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I couldn’t turn down the President

10 years of Salvado: Patrick ‘Salvado’ Idringi is one of the many comedians who got their big break with reality show Stand Up Uganda. He has since gone on to grace stages in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Mauritius. Andrew Kaggwa caught up with him ahead of his10-year anniversary in comedy.

What did you think about Ugandan comedy before M-Net’s Stand up Uganda?

I was naive. I thought all it took was going on stage and making people laugh since I used to tell funny stories at home.

The industry was never defined; you had Amarula Family doing skits and a lot of other things on stage. Their shows, Akabadi K’Omwaka, at times had the same content. Then there was Fun Factory, a group that made people laugh on a weekly basis; my favourite was Pablo because he did something I related with – stand up. They had skits and stand up, which was confusing for many of us who wanted to be comedians. When Stand Up Uganda happened, we changed the way we perceived comedy – the competition streamlined the industry, people saw the difference between stand up, mime and skits.

Do you ever feel like comedy is always feeding off music?

Comedy is in a good place right now, that is why we have many weekly comedy shows. Today, I could say comedy has gained presence that can rival music. You will find us at weddings, TV and radios as hosts and also at music shows.

Even with the shared presence, music has a financial command comedy doesn’t. For instance, I may get paid Shs2m for an hour and Sheebah will be paid Shs3m to perform two songs because that is a standard they have set for their craft.

But Ugandans still love music more than any other form of art. When we were starting out, we used to host artistes at our shows and all those that had Bebe Cool in them would sell out. Many comedy shows depend on music stars to attract a crowd.

Comedians came together to start The Uganda Comedians Association, which issues would you want them to handle first?

Insurance. I wish one of the first things to sort is the need for insurance for comedians. It breaks my heart when we have to fundraise for a sick comedian because they cannot pay their bills. We want people to subscribe to the association and I know we can find an insurance company that can work with us.

Then of course the unprofessionalism in the industry. For many of the shows where comedians have acted in awkward ways, there is more than a person responsible, either the organiser, the comedian or the audience.

For instance, most of the vulgar comedians have tried clean jokes and people did not react, when they were vulgar, the audience almost died.

Of course it is also a common thing for many comedians to stay in the same dimension that worked magic for them, it is sticking with the winning formula.

You are celebrating 10 years in comedy, what influenced your choice of comedians for this show?

Tonight’s show is special because it is 10 years of me performing and it is also my birthday. I chose the comedians I curated because of the relationship I have with them, working with them both in Uganda and on international stages.

Initially, this being 10 years of Salvado, I wanted to have people that have inspired me over the years, I was looking at having Chaka Demus and Pliers come around and we had even planned to jam together at one point, but I was told one of them cannot travel by air and the other alternative would have been very expensive.

This being a Valentine’s Day show, we thought of Harmonize, so it was also our chance of having a Tanzanian on the show since none of the lined up comedians is Tanzanian.

Art and politics are always crossing paths and you have crossed paths with politics, how do you navigate the waters?

You cannot divorce art from politics, they have been influencing each other for generations. Even if you stay away from politics, you will find yourself in the middle of it.

In 2018, I was against the Over the Top Tax (OTT) on data and I joined the fight, but in the middle of it, I noticed people wanted us to protest dressed up in a certain way and that is when I withdrew.

Then recently, I was planning my show when I received a call from Balaam telling me I had a meeting with the President the next day. Regardless of who you are, you cannot turn down the President; we were with him for six hours talking about different things and I told him about my show at Kololo.

I told him I was waiting for clearance from the Ministry of Defence but if all was well, he was welcome to buy a table; when he heard I was waiting for clearance, he called someone and asked them to help me at no cost.

I have heard people attacking me that I was paid but I did not receive a penny from the President, although I saved money I should have used to pay for the venue.

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