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Laughing with Sevo Mendo

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He leaves fans in stitches: Herbert Ssegujja aka Mendo is a comedian who portrays several characters but he is most popular for his imitation of President Museveni and his Teacher Mpamiire character. He catches up with his fans Ashraf and Jacklyn before he hits the stage for a Fun Factory gig.

When did you start doing comedy?
I started doing comical skits while in primary school by imitating Ssalongo John (a former Radio Uganda presenter), but professionally, I started doing comedy in 2001 by imitating President Museveni.

Can you emcee as well?
No I can’t. Not every good comedian can emcee and vice versa. I concentrate on what I do best and that is comedy.

You play different roles. Mendo Sevo aka Professor Joel, Teacher Mpamiire and Herbert the stand up comedian. Which is your best character and why?
Mpamiire is my best character because it’s costless. I don’t have to buy costumes, its production is so cheap and it’s easier for me to do because it rhymes well with my profession as a teacher.

How are you able to do all the three?
Before, I got a lot of challenges but I sought further training at the American Comedy Institute in New York for a one year programme in comedy courtesy of the President in 2012. That opened my mind to become so versatile.

What has been your best experience in comedy so far?
Actually I have three best experiences. The first was performing before President Museveni and making him laugh and cry out of ecstasy, then performing before Kizza Besigye and then having a show at Gotham Comedy Club in New York which is considered the best in the world. It has hosted international comedians like Bill Cosby, Kevin Hart and Jemmie Fox among others.

And what has been your worst experience ever?
In 2002, I was denied a chance to perform before the President at Kakunkube Technical School near Katonga for security reasons according to the organisers. They thought he wouldn’t take it well for someone making fun out of him.

What was your first big stage?
At former Presidential Private Secretary Amelia Kyambadde’s farewell party at Mbuya and it was my first meeting with President Museveni.

Between comedy and teaching, what would you forego?
Because of social, economical and political factors, I would leave teaching. This is because I was born a comedian and it contributes handsomely to my earning.

Tell us about your family and school background?
I’m the first born of four children. We grew up in Luwero and got civilised in Kampala. My parents, Mr Godfrey Wasswa and Ms Milly Nakyonyi are both deceased. I went to Bowa Primary and Secondary school in Luwero, Kalasa SS for my O’ Level, Greenlight High for my A’Level, Kyambogo University for a Bachelors in Education, Makerere University where I did a Bachelors in Music, Dance and Drama and finally American Comedy Institute where I got a certificate in comedy.

What was the most difficult subject for you in school?
Mathematics was always hard for me. I had a negative attitude towards it. But besides that, I was so good at other subjects, which helped me to always be among the best.

What subjects do you teach and where?
I teach history, at Standard High School, Zzana.

Who is your best comedian in Uganda?
It’s Anne Kansiime because she’s naturally funny, down to earth and is representing us well on the international stage. We call her Comedy Ninja.

How did you join Fun Factory?
I was part of Alex Mukulu’s play Mercy Akatamwa and after seeing how good I was, Bujju (Hannington Bugingo) asked me to make an appearance at Theatre Factory (before it became Fun Factory) and from there, I became a member.

What is the future like for Herbert Ssegujja?
I’m planning Teacher Mpamiire TV show and I’m also planning a school tour to inspire, reach out and transform the young generation.

Thank you so much for your time Herbert.
Thank you too for the support you’ve given me and the entire Fun Factory for the past 10 years, every Thursday.

-Isaac Ssejjombwe

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