Over the past few years, being funny in Africa has become a lucrative career. Even in struggling economies, people are opening up to the idea of laughter as an essential of their balanced diets. With the advent of social media, comedy is now more accessible than ever at close to nothing. The debate of whether this is profitable for the performers is separate from the mere fact that social media, particularly Whatsapp has propped up comedians and breathed life into the industry. Now more than ever before, Africa has a large number of performers but the listed are arguably the most popular of the bunch. You cannot trust your ribs with these comedians, they could crack and break them.
Trevor is one of the most successful comedians to rise from Africa. He was born to a Swiss father and a Xhosa mother and this had huge influences on his relatable but unique comedic voice. He is the type of performer who almost gets everyone from every demographic sect because of his mixed upbringing. He was the first South African to sell out a one man show and true to his record breaking character, he took over from Jon Stewart as host of ABC’s “The Daily Show”. BBC crowned him Africa’s best comedian in its 2015 list. Trevor has been featured on the cover of GQ South Africa and has been profiled in Rolling Stone, Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal. His name is synonymous to pure comedy success.
Basket Mouth, the man, the myth and the legend was born and raised in Abia State, Nigeria. He is one of the most known African performers and for good reason too. He was the first African to host a show at the Apollo in London. His bar is forever high with performances at big events like The Lord of the Ribs, Comedy Central Presents and The Basket Mouth Live at the O2 Arena in London. His first attempt at comedy at the University of Benin was a disastrous affair which ended in jeers and boos. He came back later in the year with better material and his star started to rise. He has hosted nine different shows in the UK and is brand ambassador of telecommunications company Globacom and face of Dana Air.
The Queen of African comedy is Ugandan and she goes by the name Anne Kansiime. The continent fell in love with Kansiime through the internet with videos of her great exploits doing the rounds in the greater continent. Her series, Minibuzz redefined the meaning of viral and Kansiime became a household name. She has sold out shows in Harare, Kuala Lumpur, Lilongwe and London. She has over 100,000 subscribers on her Youtube channel and over 15 million views. If Whatsapp recorded her feats, the counters might have broken as she has been all over Africa’s phones. Kansiime has won the African Entertainment Award for Best Comedian (2015), the Rising Star –Comedian of the Year Award, Youtube Silver Play and African Oscar Award for favourite comedian (2015) among many others.
Kadi was born in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo but raised in the United Kingdom. When the ruthless African punch lines are combined with British wit, the result is an out of this world amalgam that cares not for the well-being of your ribs. Eddie brings that deadly combination to the industry and this has taken him to such stages as BBC’s Comedy Empire as well as movies like Shank and Gone too far. Kadi is also a radio personality and known MC. He won the BECA Award for Best Comedy Newcomer when he started his career in comedy. The talent is just too great here.
When a man says he was inspired by Eddie Murphy, you have to believe he is not in the industry for anything but success. Struggling performers do not even name drop the biggest names in the industry as comparisons will be drawn and they will be embarrassed. Blackson brings to the African fray a unique form of dry humour that leaves fans in stitches all the time. He has been involved in BET’s Comic View Series, HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, Showtime at Harlem and Live in Hollywood. He was discovered by Ice Cube, a known actor/director/musician at one of his shows and was invited to a reading of Next Friday. Blackson is a Ghanaian legend of comedy and the sky is the limit.
All real African comedy enthusiasts know and respect Churchill who has been in the business since 1996. Kenya produced a living legend in Churchill and 20 years later, he continues to crack up Africa. He is the host of the Churchill Show on NTV Kenya which is recorded live on Thursdays at the Carnivore Restaurant. It has a viewership of over 11 million and is the highest rated East African programme. Here is a man who redefines the limits of African success. Here is an icon.
Chaponda is a Malawian versatile performer. One day he could be at a steamy affair in a strip club and in two days at a Christian festival, never getting lost in the differing contexts. He hosts an annual comedy show, “Laughrica” where he invites local and international acts for a one night only show in Malawi. He started out in 2001 in Canada and has become an industry godfather. He has performed at big comedy festivals in Melbourne, Edinburgh and Montreal. Chaponda is also a prolific fiction writer.
Carl is a Zimbabwean stand-up comedian who is best known for his show “Late Night with Carl”. He has mainly used social media to market his comedy but has been on big stages with the likes of Nigeria’s Basket Mouth and Kagiso Ladeba. His exploits have seen him travel the world to stages in as far as Adelaide and in Abuja, Johannesburg and Nairobi. His start was with his one-man show, “The Big Announcement” from where he then joined renowned South African comedy club, Parker’s Club. He is also a radio presenter for Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s SFM.
Tumi is a well known South African actress and comedienne famed for various television sitcom roles. She has also worked as a puppeteer. She entered the comedy world in 2005 with Parker Leisure Management and has performed mainly in Johannesburg and Pretoria. Tumi has shared the stage with some of the industry’s biggest names at such festivals as the Heavyweights Comedy Jam (because she is also an industry heavyweight), Just Because Comedy Festival and recently the Bitches Be Back show which has taken the South African entertainment industry by storm. Tumi has a foot in theatre too thus making her a jack of all trades.
Helen Paul is a Nigerian comedienne, singer and actress better known as Tatafo. She has been said to have a “quirky and spontaneous” style and this coupled with her voice manipulation skills make her childlike and ridiculously funny. She is a graduate of Theatre Arts which she studied at the University of Lagos and has worked as a presenter for Lagos Television, Continental Broadcasting Service and MNet. She rose to fame as a character on a critically acclaimed radio program, “Wetin Dey” on Radio Continental. Her first performance was at the University of Lagos where the comedian billed to perform bailed out at the last minute. Her friends pushed her to the stage and she did not disappoint. Helen is also a musician and she released her debut album, “Welcome Party” in 2012.
Laughter is the best medicine and Africa has the best doctors. These and more names are making people’s days in Africa. For a while, everyone forgets corrupt leaders, droughts and lets loose when the kings and queens of comedy make light of heavy situations.