United States comedian Billy Crystal said some of the most profound words I have heard in my life. The occasion was the funeral service for the king of boxing, if ever a man deserved that title. Lionised pugilist Muhammad Ali had died and Crystal had the honour of eulogising the Champ. I watched the proceedings courtesy of YouTube.
Crystal said of Ali that he taught the world that “Life is best when you build bridges between people and not walls”.
These words carried special resonance to me after watching the comedy event at Intwasa Arts Festival billed Night of Big Comedy.
The show was brought together by Q Dube’s Laugh Out Loud project and the festival. Who is Q Dube? Well, he is an award-winning stand-up comedian, whose stock has been rising since he burst onto the national stage a couple of years ago snagging the National Arts Merit Award in the process for the 2017 Outstanding Comedian at the National Arts Merit Awards (Namas).
Q Dube, born Nqobizitha Mitchel Dube, is a stand-up comedian, radio personality, and TV presenter, actor, voice over artist, wedding and cooperate function MC and rapper. He cut his teeth in showbiz as a TV presenter in 2005 on a music show on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. He also dabbled in acting on a local TV drama called The Small House Saga, a role that earned him a best actor nomination in the 2008 Namas.
In 2010, Q Dube packed his bags and left for South Africa to try and break into the entertainment industry there. While in South Africa Q Dube found his voice for comedy.
“With a little help from his uncle, an established actor in South Africa (Luthuli Dlamini), Q Dube stepped on his first comedy stage at the Blues Room (Open Mic) sharing the stage with the likes of Trevor Noah and Loyiso Gola.”
But South Africa’s showbiz scene is cut-throat and Q found his way back after failing to secure a work permit. In 2011, Q Dube got his comedy break through his good friend Simba the Comic King who allowed him to share the stage when the comedy scene in Zimbabwe was in its nascent stage.
Q Dube has graced every big comedy stage in Zimbabwe namely Hifa, Shoko Festival and Intwasa Arts Festival including the Anne Kansiime gig, which saw him performing before close to four thousand people in Harare.
“Trevor was one of the first people that took me in when I went to South Africa and so I am glad to bring him here tonight,” Q said.
Like a boxer who keeps coming back for more, Q is based in South Africa and tonight at Intwasa Arts Festival, he has brought along two of his South African colleagues in Khanyisa Bhunu a female comedian who is sharp on the wit and depictions of life in the townships of her Eastern Cape base and Trevor Gumbi a renowned comedian.
The lovely thing about Bhunu’s set was that it was delivered in isiXhosa which is easy to grasp if you speak or at least understand isiNdebele. Judging from her set, she is a former school teacher who gained prominence during Trevor Noah’s national comedy tour which discovered new comedic talent about two years ago.
Headline act was Gumbi, but Q owned the stage with his deadpan jokes about life in Zimbabwe and he vowed not to return to the country as long as folks are making each other pregnant whilst the economy is in the doldrums.
He claimed that he saw quite a number of pregnant women walking around! Slay queens were not spared joking that it’s a tough shift being a slay queen in Zimbabwe right now. He saw them in the kombi rides and in the townships carrying firewood on their heads after a day of slaying in town. Slay queens are supposed to be glamour personified. Q Dube is not coming back to Zimbabwe anytime soon. Unless of course if he is deported! But Q Dube was self-assured and pound for pound held his own against veteran Trevor Gumbi who just showed his pedigree with an unaffected set about drug addiction and divorce, among other things.
Award-winning comedian Clive Chigubhu, broke his two year hiatus during the same show. Clive regaled with his skits and portrayal of life in Zimbabwe. With a frantic entry backed by an equally frenzied James Brown classic “I feel good”, Chigubhu hollered his “yeye” war cry and his joy on stage was palpable.
You need to watch his impersonation of the late Zimbabwean dictator Mugabe alongside Babongile Sikhonjwa who imitates Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa. I would leave out the crass bits about toilet visits if I was him.
Those kinds of jokes tend to bomb and they did. But Clive is ready for even a film role. Where are the writers ?
When the South African comedians came on stage, they looked comfortable and nary a hint of apprehension on their faces given the recent xenophobic attacks. No one booed them in reprisal for the attacks on Zimbabweans by their fellow countrymen. Zimbabweans are a forgiving lot it seems. Maybe that is why the joke is on us as politricksters keep dumping on us. Oops!