Comedy star: Ann Kansiime is by far the biggest stand-up comedienne in Uganda, East Africa and one of the best in Africa. She has travelled and performed in different parts of the world and has won several accolades and fans. Kansiime will hold her first One-Woman show on Thursday, March 24 at Imperial Royale Hotel. Darius Mugisha caught up with her and they talked about her career, relationship, business and the future of comedy.
What took you so long to do a one-woman show?
I wanted to do a show when I felt ready and one woman enough to satisfy the audience. Trust me, I have travelled and had really good shows, but half the time I was on stage, I felt indebted to do a big show back home. It is now that I feel more than ready.
What’s different about this show that we haven’t watched in your video clips or at the five star madness shows at the National Theatre?
This show is an incorporation of so many things I have done before and those that people have never seen. For example, I do not sing or dance at the theatre, so I am going to sing, dance, do standup comedy and so many other things that many people haven’t seen me do.
Many people think that you are bigger than Fun Factory and that you would do a lot better off on your own; have you thought about going solo?
In life, many children grow up and become big, but no matter how big they get, they never grow bigger than their parents. So, I also feel the reason I am big as people see me, is because of Fun Factory and I can never grow bigger than them. I am big enough to be with them, but I will never grow bigger than them.
How did you join comedy?
I was doing a radio drama called Rock Point 256; it had almost everyone in the current Fun Factory. So in 2008, they had another production themed ‘Anasty good story,’ and they gave me a role; I have never left the theatre since then.
Have you thought about nurturing other comedians?
I am already doing that through the Queens of Comedy show – an initiative I started with Cotilda. Unfortunately, along the way, my schedule couldn’t let me get involved the way I hoped to. But I have tried to encourage as many girls as possible. At a later time, I plan to expand it to bring in other female comedians from across Africa and make it a continental affair.
Many celebrities are involved in charity work, how have you given back to the community?
Of course, you can’t come from a background like mine and get just quarter way where I am now and you don’t extend a helping hand whenever you can. I started ‘The Kansiime Foundation’ last November and I am helping children further their education.
So far we have been to Kanungu and Kabale; I went to Mparokitanga – a village where I grew up, at the school my father attended and got 10 children, I went to Kabale Primary School, where I studied my primary school, got another 10 children, and 10 others from my mother’s former school and I am footing their school dues. All these children are in P.7, and I chose them because being candidates proves that they want to stay in school.
What would you say is the biggest show you have done so far?
(thinks for a while…) I think that would be Zimbabwe; I was booked for a single show on a Saturday, but upon arrival on Friday, I was told that the only way I could perform in Zimbabwe, was only if I agreed to do a second show.
I accepted and the second show was placed on Sunday at midday, three hours before my flight. I performed for an hour and jumped into a car straight to the airport. It was a great thing, to feel such demand for me.
What are some of the challenges you face performing in a foreign land?
You have no control over the production of the show. For example, if you are hosted by someone who is famous to have the worst sound, you wouldn’t know. But it has all been a journey full of lessons.
In December, Fun Factory had their seven star madness show at Kampala Serena Hotel, why Imperial Royale?
I wanted Serena, but it was unfortunately booked out. However, we have a good relationship with Imperial Royale and they wanted to be partners, so I am sure all will be well.
What are your expectations for this show?
(Takes a deep breath…) Man, I am even struggling to imagine myself on stage; but all I can promise is this is going to be a fantastic show. Ugandans are going to be very proud or even more proud of me; I want them to see how better they have made me. I am happy that by the time I will be done with the show, I will be a better Ugandan.
Who is that one comedian you look upto?
I know this will sound obvious, but I wish I could say someone else. It is definitely Trevor Noah; He is not even living his dream, he is living the dream of someone he saw in his dream. He is where every African comedian would love to be. I’m not speaking about Basket Mouth or Salvado – I wouldn’t guess where those ones would want to be, but I would love to at least achieve half of what Noah has achieved.
They say every performer has stage fright; what’s yours?
I always catch stage fright even for a crowd I perform for everyday. But the stage fright I get for a new crowd is always new fright.
Can you explain it?
Have you ever felt like you want to use the toilet, but when you get to the toilet, nothing comes out? That’s the kind of fright I get; and it always comes about two minutes before I step on stage. I feel constipated, start sweating, but a few seconds on stage, everything gets back to normal.
You start seeing faces you do not like in the audience, you even find offence in your friends sitting in front where you can easily identify them. I think every performer needs to have stage fright and once someone lacks it, they are likely to take their audience for granted.
We heard you were among the entertainers that were paid to perform for President Museveni.
Where did you hear that from? Who saw me getting paid? I think it is probably because of that photo of me posing with the President. But let me put it straight; I am not and will never apologise for that photo.
