Cracking ribs. Bugingo did a drama degree at Makerere because it is the course he got on government scholarship, but he hoped to do something else with his life. Fate had otherwise and he has no regrets, writes Edgar R. Batte
Who is Hannington Bugingo?
He is a simple short man with a simple profile like Ragga Dee says.
Are you okay with being called a short man?
Yeah because that’s something natural. I will never be tall. I have tried to become taller but things jammed.
What efforts did you engage in to try to become tall?
I used to put on big shoes with thick soles but it was too much work, so with time I gave it up and accepted to be myself.
We know you as a comedian, who is the Bugingo we don’t know?
The Bugingo you don’t know is a businessman with hands spread on a number of projects. I am a family man and married with kids.
Among the many projects you work on is one at Metropolitan Republic, what do you do there?
I am their Creative Strategist. We handle advertising for clients like MTN.
Tell me about being a family man… are you as funny a family man as you are in your career?
I am very close to my kids and yes I like playing with them so they enjoy my funny side. We play like we are age mates. I am a dream dad.
Who is a dream dad?
A dad that inspires his children. A case in point is when I take one of my kids to school, he brags to his friends that I am his dad. He is now a bigger celebrity in his school, as his dad is on TV.
By the way, how many children do you have?
Tell me about their mum…
She is a very simple woman. She’s a quiet, lovely woman who works with Bank Of Africa.
How did you two meet?
We met through a friend of mine some time ago in Bukoto.
Did you have a gig in Bukoto?
No. I had gone to see my friend and when I saw her, I was impressed and I finished her off.
What do you mean with ‘finish her off’?
I swept her off her feet. She got finished.
Given that you’re a comedian wasn’t it hard for you to convince her that you seriously like her?
Ha ha ha…I think she saw a husband in me. Other people saw a joker in me, yet with her things were different, so it wasn’t very difficult.
When did you discover the comedian in you?
When I was at campus, just towards the end of my second year. I was a pursuing my Bachelors degree in drama and we had gone to Mbale to do practical exams. We were performing a play titled The Bear and I was the lead actor. The audience applauded me quite a lot. They were impressed with my acting so I convinced myself that I could act.
Was drama your dream course?
No. It is one of those courses where you get a government scholarship and pursue it thinking you will do something different. As a kid I dreamt of becoming a lawyer or doctor. I didn’t think that drama would give me a comfortable and professional living.
So how did you come to terms and accept making jokes as your way of making living?
It was partly because of my lecturer Phillip Luswata. After that play, we talked about starting a comedy outfit and Theatre Factory was born.
So was Theatre Factory your idea?
Not really. It was Luswata’s idea but I was but was part of the founding members.
So how do you then drive the idea forward to form Theatre Factory?
We were in Mbale for two weeks and when we returned we met formally. It was myself Luswata, Kwezi Kaganda, Farouq Twesigye, Faith Kimuli, Julius Lugaya and Frobisher Lwanga.
So what happens after the meeting?
We used to meet at TLC, which was located on George Street for rehearsals thrice a week. We had three plays, The Ghost Story, The Bear and another play whose title I don’t remember. We would meet and rehearse these plays and before we began officially we came up with short skits. Like they say, the rest is history.
Wait a minute, when did you first officially perform as a group?
Mid-September 2003. I was still at campus.
What was the audience reception to your performance as a group?
Because it was something new, people couldn’t believe that Ugandans would make them laugh but with time through word of mouth more of them came around after their friends told them we could actually tickle them.
You began without your current main members Richard Tuwangye and Dickson Zizinga…when did they join the group?
They joined after four or five months.
How did they join? Did they audition?
We were together at campus with Tuwangye, Veronica Namanda and Dickson Zizinga was a cab driver on Dewinton Road. He was acting with Christopher Mukiibi’s The Theatricals. Luswata spotted him (Zizinga) as a funny man and he asked him to join us.
Is it true that when your started out you were paid chips, tomato sauce and salads after performance?
That’s very true.
Why was this?
The owner of TLC, Dr. Toe, I don’t remember his second name, said we were not making money. Revellers at the time were few and he was offering us a free venue as there was no money.
For how long did you have chips and tomato sauce as your pay?
For two or three months then people began coming in and we began getting a ka 5k or 10k.
For how long were you at Club TLC and why did you leave?
We were there for six months but the place had begun filling to capacity and Dr. Toe was not paying us because he said he had invested in us but we were not convinced he had invested in us so we moved on in protest, to National Theatre. We started afresh and filled the National Theatre gardens.
And after a while you yet again moved on in protest splitting from Theatre Factory to form Fun Factory. What was your reason for moving on?
There were many things. Where do I start? I think we had different ideas on where the company ought to have been heading.
You mean each of you or you guys against your former lecturer, Luswata?
(Looks at me, laughing)
What was the most contentious issue or issues?
Okay the directors, Phillip Luswata and Julius Lugaya went ahead to buy a van yet we did not agree because we thought we could have invested in something different, like something that would make money but not a private car.
It’s now two years or so you guys became Fun Factory, how has your journey been?
Not bad. We are not complaining. We still have our sponsors NTV and Mirinda. We still hold out weekly shows.
You’ve been hopping from place to place and word has it that you are returning to National Theatre. How true is this?
Wow. How do you know that man? Anyway, that is very true. About hopping from place to place, when we left Theatre Factory we moved to Pan World because it was the nearest place but our fans complained about cars coming in and going out as the performances went on. It was a washing bay. We had to find another place and we moved to Hotel Africana poolside where the weather was not friendly.
I heard one of the managers at the hotel made it hard for you too…
Yeah, that is also true. So we moved to Plaza Cinema and while there we heard that Theatre Factory was no more. That’s when we were contacted by National Theatre management and we talked and came to an agreement.
So when do you officially return to National Theatre?
On October 4. We shall be performing in the auditorium every Thursday.
The cat in the bag is that you are planning to do things differently when you move back … tell us about your plans..
It will be fresh, intriguing and rib-cracking comedy. It will be dubbed 5-Star Madness where we are going to perform our 50 best skits as requested and chosen by our fans.
Are you comfortable with the fees National Theatre management is charging you?
Yes we are.
Have you been attacked for characters you portrayed during your stage performances?
Yes when I have portrayed the Basoga, Muslims and Batooro.
What do they do or say to you?
The Basoga say they are not as daft as I portray them and so for Batooro fans.
Who are your favourite local comedians?
Amooti of Amarula Family and Dickson Zizinga. When you look at them you will laugh. They are spontaneous. We call them natural comedians.
Away from the comedian you are, what thing you love doing in life?
Football is number one. I am a staunch Arsenal fan. I also love hanging out with my buddies.
Where do you hang out?
Amnesia, Club Silk, Guvnor and The Junction.
Are you a spiritual person?
Very spiritual. I pray every Sunday even when I have a hangover.
What is your favourite Bible verse?
(Thinks for a minute…. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
What are your last words?
Thanks to all our fans and the almighty God for making us who we are.