In the last couple of months, the new breed of Ghanaian comics has come under scrutiny especially from the people who blazed the trail of Ghanaian stand-up comedy. Kwaku Sintim Misa, Fritz Baffour and Tommy Annan Forson have all not paid glowing tributes to the new age of Ghanaian comedians – and that is worrisome.
For years, it seems Ghanaian comedians; comedy critics and the comedy-loving public all look up to one particular show as a platform to measure the proficiency of the acts. The same stage is used to indicate whether a comedian has reached the pinnacle of his career or not. The ‘A Nite of 1000 Laughs Comedy’ series organized by Charterhouse is virtually seen as the biggest comedy stage in Ghana.
For some reason(s), if a comedian is not on that stage, he is not seen to have really hit the mark and if a comedian mounts that stage and fails to deliver, his comedy career is doomed: he languishes in the doldrums and flounders for years until he gets some seal of approval and a rare opportunity to prove himself again.
On the other hand, if a Ghanaian stand-up comedian mounts that stage and excels, he gets the rave reviews, attains the seal of approval as a good comedian, gets few gigs in his moment of glory and after a year or two, his career dwindles.
Blame not Charterhouse for designing the ‘A Nite of 1000 Laughs Comedy’ to arguably be the go-to comedy podium for every Ghanaian comedian. As an efficient event organizer, they have branded the event with much aplomb and finesse. It is either a comedian mounts it and proves himself or is never recognized as an outstanding comic.
Our comedy industry is not vibrant, nothing comparable to what pertains in Nigeria. The industry in Nigeria is big, has clout, has influence, draws attention and has a bunch of experts who take their profession as a business, and Nigerians do not mess with their business.
Our comedians are doing their individual bits, organizing shows for schools and some outdoor shows to stay relevant but they do not compare to the Charterhouse- staged ‘A Nite of 1000 Laughs’. That stage also seems like the last stop of getting an opportunity to shine as a Ghanaian comedian because, hardly will any comedian appear consecutively on the series – which means, even if you excel on one edition, you have to wait till the next 2 years to mount that stage again.
It simply means, you move from performing to students to some few corporate firms to the bigger stage (Charterhouse stage) and then, back to performing to students.
Funny Face was a struggling comedian until he was given the opportunity on the ‘A Nite of 1010 Laughs’ in 2010, an opportunity he made the very best of; but four (4) years after that epic performance, he has not had that ‘huge’ stage again to perform on. Yes, he has parlayed that one-night success into other ventures but his stand-up comedy career has seriously waned.
DKB’s was doing his comedy tours in schools until he got another foray into the last edition of the ‘100 Laughs’ and after his high-flying performance, the accolades, plaudits and approbations came his way but has he moved on to something far bigger than that stage? Not quite, back at the performing in schools and doing ‘Corporate Series’.
Many people scowl at the constant inundation of Nigerian comedians on our platform but before you etch a frown on your face, take a little time to monitor the Nigerian comedy scenery and appreciate their hustle.
The show ‘A Night of 1000 Laughs’ was actually picked from Nigeria, a very popular event that was put together by Opa Williams in 1995 and served as one of the platforms that accorded many acclaimed Nigerian comedians the opportunity to launch their respective blossoming careers.
The Nigerian comedians did not rely solely on Opa Williams’ platform; they didn’t wait around for Opa to call them again in order to make magnanimous impression and also make money. They took their new found fame generated from that platform, improved on their craft, put a team together and started organizing their own shows, far bigger and better than ‘A Night of 1000 Laughs’.
Basketmouth has been able to package and sell his own show for years, which makes him one of the richest comics in Africa. The ‘Basketmouth: Uncensored’ event has travelled across the world – London, America, South Africa , Ghana, Canada etc, making him stay relevant and rich.
Julius Agwu has two highly-patronized shows put together by himself; ‘Crack Your Ribs’ and ‘Laugh for Christ’s Sake’, giving him the opportunity to tour the world and making him one of the richest comedians in Africa.
Bovi was introduced unto the comedy scene in 2008 but he has been very enterprising since then, putting together his own show, ‘Bovi: Man on Fire’ – a show he has held in Nigeria, London and other cities in the world. In the latest edition, he single-handedly brought in the likes of R&B singer, Ashanti and rapper, Ja Rule to Nigeria to support him.
AY (Ayo Makun), is another highly-respected comedian, who aside all the big gigs he performs, has been producing his own show, ‘AY Live’ for years, making him one of the most relevant and most successful comedians in Africa.
Gbenga Adeyinka does his own show, ‘Laffmatazz’; I Go Dye tours the world every now and then and the list goes on.
The message is simple: there’s life after mounting the Charterhouse-produced show, it is not the last and should not be the only most attractive and biggest-selling comedy stage in Ghana.
Although it is a good step, our comedians have been doing touring of schools and corporate gigs for too long; it is time to move to the big stage. Now, the erroneous impression that Ghanaian comedians are not funny has or is being eroded; there’s belief, there’s hope and trust now; so, they should take advantage, put business minds together, and start organizing their own shows that can be held at the bigger auditoriums.
They should put together shows that will have bigger productions, command huge publicity drive and attract high patronage; shows that can be replicated in bigger arenas across the country. Such a move will ensure the relevance, sustainability and success of our comedians and it will by all means, grow our comedy industry.