The first ever comedy festival to grace Rwandan soil closed Saturday night at the Kigali Radisson Blu Hotel. Dubbed the Kigali International Comedy Festival, the three-day gala was a test of how far local comedy has come.
Festival goers were treated to three different comedy sets at three different locations, with the first set on opening night featuring strictly Kinyarwanda poems.
The second day of the festival was dedicated to French poems, but the biggest turn-up was at the closing night Saturday.
The show, that was supposed to kick off at 6:30pm, did not until shortly before 8p.m when Michael Sengazi, from the Comedy Knights, took to the stage.
Before him, DJ Marnaud had played back-to-back DJ mixes as the crowd waited for the show to open.
Sengazi and Babu Joe were the day’s MCs, although they occasionally paired up to deliver some hilarious skits.
The show eventually kicked off with some little known comedy acts from Uganda and South Sudan.
Dubbed the “English Night”, the show had its fair share of jokes about the famed beauty of Rwandan women, a subject that comedian after comedian chose to exploit. It was also a night when racial stereotypes ruled, with the Indian community, which was well represented at the show, the subject of most jokes.
One of the night’s highlights was the comedian Saku Yanagawa, from Japan, whose x-rated jokes left people in stitches.
Another highlight for the night was comedian Oumar Manet, from Guinea, who was the only act to perform in French on the night.
Save for the familiar faces of the Comedy Knights comedians (Babu Joe, Michael Sengazi), and Ugandan comedians Cotilda and Daniel Omara, most of the foreign comedians were little known as they were making their debut in Kigali but still they entertained.
James Manzello, from New York, did not just perform his comedy skits on stage, but also did an acoustic session on his guitar.
Omara closed the night, coming on stage after Cotilda’s performance. Omara’s jokes tended towards the intellectual and often times one had to think before they could see the punch line.
In the end, Cotilda’s slapstick style of comedy seemed to resonate more easily with the audience, and she sustained a rib-cracking session from start to finish.
However, the show was marred by very poor lighting and a PA system that would have served better at a karaoke bar. Instead of professional stage lights, show goers had to rely on spotlights to see what is on stage.
Even the projector screens dotted around the venue were instead used to beam sponsor’s messages.