Rwanda artistes seek recognition local stand-up comedy

Sunday February 5 2017

The Comedy Knights in action at a past event.

The Comedy Knights in action at a past event. PHOTO | FILE 

By Andrew I. Kazibwe

Despite the comedy genre not being as well developed in the country, stand-up comedy is gradually gaining recognition.

Local stand-up comedy group the Comedy Knights, are planning various events to showcase this entertainment genre.

The Comedy Knights did not perform as a group for several months last year, but the members have taken to the stage individually on various platforms.

Last year, group members Herve Kimenyi and Michael Sengazi performed in different stages in France, Germany, Belgium, Senegal, Congo and Cameroon.

Other members, Arthur Nkusi — represented Rwanda in Big Brother Africa Hotshots —and John Muyenzi also performed in Kenya and Uganda.

Following the success of their individual tours, the members came together to develop different events to showcase stand-up comedy, such as the Comedy Hub — a weekly stand-up comedy show and a brainchild of Muyenzi alias Babu — which started in November last year.

“I was motivated to start this event because Kigali, just like other cities in the region needs to showcase it comedy,” said Muyenzi.

The show, which is hosted by Muyenzi takes place at Kigali’s Galaxy hotel and features performances by prominent Comedy Knights members like Herve Kimenyi, Michael Sengazi, George Birungi and Arthur Nkusi. However, it also provides a stage for emerging comedians.

“We held a workshop before Comedy Hub started, in order to find new talent. We signed Divine and Joshua Kamirindi and we plan to sign more,” said Muyenzi.

The show, which airs on Rwanda Television every Saturday at 9pm and Tuesdays at 10am, also features a guest performer from the region. Some of the guest performers are Dr Ofweneke from Kenya; Captain Khalid — a Germany-based Tanzanian comedian; Daniel Omara, Cotilda and the Queens of Comedy from Uganda.

The show had started off as a free event but then the organisers started charging Rwf2,000 ($2.60) per ticket and then Rwf5,000 ($6) per ticket. “You can’t introduce a new project and charge people. We wanted to first show them what is in stock,  get them to like it, then start charging,” said Muyenzi.

Even though Galaxy Hotel provided them a venue, the show’s organisers realised how expensive setting up the show was. “We have to pay for the lights, sound, production equipment, transport and other charges. Therefore the cost of the tickets is reasonable considering that it includes a free drink,” said Muyenzi.

As part of its future plans, the Comedy Factory wants to find and train more comedians.

Another comedy event that was launched last year is Ijoro rya Rutura, which held its first show in November at Ambassador’s Park in Kigali.

“I noticed that stand-up comedy needs to reach a bigger audience. Our shows would mainly appeal to corporates,” said Arthur Nkusi, the creator of the show and a leading act. The second show took place in December 2016.

Ijoro rya Rutura features comedians who only perform in Kinyarwanda.

The featured acts include Ben Ngani, a prominent radio personality and musician; Niyitegeka Gratiene alias Sekaganda, a prominent poet and actor, known for acting in Seburikoko — a local television series; Rugambwa Jackson alias Ambasaderi w’Abakonsomateri, who has been in various stand-up comedy shows. Another key performer is Nkusi, whose stage name is Rutura.

The show has proven to be a success so far. The organisers plan to host eight shows this year in different districts like Nyarugenge, Huye, Musanze, Kayonza and Rubavu.