Observers of the political situation in Kenya have often claimed that a filmmaker could make an engaging film out of the political comedy of errors and farcical scene that unfolds in the political arena. It remains unclear whether this is the motivation behind the 15-minute weekly XYZ Show that airs every Sunday at 9.40pm on Citizen TV. What is clear, however, is that this show whose catchy advertisement had raised hopes in many a TV viewer, has turned out to be cheap, depressing and embarrassing to Kenya’s top comic writers.
Instead of entertaining, the Godfrey Mwampembwa (GADO)-created XYZ Show leaves the viewer with a nostalgic feeling for an earlier TV stand up comedy”Redykyulass”which kept the nation glued to their screens in 2000 and 2001. Redykyulass, like XYZ, made fodder of politicians, particularly retired President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (1978-2002) and his loyal and hawkish lieutenants like John Kamotho. Walter Mong’are (Nyambane), Tony Njuguna and John Kiarie put up a hilarious show as the President, Mwai Kibaki (then official leader of the Opposition) and Kamotho, respectively. Uunlike the XYZ that uses puppets, Redykyulass had a good command of what excited and made Kenyans laugh. Undoubtedly, Redykyulass created a strong bond, followership and memorability in the Kenyan society and beyond, which XYZ can only dream of.
For an audience that has had a taste of Redykyulass, XYZ falls much below expectation. Even with better examples already in existence”News Shot on KTN, Heka Heka on Citizen TV, Bull’s Eye on NTV”the creators of the XYZ appear to have not only failed to learn from them but have also failed to come up with a concept that would truly keep the audience yearning for more of the magic the advert of the XYZ show promised viewers.
So what are News Shot, Heka Heka and Bull’s Eye about?
They are a summary of the ridiculous things (read satire) that unfold in the country over the week. Though not confined to the political arena, they mainly mimic political figures. They all operate on the same concept as the XYZ Show. Unlike the latter that employ puppets, the former three rely on news clips. But unlike the latter, the former are quite entertaining and know how to make the now increasingly cynical Kenyan laugh at the funny things unfolding in the country.
Their choice of using puppets is perhaps a strong point because this kind of art is creative as it combines words and static and three-dimensional aspects which, if backed up by serious and proper scriptwriting, would definitely leave many hearts thrilled.
While it seems that politics inspires comedians in Kenyan to create good comics out of the pathetic and often annoying political scene, they should not heavily rely on politics as has been the case with many others who have travelled that road and after a short time they have run out of ideas and vanished into oblivion. The XYZ show should bring aboard fresh ways of entertaining the audience, but with the host seated behind a news desk, the show is boring and annoying, if not irrelevant.
It is time that Kenyan comedians realized that comedy is not only about the politicians, thus explaining why long standing TV series like Vioja Mahakamani and Vitimbi will continue to outlive all the wannabe Johny-Come-Lately shows.
While the XYZ Show has aired only five episodes, the creators have room to make the necessary changes that will make their show appeal not only to Kenyans but also to any one else who enjoys comedy.