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Nuwagira the rib cracker

Nuwagira performing. Photo by Edgar R. Batte

 

Story teller. Bob Ambrose Nuwagira became a regular on the comedy circuit by performing on his mentor Pablo’s show that used to air on WBS. He is one of the comedians who have impressed audiences on M-Net’s show Comedy Club Live in Kampala. The funny man spoke to Edgar R. Batte

What do you hold as your biggest possession as a comedian?
There are a couple of things I am blessed with. I have the talent of comedy and I have a lot of words, I am a sanguine.

When did you begin this game of using words to crack ribs?
I think the talent had been there from a young age but it had never been exploited. It was not until I joined Makerere University in 2005 that I started to get avenues to do drama at Prime Time (a Christian entertainment gathering every Friday). I was an emcee and knew that as an emcee I needed to crack at least three jokes and it is there that I realised that I had a lot of stories to tell, which when put together, would make for good 20 minutes of comedy. The whole comedy thing in me was born there because today when I meet my OGs (Old Girls) and OBs (Old Boys), they say they knew I would turn into a comedian because I tortured their ribs back then.

What kind of student were you?
I was a joke. Recently, I met one of my teachers from high school (St. Kaggwa High School in Bushenyi) at the Bus Park. She asked me where I was coming from and I told her I was from campus and she broke down into laughter. “Did you make it that far?” she asked me. I was that kind of character that was very unserious, always escaping from school, causing mayhem, making noise but full of surprises. I was clever too.

Well, what course did you pursue at campus?
Information Technology and I am now finishing my research for an MA In Journalism and Communications at Makerere.

What set you apart as a comedian?
I think distinguishing character and real life stories. I usually put my jokes into context. I don’t use one-liners. I can sustain jokes about poverty for about 45 minutes, so story comedy sets me apart.

Since yours is story based comedy, are you always spying on friends and family for your jokes?
Ha ha ha … I would say my jokes are from my day-to-day experiences and what I see. I have gone through and grown in poverty so sometimes I tell jokes about experiences I have gone through.

What inspires the comedian in you?
I don’t find inspiration in big American comedians as is case with many fellow comedians. Western comedy is not our thing so I think African comedians like Pablo are a big inspiration.

But Pablo is your boss, you always work with him at his shows. Any other comedians you can point out?
Bob Nkonsha from Zambia is my favourite.

Do you ever laugh at your own jokes?
That’s what we do. We all laugh at our jokes many times during rehearsal before we tell them on stage. Intuition is, if it can’t make me laugh it might not make another person laugh.

When did you take the bold step of becoming a comedian?
In 2006, when I joined mainstream comedy as a member of Pablo Live Show. It was initially another hobby but then here I was earning from it, the boy that used to walk to the show would now return to my campus room with deep pockets.

Was this an informed decision?
Yeah, the way I do comedy is like the way a cow gives milk because a cow does not give milk to profit the dairy man, so if it was talent or hobby fate has led me to do what I am supposed to do.

What’s your favourite joke?
It is a joke about pilao. I contrast the way we eat pilao and how Muslims eat it. Muslims sit down and eat in small communities whereas we sit at tables and use forks, so naturally Muslims have eaten more rice and have better skills.

Do you ever have serious moments?
That’s a challenge even when I try doing the most serious things.

When have you tried to be serious and failed to pull off a serious face?
I was given a task to inspect an examination at Makerere University. The more I tried to put on a serious face, the more the students laughed at me because, I guess, despite trying to mean business these guys saw a joker so what I did was to let someone supervise the first part and I only came in later to collect the sheets on which the exams had been done.

You love politics, this being one of your favourite stage subjects, who is your favourite politician?
John Ken Lukyamuzi. He says one thing and does another. But I also like making jokes about fat people because there are advantages of being fat. If you have a fat person in your car the centre of gravity of that car goes down hence fewer accidents. Fat people don’t have to bend when showering. They have flaps on their body so they open the flap, put in soap and continue bathing. One time after making jokes about fat people, a fat lady came backstage and asked why I had stigmatised her, but I explained that I had just been joking.

You have really got mileage on M-Net’s Comedy Club Live show …
Yes, Comedy Club Live brings the best African comedians on one platform but it i shot from different African cities every year. It began in Nigeria with the Comedy Club Live in Lagos. In its second season we had the first Ugandan Pablo, going for it in Lagos. I first featured in the third season that was shot in Mombasa. Pablo, and another Ugandan, one Kizito also featured. The fourth season was shot in Kampala and it is currently showing on M-Net with more Ugandan comedians.

As a two-time participant, how do you think Uganda has fared in this continental comedy show?
I realised that Uganda has some of the best comedians in Africa because after the show in Mombasa everyone on the crew and the producers were very delighted with our presentation, which I believe paved way for the shooting of season four in Kampala.

What exposure has this comedy club given you as a comedian?
I have gotten a global platform. I remember getting a message on my Facebook wall from a lady who watched the show from Harare, Zimbabwe and she told me she had to look out for me to congratulate me and she hopes to see me in Zimbabwe one day. Recently I was in Tanzania’s capital Dar es Salaam for a mega East African comedy show which featured Kenya’s Mdomo Baggy and Tanzania’s Evans Bukuku. I got a good reception.

Do you subscribe to the argument that we are having an overdose of comedy now that almost every nook and cranny hosts a comedy night?
Yes, in the western world, comedians hold occasional shows but I think our weekly shows may be too much.

So is it a case of too much jokes or too many jokers?
If you think you have too many jokers wait when politicians join comedy, you will then have too many jokes and jokers.

What is the biggest amount of money you have earned from comedy?
$1,200 (about Shs2.8m) for a show here in Kampala.

Did you take your girlfriend to share some of it?
No, unfortunately I don’t have one. I have many in a crowd but I don’t have time to give due attention and then handle the stress that comes with that stuff.

But you do not look a coward. I believe you can handle stress that comes with the ladies since you relieve others of it …
But you see we are never taken serious. Everyone thinks we are simply jokers.

But your mentor and friend Pablo is married…
That’s why I salute that brother. I need to contact him so he can give me advice on how he framed himself to be perceived serious by his woman.

Don’t girls come hitting on you?
Yes, of course. This is always expected when you’re in the limelight and are progressing well. But being a comedian also helps a lot … you consider it a joking matter and ignore.

What is your last word?
Young people should embrace talent. They can be as much as they want to be or would have imagined by pursuing their talents. In many cases you can make it in life better than when you are doing a white collar job.

 

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