Zimbabwe has a long history of endearment with comedy. I once argued that Zimbabwe should pool its effort into making comedy as I felt we had a strong competitive advantage. We are funny, at least to ourselves. Who can forget the legendary Mukadota (for those old enough to know who this is)? The exploits of the likes of Mutirowafanza and Gringo? Our history is steeped in comedy.
Somewhere in this decade stand-up comedy took off in a big way in Zimbabwe. Many have found success in the business with names such as Carl Joshua Ncube, Doc Vikela and Simba the Comic King making names for themselves in the country and abroad. I’m a firm believer that technology improves everything it touches and this is no exception for comedy. The DVD age brought Sabhuku Vharazipi into many homes. The proliferation of internet access and social media has allowed greater sharing of humorous content and ideas. Comedy has become central to the Zimbabwean existence.
A new breed of heroes have etched out a market in comedy that seems to be an incredibly lucrative one. The improved access to the internet has given sketch comedians a home on the internet. The reach advantages offered by media such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp have propelled these comedians to star status. As they have grown their brands on these platforms we start to see them appear more and more in ad campaigns and music videos. Let’s talk about some of these players and how they have found their way to where they are.
Bus stop TV earned a formidable $10000 from YouTube advert revenue in 2017. That’s pretty amazing. Bus stop TV is a parody and satire channel that takes a very heavy dig into the news and current affairs that our people live through. With two ladies as the face of Bus Stop, Gonyeti and Maggie, they do also delve into reporting news.
Tyra Chikocho more popularly known as Madam Boss presents her comedy in the of stories and skits relating to every day real life on the ground situations. Where others focus on news and current affairs hers is a brand of comedy that is focused on the ordinary (or not so ordinary) experiences and exchanges we see in everyday life. This has positioned her very well for advertising campaigns, product placements and as a personality for music videos. She does go the extra mile in ensuring creativity in her ad campaigns which makes her an ideal influencer. This also makes her incredibly relatable.
Mai Titi can best be described as the woman your mother wouldn’t want you to bring home. Her take on comedy leans more towards awkward situations we experience and the awkward reactions people come up with. She’s no stranger to controversy but none the less she’s built up her brand very well. Mai Titi has done as campaigns and music video appearances.
The comic pastor is a brilliant take on an everyday man’s comical point of view on major national issues. He has a monthly comedy awards series that runs on YouTube where he awards the “best” performers of the month for given activities and it culminated in annual comedy awards in 2018. He’s unlocked sponsorships and has multiple appearances in music videos and other projects.
I will come out and say I did not know of this young man until I had to do research for this article but he is certainly a great up and coming skit comedy brand in Zimbabwe. He does appeal to a younger crowd so we will excuse my ignorance by agreeing that I’m not the target market. His comedy skits are best described as in your face.
It’s clear from those we’ve chosen to spotlight that a very important factor is positioning. Gonyeti and Maggie’s parody mixed with real news coverage have set Bus Stop TV up as great source for both the news and its interpretation. Madam boss has set herself up as a transition story from humble beginnings to urban social Boss Lady. And it all makes sense, the opportunities for influencers and personalities in Zimbabwe have everything to do with how people relate to you. Comic pastor’s antics make him a much sought after brand because he combines two things Zimbabweans ardently love, the church and comedy.
This industry is perhaps in its infancy. Distribution of content is the name of the game and currently online platforms such as YouTube and Facebook give a wide reach, the prohibitive cost of internet access is a bottleneck. With digitalization of our television airwaves perhaps the increase in outlets will create a greater demand for our very own content. The market is ripe for more of this funny business.