Let me tell you something; this Mukiga girl came to Kampala on a bus and one of the things I would never have dreamt of is shaking the President’s hand. Imagine getting an invitation to have dinner with the President – a chance for me and him to breathe the same air – what could change my mind? The handshake and photo opportunity, I hadn’t anticipated it!
I am Kansiime, I am Ugandan and I won’t apologise for a picture with the President.
But did you receive any money to perform for the President?
No, I did not!
What’s your take on the recent threats to boycott ‘Tubonga Naawe’ artistes?
I think that is a direct attack on their livelihoods. Everyone has a right to do things the way they want; if that is what they chose and the Opposition has chosen that, let’s wait and see who wins.
You had an introduction a few years ago, when should we expect the wedding?
Eh! Did I tell you when the introduction was going to happen? Just wait, you will see the photos of the wedding when they come out. And don’t ask me about children either, they will come. Do you think I once expected to find my husband or him to find me?
Being a fairly beautiful woman and famous, you must get so many men hitting on you, how do you handle them?
(Laughs out loud…) you should instead be worried about how they handle my response. But I pity such men, because you have to be ready to answer so many questions and table your qualifications to see if you can ably pose as stiff competition to Ojok. I haven’t found any man that can compete, so my husband is still safe.
You travel often; how do you juggle your relationship, other businesses and work?
My job is very clear; my partner is fully aware that my unavailability at home is purely for the best of us both.
But I handle the situation the same way other CEOs who travel a lot do. But on the other hand, I like the way things are. Whenever I return home, my husband has missed me and we always have some kind of mini-honeymoon.
So on the other hand, my schedule has helped our relationship maintain a spark.
Someone would wonder; did you study comedy?
No. It is what I wanted, but I failed to get in on government sponsorship and my parents said they wanted to pay for something they thought I did not know, so I did Social Sciences, but my passion was always acting.
How did the idea of recording short clips and posting them come up?
It started when I was part of Minibuzz. There was a serious segment and a lighter side of the day’s discussion, so I started acting out the lighter side. We started posting the clips on Youtube and by the time I left Minibuzz, I could afford to record my own video clips.
How much have these clips brought you?
Brought? I would like to believe they are still bringing. They have brought me prestigious recognition; for example, last year I got an award I did not see coming – the silver burton from Youtube. That is something I had ever dreamt to be possible.
Did it come with a cash prize?
No. It was a reward for my page clocking 100,000 subscribers. So the beauty is that once a page grows to that magnitude, its ripe for commercialisation. So this means that people can advertise on my clips and I earn some money. And yes there are adverts on some clips already.
What have you achieved from comedy?
It has made me a pleasant member of my family – it is always nice when you have a little extra pocket money. It has attained me some level of comfort; I have everything I need, but not everything I want. And I have been able to at least spare enough to give back.
Artistes in Uganda are known to flaunt their achievements; any houses, luxurious cars?
I have a car, it moves from one place to another, its fuel consumption is very good and it has AC.
Which type of car?
(sounding unsure…) Oba what is it called? I think it is a Pajero; it has two doors. I don’t know things to do with cars; that is my fiance’s job.
Any houses, property?
It is coming; everything is coming. I have my ka piece of land or two, but that is not stuff to make noise about.
In your view, what is the future of comedy in Uganda?
OMG,We are still so far! I think we are doing things we should have done about 10 years ago. I am sure 10 years ago, there would have been several one-woman shows. But I think we are on the right track; very soon we are going to have people doing ‘one woman shows’ for poetry. And with social media, we are bound to do wonders.
Which female comedian do you consider your competition in Africa?
(Thinks hard…) Competition? No, I wouldn’t call it competition. Well, I think Africa should watch out for Manuela. She is a young Nigerian girl who does clips like mine, but she is only about 10 or 12 years old.
About the show
Dubbed ‘I am Kansiime,’ the event will go down in Ugandan history as the first ever – One-woman comedy show.
The show is slated for next week, March 24, (Holy Thursday) at Imperial Royale Hotel, behind Serena.
It will be sponsored by Ciroc, Spark TV, the Kansiime Foundation and Kubby’s Bar.
Entry fee is Shs100,000 for a single ticket, Shs3m for a table of 10 (VIP/Gold), and Shs5m VVIP (Platinum).
The Platinum table comes with free drinks, eats and 10 copies of the first DVD of ‘Dont Mess with Kansiime’, free music CDs titled ‘My name is Kansiime.’
Gates open at 6pm and Kansiime will be serving Ciroc cocktails at the lounge to her fans who will arrive early. Kansiime will perform for two hours. Besides Fun Factory, there are a few other surprise performers on the lineup.