‘WHY COMEDY NEARLY DIED’
The Inconvenient Truth
Five years ago it was new and exciting. It even managed to break the dominance of music on TV and Drama in the theatres with comedy being included in the two entertainment genres. The young industry got unavoidable attention and soon became a money-minting and career-making venture. ***Kaboom*** the Calamity struck.
Comedians became overnight celebrities of sorts, every promoter came after comedians, every bar started a comedy night, and every radio station came after the comedians.
Comedy became littered all over Kampala with little or no innovation.
The comedians abandoned creativity, repeated jokes, pirated jokes, became vulgar and Comedy as an industry suffered.
The patient Ugandan audience got disappointed seeing the same jokes on stage almost every week. They took off, they gave up, they resorted to other things.
Any ‘innovation’ that was introduced was not actually an innovation but rather giving a show a different name and then doing the same thing the audience ran away from.
The media cried out. Sometimes it went overboard in its criticism but there was something constructive that we the comedians ignored. The audience read the media stories, believed them and disassociated from comedy. It wasn’t their problem; they simply made a choice, to see the same old stuff repackaged or to just ignore.
However, Standup Comedy is not dead. It is very much alive. The top comedians like the Pablos, Prince Ehmahs, Idringis, Amootis of this world as still making some bucks from it and it funds almost their entire livelihood.
There just needs to be a total overhaul, a whole shift from everything old to something new.
For a change to be seen, the following must happen;
1- Comedians can not perform week in week out on the same stage. Comedy needs research and there ought to be enough time for a comedian to research before hitting the stage again. This will eliminate the issue of repetition and burn-out.
2- The business of having ten (10) comedians perform on one stage on a given night is outdated. It helps comedians ‘hide’ behind others and their weak performances are covered up by the brilliance of another comedian on the night. So this will help weed out substandard performances, encourage research and improve the comedians.
3- Show organizers should be organized. The Premier League is interesting because you wait a full week to watch a match. If soccer was played everyday, it wouldn’t be this interesting. The same goes for comedy. Having comedy nights on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…all the way to Sunday using the same comedians has created unnecessary monotony, repetition and made it less attractive in the eyes of the audience.
THE WAY FORWARD
In regard, I and my team at Laftaz have resolved to lead this Comedy Revolution and bring life into comedy, making it attractive to the audience and give the sponsors value for their sponsorship. This is what is going to happen.
Laftaz Comedy Lounge has introduced a style of presentation that is used in the USA, Nigeria, South Africa and many countries with a strong comedy industry.
Every comedian shall have his night where he is the main act (performing for 30-45 minutes) with jokes he has researched and perfected for over a month. He will have a host and an opening act and a live band to spice up the show.
He will then proceed with that ‘package’ to Laftaz (Jinja Branch), Mbale and Mbarara in some sort of ‘regional tour) It will be a month or two before that comedian returns to the stage in Kampala again after enough research and perfection.
There will also be International African comedians hosted, for purposes of giving the audience a different flavour and helping the young comedians learn from the seasoned professionals
This will help curb vulgarity, repetition, and substandard performances.
Let’s face it, Standup Comedy in its current format will not sell no matter how much it is advertised, whether it is held at Laftaz, Serena, La Bonita, Namugongo Matyrs Shrine or Gaddafi Mosque, it just needs a new format. Professionalizing it is the only way to go and this will surely bring the audience back, bring life into comedy, attract the sponsors once again and take the industry to an international level.