Gondo makes a mark in Namibian comedy
> Kaipaherue Kandjii
Windhoek – Zimbabwean-born comedian Courage Rangarirayi Gondo’s fortunes are getting bigger and brighter as he continues to headline major social events in and around Namibia including his recent top-notch act at the Namibian Sports Awards last month.
The talented and equally ruthless funny man, who is originally from Gweru, one of the big metropolis in Zimbabwe, grew up in Bulawayo and relocated to Namibia in search of a better education and eventually stumbled on comedy “by mistake”.
“I have been here (Namibia) for four years. I had my first gig in Zimbabwe last year in December. I went back home and did four to five shows, I think I am more Namibian and less Zimbabwe. Comedy is my passion, comedy is my number one job, and it requires a lot – you have to be smart, observational and always on top of your game,” says Gondo (25).
A man of many talents as he describes himself, he started as a retail salesperson in Zimbabwe, then worked as a DJ, dancer and eventually fell in love with comedy.
And four years down the line, Courage has won the Male Comedian of the Year 2014, and recently performed alongside comedy heavyweights Dave Levinsohn, Chris Mapane, Mo Mothebe amongst others at the week-long Jozi Comedy Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Ironically, many of his friends from high school have known him as a dancer – rather than a comedian, while those from the University of Namibia where he studies Media and Drama, know him as a DJ.
“Comedy came about as a mistake actually, because initially I had a friend of mine, who had a drama project as part of his fourth year assignment, and had to come up with an arts marketing event. So he decided to call me to produce a comedy show, and soon after that Free Your Mind approached me before we even completed the assignment, and three months after that I was crowned Last Comic Standing, and I became the Male Comedian of the Year last year as well,” he said.
The Free Your Mind Stand Up Comedy is held monthly at the Warehouse Theatre, an initiative that gives platform to Namibian comedians to showcase their talent live on stage.
He disclosed that “Courage – The Comedian, and me personally are two different characters”.
“It’s quite the opposite, even in high school I was a very quiet person. Even in class I was a nobody, everyone used to pick up on me. But I was the one who would tell the naughty kids in class what to say secretly, and the jokes that those notorious ones would say to others.
“But I would maintain a low profile, and towards the end of high school I also wanted to be known, so that’s how the dancing came in, when we started a dance group.”
Courage added that there in “no competition” in Namibia as far as comedy is concerned, saying that it takes a lot of courage to be a comedian and do something different from the well-known path.
He said thanks to South Africa’s world famous comedian Trevor Noah, “people are starting to realize that comedy is a lucrative career”.
“I learned a lot from Trevor Noah. I watch a lot of Trevor Noah, and he speaks about himself in relation to the world – how he views the world, and that’s the type of comedy I do.
“I talk about how we Zimbabweans view Namibia, life in Namibia, and what is happening in Namibia and it works, because people need to relate. You don’t need to create superficial stories, like when I say my name is Courage it’s a typical Zimbabwean name, you get people like Patience, Knowledge, and I even tell them that my first girlfriend’s name was Photosynthesis, and it’s relevant, and people enjoy it.
“Then you meet people like Confidence, who have so much confidence that they end up selling cockroach killer in front of the (Ministry of) Home Affairs, when they don’t even have passports, and that’s what people want to hear – day to day life stories. You need to follow current affairs, observe what people are doing, and re-tell a story with nice aroma in it, so that it becomes funny.”
He says that the biggest challenge in Namibia is the relatively small population which in turn limits the number of shows one can do, as well as “people who do not take comedy seriously” especially the corporate sector.
“When you tell them that you are a comedian, and you want to be part of an event, they ask how much you charge, and when you say it then they ask why you are asking so much money for just telling jokes.
“Comedy is a way of life for some of us, and they would then ask you to do it for free, but people are starting to see the value of comedy.”
He added that the most important aspect in comedy is constant re-branding, and relevance, while advising fellow comedians not “to do it for the money, otherwise you will be depressed”.
Apart from stand-up comedy, he plans on venturing into being a comedy columnist, and having a show on radio and television to advance and grow the comedy sector from the usual norm.
“Studying media and drama has given me an advantage because I can now produce my own radio and television shows, in relation to other comedians, and I know how to present it, set it up, and how to write my scripts as well.”
He noted that the rest of Africa is “open minded”, but here in Namibia “we are too conservative which makes it difficult to talk about anything, because of cultural norms and background of the people, which put Namibian comedians at a disadvantage”.
“In South Africa you can make a joke about a midget, and it’s still comedy, but here (Namibia) if you start making fun of a midget, people are not be so appreciative of that, and those are some of the barriers compared to other comedians across the world.”
Courage added that in order for comedy to reach its desired heights, Africans must support more local entertainers than foreign artists.
“Look at the BET Awards (Black Entertainment Television) for example they are hosted by comedians which makes it fun for everyone, and the advertising sector as well, they give so much flair and humour to radio and television adverts, but compare that to what is happening in Namibia. Comedy is essential, because they say laughter keeps the doctor away. Comedy is a different form of entertainment because it has less violence, and you always learn something from comedy,” he said.