His audio clips have circulated around the country with his heavily Luganda-accented Kinyarwanda complaining about poor customer services in Rwanda.
But few people know the person behind the clips. The New Times’ Joseph Oindo caught up with the up and coming comedian for a chat. Below are the excerpts:
Q: Where did you get the title “ambassaderi”?
A: I have earned this title from the daily advocacy I make for consumers (abakonsomateri), by criticising poor customer service in Rwanda. Many of these criticism are aired live on Contact FM 89.7 in a morning show called, Agasusuruko, hosted by Dickson and Gicanda. But in the beginning I depended on recording short audios that I shared with my friends on WhatsApp, Facebook pages and other social media, and my friends would share them with their friends. That is how they spread all over in a very short time. I try to put much comedy ingredients in my audio messages which make them funny for faster spreading.
Q: Can you tell us some of your popular audios?
A: Most people using WhatsApp have my audios about: Ikibazo cy’inyama mu Rwanda- in which I criticise waiters and waitresses. The other popular audio is known as Baragukata in which I criticise telecom companies which charge roaming charges both on call and receiver. Other popular clips include, Udutego twabazungu mumwaka wa 2012, Ibinyamakuru by’ u Rwanda, cash power and many others.
Q: When did you discover that you had talent in comedy?
A: I discovered my talent through friends. I first discovered that I was a comedian in secondary school. I used to make my fellow students at school laugh all the time. They used to tell me I was a natural comedian. I could imitate everyone and make my contemporaries roll down in laughter. This made me to become a popular student during those days.
When I went to university, I carried on with my antics. I could mimic lecturers but at this time, I felt that when I became fully involved in comedy, it would be detrimental to my studies. So I didn’t take to comedy so much to concentrate on my studies, though once in a while I would still make people laugh as a catharsis to release the stress of books.
Q: After completing your university, did you resume your comedy?
A: After completing university, I was employed by Service Magazine and this is where I learned more about customer care. I came to realise that the customer should be treated as a king though there are some service providers who don’t do this. When you go to a restaurant, for example, there are some waiters who have no clue about customer relations.
They will provide you with a bad service that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth though you have spent your hard earned.
Thus, from what I had learned I opened a Facebook page where customers would register their complaints.
Q: Have you got help from any organisation here in Rwanda towards furthering your career in comedy?
A: Yes. The Rwanda Development Board has so far been supportive of my career in comedy. They came to me and said that I should be seen, that I was doing a wonderful work of streamlining service delivery in Kigali, in particular, and the country in general. They said that they are ready to give me the necessary support to spread my messages widely.
Q: Why do you normally act in disguise, hiding your identity?
A: I hide my identity because the society still doesn’t value the power of comedy. Rwandan comedy is still not well developed.
As an employee, it’s also hard balancing the rigours of work with comedy. Your employer or colleagues might think that you have gone to do comedy when you are out of office when there is some work you should be doing. Therefore it’s a bit hard balancing work and comedy. I know that there are also some talented comedians out there but they cannot showcase their skills because of the demands of work.
I believe that you can live both worlds: your work and your talent. It only calls for you to carefully balance your programmes so that you fit in both of them without one interfering with the other.
Q: What’s your brand of comedy?
A: I use language as a powerful tool to pass important information that can make the society better. My language has some peculiar tenor in it. I speak Luganda but when I mix it with Kinyarwanda, people just laugh. I have some peculiar accent that makes people roll down in stitches, so to speak. It’s the way I speak that has made me popular. People share whatever I have spoken on whatsapp and this has helped widen my fan base.
Q: Do you consider yourself a moral police who wants to clean up the service industry?
A: People should use their talents to make society better. It’s ironic that Rwanda has been praised internationally for its clean streets, the amiability of its people, and the ease of doing business, but when it comes to service delivery, the country scores dismally. This should change because service delivery is the core indicator through which a country is judged.
If a comedian gets the opportunity to criticise an organisation, people would laugh while giving the organisation in question a chance to look at itself and change. Comedy entertains and teaches at the same time and comedians have the responsibility to ensure that they identify and correct the ills that afflict society.
People normally don’t laugh at things they don’t know but once a comedian raises it up then they are going to laugh because they identify with it.
Q: What advice can you give to those intending to take up stand-up comedy as a career?
A: Comedy is like music. It needs specialisation. You cannot be a comedian without education. Hence, a person should joke on the field he is specialised in, whether politics, education, or service delivery.
Q: Who is the alter-ego of ambasaderi when not acting?
A: Jackson Rugamba is an employee of the Ministry of Finance, where I work as an expert in taxation matters.
Q: What is the way forward with regard to your comedy?
A: I am still going to give back to society through my talent in comedy.