Michael Sengazi is a comedian with the comedy knight crew that he joined in 2010. Sengazi, who is half Rwandan and half Burundian, began as a poet, performing artist until he found his love for comedy.
The 29-year-old shared with Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa his love for comedy.
Describe your journey into comedy?
I came to Rwanda at the age of 19 to study law but joined comedy in my third year at University.When I started, I did not know certain things in the arts industry then such as creation, wiring jokes, and playing with the audience.
My jokes are about everyday life, my experiences in childhood and society. Comedy for me opens my eyes to see the things we face every day. For someone who loves art and performing, I love to cure people’s wounds with laughter.
Who would you say are your influences in the comedy world?
Even though my father is a very funny person, who enjoyed fatherhood by making fun of us, I cannot say that I was influenced by him.Comedy night is made up of members that are like me, who are not completely Rwandan with some from Uganda, Kenya and Burundi, we have both Anglophone and francophone comedy. With all the influences being from different worlds, we have taught and learned from each other.
How do you handle hecklers while on stage?
Hecklers will always be there for every comedian, but I know how to take charge of the microphone. Once they come at me, I know how to respond to them because I am always prepared. I haven’t experienced any hecklers amongst the Rwandan audience though.
What is your worst moment on stage?
It doubles as my best moment on stage. I was invited to perform for the first time at a festival in Congo with a colleague but on arrival I was told that my grandfather had passed on.
While on stage we received some hecklers from part of the audience having realized that we were from Rwanda. Nevertheless, I was able to entertain the audience and left them yearning for more.
That was supposed to be my last performance given that my parents had pressured me to go back and pursue career as lawyer. But it went so well that I decided that that was what I was going to do being the best performance of my life before 6,000 people.
My grandfather had always been my biggest supporter even though he had never seen me perform. He always participated in getting me audiences to attend my shows. To this date, I still wear my grandfather’s ring everyday even on stage because it reminds me of his support.
What are your long term plans for your career?
With the great experience at the recent comedy festival, I would like to continue doing international comedy shows here in Rwanda. I realize how this is already bigger than us and how comedy gives a certain image of Rwanda to people outside, because Rwanda is not only about its economic growth, or the gorillas, or even the genocide but also about comedy and laughter.
Secondly, I would like to export my talent as a comedian and keep doing comedy for as far as I can go. I have been on international stages and I can see what it takes to make it international.