Masters on the decks: The advent commercial comedy as an art form on the local entertainment scene boosted an industry that had been monopolized by music and theatre. Today, even when comedy is barely 15 years on the scene, it has evolved in the way it is performed, Isaac Ssejjombwe explores a comedy format that is double act based and points out some of the notable names.
The creative industry in Africa is one of the biggest employment sectors. Every year, it keeps getting bigger and better, employing more writers, directors, actors, and comedians spread across different types of mediums.
For instance, even when the Ugandan sector is unmapped, in Nigeria it is known that in 2018, Nollywood alone directly employed 300,000 people and indirectly, more than a million.
The comedy industry in particular has over the last decade showed immense growth and gained popularity by producing unique African acts the world had not seen.
These were names like Trevor Noah, Loyiso Gola, BasketMouth to our own Anne Kansiime, Patrick ‘Salvador’ Idringi and Joseph Opio among others.
While at it, these comedians have creatively turned normal day happenings into artistic expressions, thereby inspiring the continent and the world at large.
Like all other industries, Uganda, has different types of comedians: the always accessible solo performers, groups such as comedy files, Fun Factory and the New Amarula family to mime artistes or silent comedians.
Solo performers or standup acts are the type where a comedian performs while speaking directly to a live audience reciting groupings of humorous stories or one liners known as monologues.
Groups on the other hand, in a Ugandan context usually take on a sketch comedy format made famous by American variety show Saturday Night Live through the 1970s to date.
It has been said that the known format of duo comedy came from England, apparently, since audiences were loud, the act would show up with a side kick whose role was to repeat a joke so that it was not missed.
Then there were pairs that never got along, to the days of Laurel and Hardy, the duo credited for changing the rules of this particular art, past duos had only managed to entertain by being verbally or physically violent towards each other.
As years went on, the duos evolved today, famous duos like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey or coincidental ones like Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph at the Oscars have a thing in common, where standup engage the audience, these engage themselves.
It is a format that sees acts derive humor from their uneven relationship – in Uganda, many of such pairings were mostly born of two actors that found chemistry and a spark while performing in a larger grouping.
Many of them perform in ways of setting jokes up for each other, while others engage in banters.
And of course on and off the Ugandan comedy stage, duos have been a thing that many may not even have realised, from the days of Kato Lubwama and Abby Mukiibi on CBS’ flagship sports shows to Amarula Family’s pairing of Amooti and Paddy Bitama, there has always been a spark when two heads join to crack.
Today, we present other known pairings on the Ugandan scene.
Madrat and chiko
Before they started out as a comic duo, Dickson Lubega alias Madrat and Frank Mubiru alias Chiko were a DJ and actor respectively belonging to the same group. On realising they both had a soft spot for sketch comedy, the two came together and have taken the scene by storm. Later today, they will hold the second edition of their Nseko Buseko annual shows at Imperial Royale Hotel.
Why did you quit whatever you were doing for comedy?
Chiko: If I had not quit drama, I think I would not be anywhere because as I speak, the group still exists but our colleagues remained stagnant. They have never excelled.
Madrat: Unlike Chiko, I had a name being a deejay and contrary to his statements, I think I would be somewhere. I only quit that profession because it was delaying my comedy ambitions. I could not do both at the same time.
Where did the idea of comedy come from?
Chiko: I did not know I was a comedian when I started because I did not see it in me. I was a drama actor in some group in Mukono for close to four years before a radio job came calling in 2009. I then joined Dunamis FM in Mukono and it was while on radio that I was told people laughed a lot when I was on air.
Madrat: After Senior Four, I joined Epic Mobile Sounds as their official DJ and it was from there that I learnt how to be an events MC. I partnered with a friend called Baby X with whom we hosted events and with time we were joined by another friend to form the group Malibu Comedians. The name was inspired by Amarula family which was named after a drink. We used to do our events at Total Pub in Mukono, Kisumali, Pride Pub Bweyogerere, 0-one bar in Zzana, among other places.
What makes Madrat and Chiko tick?
Madrat: Before we go for any show, we sit and draw a plan, find out what material we are going to serve the audience. We have different jokes for different crowds. We are not about attracting the loudest cheers but we want to crack jokes that will stick in people’s minds.
How have you guys managed to be together for all this while?
Madrat: First thing is we trust each other, respect each other and come from the same background. We know our positives and negatives but most importantly, we have solutions for things that have ended other people’s relationships and that is money and women. We are both married and share every little we get equally.
How do you feed off each other in comedy?
Chiko: Comedy is totally different from music. Madrat can do a joke and it makes people laugh and I also come up with another that will equally crack their ribs. We complement each other regardless of who has come up with the joke. I always supplement his jokes and so does he to mine. Most time, we even add more content on stage.
Haven’t you ever been tempted to separate?
Chiko: That moment has not come and it is only God who knows. It has never crossed our mind because we resolved the main issues as to why groups separate. No one can be booked for a show without the consent of the other. Of course as people we get our differences but we can’t reach an extent of separating.
Madrat: We are having the 2nd season of our annual shows dubbed ‘Nseko Buseko’. We were laying the foundation during the first season and we are aiming even higher. We are moving forward and concentrating on the brand rather than destroying it.
Having you ever performed without the other at some moment?
Chiko:In the six years we have been doing this, no. Like we said, we are a duo and our fans are used to seeing us together. Even when Madrat had an accident, we postponed the already scheduled shows until he got better.
Musicians rehearse two or more months before the show, is it the same thing with comedy?
Chiko: Yes we have been rehearsing for a very long time not only for the show but for many years now. We had however intensified rehearsals for the show doing it three times a week.
With comedy, we get skits from usual happenings. Politics, music, sports, churches and so on. So it needs rehearsing to perfect those jokes. We have also built more jokes from our experiences. We have been rehearsing in Rubaga at times with the guidance of John Ssegawa. It’s been collective effort.
What should people expect at this show going by the fact that you have been performing on several occasions even with just days to the show?
We will not reveal what we are going to do but we are in a bigger venue, we have Fenon records behind the production, we have Janzi band helping us out, we have surprise acts as well. We could not just ask people to pay shs100,000 when we know our work is shoddy. We are going to deliver the best show and people will love it.