Comedy Night, held every Thursday night, has come of age since its inception in 2003. This event, taking one-and-one-half hour every Thursday, is the brainchild of some of Kampala’s established performing artistes. Among them is Phillip Luswata, who still appears on stage, even with a very tight schedule. STEVEN TENDO reports.
“Thursday night should never be allowed to be a bore. With all the gore in the news and the sad faces that come off the TV, the fact that life is only for a short time and we have to make the most out of it is louder than it has ever been,” Luswata says, adding, “Kampala is not chasing the high life for frivolous reasons; we have just realised just what we need. Every one knows that laughter is the best medicine. This is why doctors recommend that we watch comedies or cartoons. It is a recognised stress repellant.”
Kampala has had its fair share of comedic acts. Of late, the Amarula Family, a group of comedians whose claim to fame is that they parody political figures, has been a big item. Amarula Family started out as a group of musicians brought together by their collective interest in the arcane and the bizarre. They have since turned into radio presenters who can hold their own perfectly well with the other established DJs.
Amarula Family specialised in stand up comedy but soon the public grew tired of their repetitious and predictable routines. There was Paddy Bitama, who made a name for himself as the guy who could mimic President Yoweri Museveni to a fault. Then there is Amooti Omubalanguzi who has mastered the Rutooro (western Ugandan people)’s accent.
Eventually, the patrons needed something new. Comedy Night started out in a very rudimentary way; the actors were required to make up their lines on stage.
“Actually, that was the interesting part,” Kwezi Ruhinda, one of the directors of Theatre Factory, says. “There are actors who find it very difficult to cram lines but when they get on stage, they are perfect with their adlibs and paraphrases.”
Here he is talking about one of the most interesting comedians to watch, Frobisher Lwanga.
At the beginning, a group of young and not-so-young artists decided that the monotony in stand up comedy needed to be remedied.
“In Uganda, theatre-goers have been raised to believe that theatre is about laugh-out-loud jokes. In this way, our theatre is characterised by a lot of inane jokes that are designed to milk the last laugh out of the audience,” says Abby Mukiibi, a comedian on Central Broadcasting Service (CBS)’s morning show, Kalisoliso W’Ebyemizannyo (Inspector of Sports). “It is a task for us in the industry to turn this trend around and make people understand that theatre is not about cheap laughs.”
Luswata concurs with Mukiibi. He says the jokes are predictable; bash politicians, mimic the president and draw heavily on sexual insinuation. More and more, it is becoming evident that the revelers in Kampala are getting tired of this senseless monkeying.
Thursday night at the back of the National Theatre is crowded not because the beer is sweeter or that there are freebies on this day. After paying Sh3500 at the entrance one has to go through a sea of humanity seated in the garden chairs to find a seat.
You will not wait for ages when you get to your seat. The actors are never late. What strikes you first is the lighting. The technician at the controls keeps on changing the focus, leaving some parts of the stage awash with a beautiful glow. Some times, it is just on the stage but that is only when the actors decide to use the stage. In other words, the whole area is a stage. The chair next to yours may be the next place the crazies will use.
They highlight the issues that are making news. The news items you saw that baffled you could be explained here. And the anger you felt about the loss of Ghana in the World Cup, the scandalous land giveaways that are rocking Kampala with the president generously dishing out public land to foreign investors so they can build hotels in preparation for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that is expected to bring up to 5000 visitors to Kampala November 23-25, 2004 Theatre Factory deals with all issues without making them sound offensive.
Comedy night started out as an idea developed by Phillip Luswata and David Tor, the proprietor of TLC Club on
in central Kampala. In the beginning, it was at the club until 2004 when the show relocated to the National Theatre. The show has been growing in strength first in the Green Room and then to the back of the building in the open air. Kampala is swiftly catching on.
In the beginning, it was at the club until 2004 when the show relocated to the National Theatre. The show has been growing in strength first in the Green Room and then to the back of the building in the open air. Kampala is swiftly catching on.
During special shows that take two-instead of the one-and-one-half hours for an ordinary show, patrons are charged Sh5000 per head.
The organisers are planning on holding a special comedy show in the National Theatre auditorium. Here, they will showcase the best comedies of the three months.
The ensemble of MDD students and actors just cutting their teeth is very able.
Kwezi Ruhinda is as good as ever.
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You will be pleasantly surprised at the multi-talented Kenneth Kimuli.
Raymond Rushabiro of The Ebonies came as a guest actor in the beginning but the bug must have bitten hard because he stayed and he has become a permanent feature. Frobisher Lwanga does not have to say anything because, in the tradition of Jim Carrey, he can just twist his face and even the hardest nut to crack will fall to pieces. And when he does his “drunko” routine, hold onto your stomach. Now and then there are guest actors and these are drawn from a wide selection of talent.
Three years on, the show has grown with its actors and its audience. They have more appropriate costumes for the various skits they present (Nine every Thursday). They have also become very busy going up-country on projects commissioned by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and government ministries to sensitise the masses on any given issue.
Without trying too hard, these comedians turned themselves into radio stars. For many Ugandans, though, they are known first as comedians.
The actors don’t think that multi-tasking could be detrimental to their work.
“The fact that there are many actors and very slim business will always force people out there to look for better deals,” Kenneth Kimuli says.
He is one of the pioneers of Comedy Night but of late, he has been moonlighting at the Gospel Night where he does stand up comedy. “The fans have to adjust accordingly because this trend will be with us for a long time as long as the rewards out of this field remain small financially.”
That Ugandans love to have a good laugh is not new. It is seen in the videos that accompany the music videos made here, where the ridiculous is always emphasised. What we shall see more of is a growth in the number of acts that are modeled on Comedy Night. Already, there is a new comedy show at Ndere Centre at the weekends and also at Sabrina’s Pub along
The only ingredient left is for these new shows to start producing in a more friendly language that would see the genre off to a roaring new phase. But one wonders where the female Ugandans are in this genre of theatre: do women lack a sense of humour or are they too shy to be on stage?