For two years running, comedian Arthur Nkusi aka Rutura has been donning only a certain type of shirt — checked shirts —whenever he steps into the public arena.
When his fans started to notice the trend, they immediately christened him with yet another stage name, Karo-karo (Mr Checked). He explains: “You’ll always find Arthur in a checked shirt. It’s my brand for two years now. I just realized I love this style …and people love it too, so I decided to adopt it as my trademark, and now people know me as Mr Checked.”
And for the discerning mind, this can only point to one thing; a deliberate personal struggle for public recognition. For those that had known him as one of the founding members of the Comedy Knights Crew, this should have been cue enough as to the comedian’s personal ambitions.
Launching brand Arthur
Come November 3, at the Kigali Serena Hotel, Karo-Karo will be “launching myself as brand Arthur,” in a show that has been dubbed “Comedy Rwanda Night.” The one-hour show, to feature the Comedy Knights Crew and singer Mani Martin as support acts, will be the first local comedy gig to front an individual comedian.
This show seems to be a continuation and logical conclusion to the Comedy Night in 3D show held at the Century Cinema at the close of September. After that show, which coincided with the group’s third birthday, Arthur remarked: “The solo concert will be my stamp on the comedy shows we’ve had so far. I want to test the waters to see where my personal brand as a comedian has reached.”
Talking of personal brands, his has been growing on more frontiers than just the odd comedy gig. Arthur is among the very first crop of comedians to “export” comedy to the increasingly competitive FM radio airwaves. He does comic skits on K-FM’s Rush Hour, the station’s evening Drive Show he co-hosts with singer Uncle Austin. “Today, most entertainment-based shows on radio are not complete without some comedy thrown in to spice it up,” he contends rather happily.
He believes that the comic skits on radio helped bridge the gap between comedy lovers and the main stream standup comedy industry.
Recently, he also inked a deal with TV10 that will see him host a comedy show dubbed Mr Checked News on the same station. In the show, Arthur is a news reporter, only this time, he is a comic reporter more concerned about the lighter side to major news events, hence the show’s slogan; “duseke mubikomeye” (let’s laugh even in our seriousness).
On bringing singer Mani Martin to the upcoming Serena concert, he says: “This is one of the ways we have devised to make it (comedy) more appealing to the audience, since most people relate well with musicians.”
Some of the other branding and publicity he has garnered so far comes from his association with telecom giant MTN, for which he has been Brand Ambassador since March this year. Not only does the deal oblige him to attend all the company’s public and media gigs, “to crack jokes and get paid”, he also voices commercials and appears on promotional billboards.
Not an easy road
Even with all this relative success over the years, particularly this year, memories of the early days of Comedy Knights are still fresh in Arthur’s mind. He particularly recalls the group’s first gig, at the Ishyo Art Center in 2012, at which “the cast for the show was bigger than the audience, which comprised mostly of our friends and relatives.”
The initial cast, comprising him, Michael Sengazi, and Jerome Migisha had to be beefed up with extras sourced from Ishyo, most of who turned out to be actors. As Arthur would soon find out, “all comedians are actors but not all actors are comedians.” So bad was the show, that after clearing all expenses, the boys walked home with a paltry Rwf 1,000 each as “transport refund.”
Arthur talks of two loves of his life; “my mum” and “photography.” I love taking photos so much that just having a good camera with me makes me feel safe.”
He still has a bone to pick with corporate sponsors, lamenting the fact that “all the guys you go to want you to first do it on your own so they can see how successful and popular you are, but some of them are good.”
He has acted in a few local and international movies, including Shooting Dogs, Shake Hands with the Devil, and La zone turquoise.
His take about local comedy compared to the region is: “Okay we have a journey to take, but it’s not that big. With our local audience beginning to feel what we do, we shall go far, just like the comedy elsewhere in the region. I don’t think there is a big difference.”