Stand-up comedy’s never been a career that many Africans would recommend to their kids.
It’s not much of a money-maker, that’s for sure but the new millennium has seen a change in the status quo. There’s been the emergence of rising stars like Trevor Noah from South Africa, Basket Mouth and Buchi from Nigeria, Uganda’s Kansiime Anne and Carl J Ncube from Zimbabwe – to mention just a few.
Stand-up comedy is definitely on the rise and so here are five useful steps to launch your own career as a stand-up comedian.
‘Once you have figured out that you are a funny kinda guy or lass the first thing to do is to go to an open mic show and showcase your five minutes of comedy,’ says Carl Joshua Ncube, a renowned Zimbabwean stand-up comedian.
Carl explains how he had to obtain police clearance for his first-ever show called BIG announcement. Back then comedy in Zimbabwe was seen as a politically motivated affair:
‘Stand-up comedy in the past was seen as an anti-establishment tool set to bring down the government and push the agenda of regime change, or at least that is what the policeman told me the day I was trying to get a police clearance.’
‘It almost sounded like comedy was outlawed. I was warned against making fun of the president and instructed by the censorship board to bring in my script for the show to be approved. I complied and the show was approved’. Lucky for us, because it’s hilarious!
Though originality is key, it is also crucial for you to have some people or someone you look up to.
South Africa’s Trevor Noah raves about his comedic icons, ‘The kings are indisputable.Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby… For me personally I didn’t know of him before I started comedy but Eddie Murphy changed my view on the thing and I definitely look up to him as a comedic influence.’
‘Also Chris Rock in terms of the modern black comedian and Dave Chappelle. Those are the guys that have laid the foundation and have moved the yard stick for all comedians, not just black comedians.’ He’s also named Jon Stewart as an influence whom he has now succeeded to host The Daily Show.
Some comedians don’t take a conventional path into the comedy circuit. Patrick ‘Salvado’ Idringi from Uganda, for example, was an engineer before turning to comedy, also becoming a radio presenter on 91.3 Capital FM.
For comedian Daniel ‘Churchill’ Ndambuki it took a bit more grit. His first joke didn’t go quite to plan:
‘My first joke… they switched off the mic,’ said Ndambuki, better known by as ‘Churchill’. ‘It was too boring! Even to myself.’ Despite the setback Churchill kept on going, reaping the benefits of a successful career now.
‘We left the stage and we promised ourselves never to do comedy again but I went back and with practice and a lot of encouragement, we just found ourselves getting addicted to the stage and that’s exactly what we are doing up until now.’
Technology has become the most crucial thing in any business of today, including stand-up comedy. A good example of someone who has embraced and is using technology to his advantage is Basketmouth.
The Nigerian comedian has a massive social media presence with more than one million Facebook likes and over 550,000 Twitter followers. Basketmouth mixes it up mostly doing stand-up comedy but does the odd YouTube sketch too.
Ugandan comedic genius Kansiime Anne started her career posting sketches on YouTube and the reception was positive from the start.
She then had her major breakthrough producing and starring in comedy show Don’t Mess With Kansiime on Kenyan channel Citizen TV.
We had to end with this classic skit from Kansiime. Prepare to laugh. Alot.