What you need to know:
- Russell Peters coming to Kenya is great news for our local comedy and the entertainment industry as a whole, any renowned entertainer performing to an African audience is a plus to that entertainment space, especially if they are good at their craft.
The news that world-renowned stand-up comedian Russell Peters is coming to Kenya stirred some debate on social media last week and it had all to do with the ticket prices, which many termed as ridiculous.
Russell Peters coming to Kenya is great news for our local comedy and the entertainment industry as a whole, any renowned entertainer performing to an African audience is a plus to that entertainment space, especially if they are good at their craft.
But in this case, we have to look at who Russell Peters is coming to perform to; an audience that can’t see stand-up comedy beyond NTV on Thursday and Sunday nights, while others grew up on the satirical comedy offered by the Redykyulass trio.
Stand-up comedy used to be a very odd sort of entertainment; there was no structure, no plot, backstory, sets, editors or producers.
It was comedy boiled down to basics; a comedian and an audience, where one either scores a laugh or doesn’t.
American stand-up comedy, which Russell Peters represents, is designed to appease an audience that is not, I believe, the majority in Kenya.
An audience familiar with the physical and chaotic nature of modern city life, an audience used to stand-up comedy bordering on vituperative and relying heavily on slapstick.
This is the audience that has Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock as their favourite comedians, an audience that doesn’t find Kenyan stand-up comedy as funny as the rest of the country thinks they are.
This is the audience Russell Peters represents, one that is used to the fast-paced comedy routines, those who enjoy watching NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” comedy.
Sunday nights serve as the week’s comic relief for any Kenyan household with an access to a TV set, but for someone with access to Twitter, it’s just like any other day.
The Kenyan Twitter space made Kenyan stand-up comedy look like rehearsals.
Stand-up comedy in Kenya wasn’t as popular as it is now until TV shows started airing comic shows and comedians started being event MCs, if anything the best time to be a stand-up comedian in Kenya is now, there is an oversaturation of comedians in Kenya, which in a way is a good thing, at least we get to have less DJs.
British comedian Jimmy Carronce once said, “Stand-up comedy is a peculiar art form. In a room filled with people, the comedian is the only one facing the wrong way.
He’s also the only one who isn’t laughing. For normal people that’s a nightmare, not a career aspiration.”
Kenyan stand-up comedy has the same script; “the female chase, poking fun at different people for their cultural beliefs, mimicking and imitating political leaders who have heavy accents and well, the salacious unobtainable woman from one or two communities.”
All these jokes are done in the same format, it’s almost predictable, and you can tell what the comedian is going to say next as soon as they walk on stage.
The urban setting that most of these comedians come from never factors in to shape the subject matter of their jokes, it’s the same format being showcased during the shows, and this makes for more of a stand-up comedy show than a stand-up comedy crowd, which still begs the question: “Who is Russell Peters coming to perform for?”
As much as the American joke format can’t work in the conservative society that Kenya is, it shouldn’t be the angle at which the mediocrity that is the Kenyan scene is looked at.
A Kenyan stand-up comedian can’t make a foreign audience have a good laugh because their content is limited to tribal jibes and mimicking heavy accents, not to say we don’t enjoy this repetition on our TV screens every Sunday night.
South Africa’s Trevor Noah joining ‘The Daily Show’ further rubbished the cliché that there aren’t societal issues that make for good comic content.
Nigeria’s BasketMouth is always touring, performing in front of white crowds; and he entertains his audience. Our comedians can’t go beyond the “…wasee wasee!” or “…ayeya...” chants and adlibs. Most of the time it’s always a case of the audience just laughing because that is the whole concept of coming to a comedy show, to laugh.
It is stupidly easy to become a stand-up comedian, a comedian should use stand-up comedy as self-expression. Anyone who can be ‘silly’ while expressing themselves can flourish in stand-up comedy.
Good news for our local comedians, this isn’t really important, the audience just wants to laugh, they are like robots, who are wired to laugh at the end of anything a comedian says, maybe we should stick to this.