Comedy is slowly losing lustre on the local scene due to many reasons. Although a number of upcoming comedians like Kahembe, Mabla 10 and Sabhuku Vharazipi are trying to curve their careers in various styles, the depth that used to make up Zimbabwe’s exciting comedy is slowly fading away.
Column by Godwin Muzari
Attention is now shifting to stand-up comedians that include Carl Joshua Ncube, Clive Chigubhu, Doc Vikela and Simba the Comic King.
Stand-up comedy was, in the past few years, regarded as an upmarket genre and it was unimaginable that it would slowly break into the mainstream industry because hilarious comedians emerged from every generation.
Names like Mukadota, Paraffin, Mutiro Wafanza, Zuku, Gringo, Peter Kamupira and the late John Banda were popular in this genre.
Because of the demise of the popularity of ZTV, up-coming comedians no longer have an open platform to showcase their talents like their predecessors.
The current crop of comedians now depends on hastily recorded productions that are sold on the streets in search of quick income.
Unfortunately, these productions have often proved to be half-baked and far below the standards set by yester-year comedians.
When stand-up comedians that include Edgar Langeveldt, Victor Mavedzenge and Michael Kudakwashe did their exciting pieces, their audiences were limited to a certain class while the mass comedy market belonged to on-screen comedians.
Now, stand-up comedians seem determined to reach a wider audience and Ncube has been leading in this marketing crusade.
He managed to take comedy from small venues like the Book Café to the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) where he has attracted a huge crowd.
Red Bar in Newlands now hosts comedy shows while Theatre in the Park has also begun hosting comedy shows. The Simuka Comedy team has also done well.
The trend is now shifting from the little screen to live performances and it is high time every comedian realises the importance of live shows.
With the prevalence of hard-hitting piracy, live shows have now become the best-paying form of art on local showbiz.
Most musicians no longer worry much about royalties from album sales because of piracy — the large chunk of their income now comes from live shows.
COMEDIANS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PLATFORMS
Comedians should take a leaf from musicians. Live performances spurred Kapfupi to fame before he ventured into music. With others that included Jeffrey “Aphiri” Chikwesere, Langile Mfabene, Charles “Marabha” Merisi, Kapfupi penetrated the comedy industry with a punch but he seems to have lost touch because his latest comedy is below his usual standard.
There is need for comedians to take advantage of various platforms and turn to live performances. It might not be easy to get full-houses in the initial stages of this move but these shows will surely bring better returns than CD sales.
Comedians like Kahembe have tried to take it upon themselves to sell their own products on the streets but that will never be a way to beat piracy. If Ncube, a stand-up comedian, managed to attract audiences to HICC, nothing will stop these comedians from having big crowds at their shows.