugh like crazy. I hope Eddie still has his comic game on.I do not want to have to laugh at him instead. Most importantly, I hope these comics get us to laugh at the comedy in our politics. Spooks or no spooks attending the show, we need to laugh so badly.