10 YEARS ON: This year marks a decade since Daniel Omara, Patrick ‘Salvado’ Idringi and Alex Muhangi emerged winners in the 2010 M-net Stand-up Uganda comedy competition. Omara, who recently established Just Another Comedy Club, a weekly fete, shares the story of his journey and more with Edgar R. Batte.
This year marks 10 years of stand-up comedy in Uganda. What are the wins, losses?
The biggest win for me is that there is still an industry. There is a lot of new talent flowing in, several stable and consistent platforms catering for different audiences, and I am still relevant to my crowd and getting called for major events.
Among the losses, the fact that music is being used to market comedy where you find the biggest face on a comedy night poster is a musician, meaning that we are basically curtain raisers at our own events.
It saddens me when you invite someone to a comedy night and they ask you which musician is performing. I consider it retrogressive, but maybe it is just me.
Give us a peek into the future.
The future of comedy lies in a return to the basics. Comedy needs to be re-established as a self-sustaining art form that can be merged with but is not dependent on other art forms for an audience. Then, sharing knowledge. A lot of comics are amazing raw unchained talents, whom if not well mentored and advised, will be gone in the next two years.
Our duty as pioneers is to ensure they do not repeat our mistakes. Also, stricter standards on content, platform management and administration, so that the output is top notch. Vet the performers and their content if possible, because paying audiences need to get their money’s worth.
At a personal and professional level, how much time do you invest in your craft?
At a personal level, I have invested my life into comedy as an art form. I have ended relationships that upset my mental balance because it is very hard to juggle an audience, punchlines and emotional distress while performing.
I can only do two of those, and emotional distress is not one of them. I read and watch news, travel, debate, argue with people just so I can have an informed yet comic opinion when I write my content.
Plus, regular editing and re-adaptation of material so that it can be more relevant when reused. So I would say, I invest a lot of time. I also spend a lot of time shopping for comfortable clothing for the stage. Suits do not fall in this category.
You headline Just Another Comedy Club, a weekly stand-up comedy fete, what is the catch in the name?
‘Just Another Comedy Club’ as the name suggests, was a result of a creative block. Every time people hear about a new show, their reaction is “another one?”, so we gave them just that: another comedy club, that caters for English and non-vernacular speaking audiences.
It is two hours of laughter, one open mic slot, an opening act, three established comics, and a headliner. I host it and you must note that there are no upcoming comedians because there are no upcoming jokes; only good and bad ones.
What are the three jokes you call to mind and get tickled, and why?
The Olara Otunnu speech joke is a classic for me. The way he uses complex sentences to say basic things: “I am disinclined to aqueous to your request” yet a simple “No” would suffice. I love that set because it is one of my oldest, it is relatable, and most importantly, non-offensive.
I also love the one about how security jobs are second nature to Luos. So all you have to do to start a conversation with an askari is ask him “How is Okello?” Because every Luo has a relative named Okello, the same way every Muganda is related to a Mukasa. It is also one of my first post competition sets of 2009, but still works 10 years on.
Then there is one of my recent favourites, about my nephew who is convinced that the presidential mobile toilet must have the best driver, because it is the one car they cannot afford to overturn.
If comedy on Ugandan stage has to change, what would you like to adopt to deliver better?
Comedians need to stop asking for money from the audience. It is just unfair to demand more from someone who already paid entrance fee and bought drinks or food, the insults and mockery that come with a failure to deliver the desired amount notwithstanding.
Plus, it cheapens the art form as it portrays us as beggars. On the other hand, if you are voluntarily offered money by excited revellers for a great performance, take it. You have earned it.
A unifying body for Ugandan comedians is currently in formation, I feel it is a huge step in the right direction. I cannot wait to see the outcome.
Research, Rehearse, Rewrite. Fact check your sets, perfect your delivery, and add value to your old jokes with new ideas. Recycled jokes should not sound exactly the same every time; make them relevant to the current situation.
Improve your vocabulary in the preferred language of performance. The more words you know, the faster you think, the less likely you are to freeze on stage.
Guard your brand. Monitor yourself, because your past will always be a reference for your behaviour. If people are not comfortable inviting you to religious and family gatherings, then check yourself.
Stay healthy, physically and mentally. Better health means better performance and delivery. Also, it breaks my heart every time we lose a great comic. We have lost too many and we cannot afford to lose any more. Do not kill yourself trying to live ‘the good life’.