War of jokes as comedy rivalry takes over Kigali

Friday April 05 2013

Revellers laugh their hearts out as comedian Patrick Idringi aka Salvador performs during the Comedy Kings Show at Executive Carwash, Kigali, on March 29, 2013. Photo/CYRIL NDEGEYA

First it was in Kampala when a group of comedians who initially performed together under Theatre Factory broke up to set up competing shows on the same days.

This caused intense rivalry, akin to that of musicians, pitting the hitherto friendly rib crackers against each other and now Kigali becomes the latest warzone for the humour trade.

With the entry into Kigali by Comedy Kings recently and a monthly show planned, a sort of rivalry has developed between the new comedy show and the pioneers of comedy in Rwanda – Comedy Knights.

The Comedy Knights, who have been hosting their monthly show at every end of month, have vowed not to give in to the new and seemingly bigger Comedy Kings show, which will be featuring established comedians from around Africa.

Comedy Knights frontman Arthur Nkusi told Rwanda Today that being the pioneers of stand-up comedy in Rwanda, they cannot buckle under the pressure of their senior peers who will be brought in occasionally to perform on the Comedy Kings show.

Kings and Knights in town


“We cannot change our performance schedule because there will be a Comedy Kings show somewhere. We have our loyal fans who will always come to attend our shows,” Nkusi, who is also a presenter of 98.7 KFM, said.

In fact, the Comedy Knights held their show on the same day the Comedy Kings show debuted in Rwanda.

Their performance at Ishyo Arts Centre was well attended indeed, with loyal fans filling up the hall in Kacyiru, but by no means could it compare to the Comedy Kings show at Executive Carwash which was completely sold out.

The Comedy Kings show featured well established comedians in the region including Eric Omondi from Kenya, Patrick Idringi Salvador and Anne Kansiime from Uganda, OMG from Nigeria and homeboy David Ndahiro alias PK, who has mastered imitating President Paul Kagame.

Anyone would be pardoned for thinking that Rwandans are not accustomed to comedy shows.

Indeed, compared with other countries in the region especially Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, comedy is not yet fully rooted in the Rwandan culture.

Rwandans are naturally seen as people who don’t entirely appreciate comedy, always minding their business and walking about with some sense of seriousness.

In fact, the first crop of comedians in Rwanda, who include the likes of Ndjoli Kayitenkole alias Kanyombya, are looked upon with some sort of ridicule but if the attendance of the two comedy shows is anything to go by, Rwandans have finally caught the comedy bug.

Overcrowded venue

Chaos reigned as hundreds, if not thousands, tried to squeeze into the overcrowded Carwash gardens to catch a glimpse of the regional comedy stars. By 8.30pm, pockets of people were going back in frustration after failing to find parking for their cars and a place to watch the comedians from.

The organisers Curtsy Management had to inflate the entrance fee to turn away the anxious comedy lovers but that did not deter them.
The show was impressive, despite being the first, as if the organisers wanted to test the waters.

Known for her NTV Minibuzz videos widely viewed on Youtube in Rwanda, Anne Kansiime was the ultimate crowd puller. She is not known for live performances but Kansiime proved that she can do what she does on camera on stage without breaking sweat.

Salvador and Eric Omondi on the other hand are stage masters, having made a name as regional stand-up comedians.

Teaming along with Ndahiro, whose antics to imitate the Rwandan leader have made him a household name, the comedians pulled off a massive show.

Also stealing the show was Renee Nsengiyumva who was actually the MC but turned out to be a good comedian himself. It was an evening of laughter as the curtains fell down at around 11pm.

On the other side of town, the Comedy Knights too sold out despite fears that the Comedy Kings would claim a lion’s share of Kigali’s comedy lovers.

Inflated entrance fee

The Knights had inflated the entrance fee from the usual Rwf2,000 to Rwf5,000 but that did not deter their loyal fans. Theirs was crowned by a live musical performance featuring Tom Close.

According to Nkusi, the Comedy Knights are planning an even bigger event at the end of June while Curtsy Management is also planning another mega show of the Comedy Kings at the end of May.

According to Eric Mugisha, other big names in the region will be brought in, including Churchill from Kenya and Uganda’s Kenneth Kimuli, who is commonly known as Pablo.

Chances are, the dates will collide again as the comedians try to rule Kigali.

Seemingly in the game of comedy as we see in the region, one group has to rule over the other. There is no equal ground. In all this, Kigalians will be the winners as they will be treated to a full dose of comedy in future.