A crowd of onlookers, children and adults, stand attentive, their lips momentarily splitting into smiles then hearty laughs. A short man is in character of a bouncer and won’t let a woman twice his size enter what’s portrayed as a nightclub.
Full Stop as he’s later referred to, is the bouncer and is on set for the monthly comedy skits of UG Xtra Comedy. It is rib-cracking showcase of silent comedy.
We are in Tula, Kawempe, a Kampala suburb. At a time when all kinds of gathering is forbidden, stage performances for art such as comedy have been affected.
Sam Yiga leads a group of talented comedians, whose skits he uploads on a YouTube channel, and the internet is loving them.
One skit for instance has been watched more than 20 million times, an enviable figure many local acts would be happy to achieve. It is a skit of a man in a towel ‘fighting’ to retain two women on at a rental in one of the slums.
The slum setting is deliberate, just in sync with the ideas that seeks to comically represent of the lighter side of life in Africa and the drama in lives of people who live therein.
Yiga, a former music manager for artists such as Desire Luzinda is a graduate of arts with a subsidiary in drama, he also holds a diploma in Information Technology (IT).
He says that the concept of running a YouTube channel dedicated to comedy was born out collaborative ideas with the late dancer and comedian Hassan Ssempala alias King Kong.
They started the channel in 2015 with an aim of providing comic relief and at the same time a source of livelihood for talented people.
Yiga identifies their sets and his choices are biased towards townships that easily tell stories of people that live in slums.
There are three sets in Tula from which eight skits will be filmed. In between, I seek to get sneak peeks of some of the personalities. Full Stop, real name Daniel Kizito is actor with disabilities but he would rather that audiences look and appreciate the brighter side his deformity has allowed him achieve.
“I would like people to see and use my nature to find hope and strength that God had his reasons for creating me this way. I am glad to be utilizing it to gain fame and earn a source of income,” the elated actor whose acting career broke out with Amarula Family, under veteran comedian Amooti Omubaranguzi, explains.
His contemporary, Tracy Nassuna aka Buju is a plus size actress who says acting has enabled her overcome societal stigma and mockery.
“I have been able to attract attention in the creative industry. Gravity Omutujju has invited me feature in his music videos and stage performances. I would perhaps not get such gigs if I were the eight waist kind of girl,” she observes.
The other main characters on cast include Sheikh Manala, real name Robert Monday Semakula, Coax, real name Sylvia Katushabe, Dorah, real name Dorothy Magoola and Joker, real name Francis Ojok.
The skits are shot and edited by Meddie Kavulu.
UG Xtra Comedy is the fourth biggest YouTube channel in Uganda, with 912,000 subscribers, Yiga and group are at least paid monthly.
Other outstanding Ugandan channels include comedienne Ann Kansiime, Masaka Kids Africana and singer Eddy Kenzo all at more than one million subscribers.
“To earn from YouTube, you have to have good or interesting content. When you make one thousand subscribers and views of about 150, 000 and you formally ask them to start advertising on your channel as a source of income. I also manage artists’ and other people YouTube channels,” Yiga further explains. To many, the skits border buffoonery. To the comedians, it is money in the pocket.
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