July 1 was the International Comedy Day. The day was first commemorated 31 years ago and was designated to high light the uniqueness and value of comedy. In many countries the International Comedy Day celebrates the contributions of comedians in the popularisation of theatre. This is why most events created to celebrate this day feature stand up comedian.

This in many respects, is a recognition of the view that effective merchants of comedy and the most successful theatre practitioners in the whole world today are stand up comedians. It is also an indication that stand-up comedy is the fastest growing theatre art form as can be demonstrated by the emergence each year of very viable comedy festivals .

The ever increasing number of stand-up comedians from South Africa who have found a viable theatre market in Harare is a good demonstration of the huge growth in comedy appreciation in Zimbabwe.

During Hifa 2011, the numbers of theatre goers who attended the 7 Arts Theatre performance of the London based Malawian stand-up comedian, Daliso Chaponda, demonstrated clearly its growing popularity.

The Malawian comedian was a major hit. All his shows at that big theatre were sold out. He attracted a huge audience from very diverse cultural backgrounds and social classes.

Daliso Chaponda's "Laughafrica" demonstrated how viable ,portable, inexpensive, easily accessible and very entertaining stand-up comedy can be if the art form is mastered proficiently and the audience who will consume it has been well considered.

The Zimbabwean theatre industry should use this day to consider ways of developing stand-up comedians as well as viable promotion of this form of theatre. The number of Zimbabwean stand up comedians in the field is very small. Those who few years ago showed tremendous promise in theatre form such as Victor Mavedzenge, John Pfumojena and Baba Shupi are still to attracted viable audience at home and abroad.

The most visible and no doubt most viable of our stand up comedians in Carl Joshua Ncube who began his world performance tour on 22nd May with a sow in Bulawayo.

Carl Joshua Ncube is taking his "Brand Zimbabwe" act to 37 cities around the round. The countries on his itinerary include China, Nigeria, United States of America, Zambia, Uganda, Botswana and the United Kingdom. He is scheduled to end his world tour with a show in Harare in August.

One of the most promising and in fact the pioneer of stand-up comedy in Zimbabwe is Edgar Langeveldt whose sharp commentary of the local socio-political issues enabled him to win the prestigious Prince Claus award a few years ago. For unknown reasons, the comedian's career came to a sudden halt soon after he won the prestigious award. Fans still expected this accomplished comedian to return to the stage in ordinary theatre and stand-up comedy. Many people had expected the financial resources that accompanied the prestigious award to firm his career as a stand-up comedian.

A recent entry into stand up comedy is the Harare based Kenny Konscious (Kenny Chivizhe) of Krack Komedy Company who is billed to perform his "Tine hunhu" comedy show on 30 July at the Chi Expo at the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex. Kenny Konscious is not new to theatre. He began his fray into the theatre in 1985 as a member of The Youth Medley Club of Gweru, with Jonah Mungoshi, Gracian Chimwaza and Tarisai Chingeye.

The group acted, sang and played musical instruments. Kenny Konscious writes in his personal promotional profile: "I think we were among the first unpublished group to do rap music albeit influenced by the western break dance music. We performed at the first ever Star Brite Show with Prudence Katomeni."

Musical comedy or appropriately comedy music, which in post independent Zimbabwe was popularised by such artists as Safirio Madzikatire, Steve "Dhongi" Makoni, Tanga Wekwa Sando, Paul Matavire and Marko Sibanda, has continued to grow.

Recently the baton in the race of promoting this genre of performing arts has been taken by Kapfupi - the street theatre practitioner and pop star who has effectively blended his street theatre comedy into sungura and jiti music that is loaded with sharp commentary on the contemporary social scene best illustrated by his hit song and drama "Mai Nga' which features some of his former street theatre practitioners.

Kapfupi's story telling technique is enriched by his mastery of Shona and Chewa languages coloured by contemporary urban idiomatic expressions.

Like Mukadota, and Paraffin the doyens of Zimbabwean television comedy Kapfupi's attire and adventurous choice of costumes has enhanced the uniqueness of his comic character.

The area of radio and television drama have witnessed a significant dearth in Zimbabwean comedy.

The passing on of Mukadota, Mutirowafanza, and Paraffin seem to have robbed the nation of dramatists who were masters in creating comedy firmly rooted in our traditional comedy of manners and characters.

Timmy and Bonzo, the odd couple of television comedy bade farewell to television audiences when their type of comedy was just beginning to be understood and appreciated.

Recent indications that Bonzo is fighting hard to retain his voice seem to indicate that the couple may never again return to the screen with their highly contextualised comedy hidden in cultural situations similar to those that pre-occupied the Mukadota Family comedy of the 1980's. Lazarus Boora as Gringo remains the most versatile present day comedian whose return to television is awaited.

Those who have been following Zimbabwe's stage theatre will have noted the dwindling numbers of comedy on the stage. What we have witnessed is satire that has not adequately wrapped up in creative comedy.

At independence some of the pioneers in comedy were Ben Sibenke and Cathy Kuleya who in their rendition of Sibenke's "Chidembo Chanhuwa" produced the comic effect that Mutirowafanza and Cathy Kuleya exhibited later in their television drama. This trend has not flourished. [Source: allafrica.com]


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