Ugandan comedian Annie Kansiime has a number of times been ranked among top continental comedians. She has also been touted as the queen of African comedy.
The theatrical powerhouse makes a name with her talent through skits posted on YouTube and Facebook.
She has and continues to export Ugandan comedy around the world as her sketches continue to garner millions of views.
In Malawi, a comedian in the making is also following that trend.
Macheza, real name Nigel Mzati Grant Kabango, is a true reflection of his moniker. His skits, mostly posted on Twitter and Facebook, are synonymous with a typical chat session; talking and laughter.
Often less than three minutes, the skits talk about the everyday life including love, friendship, money among other topics, making the content quite relatable to some people.
“I get my ideas from everywhere. I don’t have one specific place. They can be day to day life and interactions I have, with my fellow country people,” he said.
His signature appearance; a wide smile, facial expressions, comfortable and confident in what he is doing, adds colour to his art.
Macheza has been around since last December.
“Macheza is someone who is always finding himself in strange situations, some I do not find myself in. However, I do not differentiate myself from the character. Macheza is an expression of who I am, in a sense,” he said.
Macheza said he was motivated by a mixture of artists, including the likes of Mr. Bean, Manganya, Winiko and Charlie Chaplin.
He is also motivated by the heart of Malawi.
“I believe that my breakthrough is when I posted a video of myself and my wife, after that I got recognition because I was posting content people could relate to,” he explained.
Just like with any form of art, Macheza has not been spared from the wrath of the public as some people feel he is not funny. However, he focuses on the positive overall reaction from the public.
He said: “It has been better than I ever expected, which I am very grateful for, I started my Twitter page in December and I already have over 3 500 followers, Instagram already at 950 followers and my Facebook page is now at over 1 140 likes.
“So I feel the response has been very good, on top of this I have received a lot of positive feedback from people I look up to in the media.”
In the same vein, some social media users, especially on Twitter, have expressed reservations on his comedy approach; video skits of Macheza and two other enigmatic characters.
They argue that it is not interesting to watch someone ‘talking to themselves’. Of course, some of the skits have Macheza playing a double; his usual character plus another one.
He said: “I have heard people say they dislike a lot of things and to me that tells me that art is subjective. It doesn’t have to be for everyone and that’s not why I am here. I’m here to create content for those who enjoy what I do.
“My purpose in life is not to make everyone happy because no one can do that. My purpose is to do what I love for those who are fans.
No one is right or wrong for disliking or liking what I do, to each their own.”
Despite the mixed reactions, the comedian has bigger dreams.
“To be honest, my dream has always been to have my own show, have my own studio where I not only create content for myself, but also allowing other artists to create and express themselves in that space,” he says affirmatively.
Macheza is one of the artists capitalising on the opportunities that lie within social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram among others.
However, the numbers of Malawians using social media are very low; less than a million based on the 2018 Population and Housing Census results.
With the comedian posting his skits on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and WhatsApp, what about the potential audience being left out?
“I post on social media which has replaced a lot of platforms, television, radio, newspapers etc. Social media at this point is taking over the world.
I have people I meet in supermarkets who are old enough to be my parents, they tell me that they watch my work. Which tells me that the number of people on social media is extremely large and is only getting bigger.
“Because social media is the future, news now flies. Being on social media is what has gotten me answering these questions. But my point is that, social media as it stands now, is a tool almost every artist is using, to showcase their work,” he explained.
On the future of comedy in Malawi, the artist believes it is now coming out of its shell.
“But in order to look at the future, we need to look at the past. We have been graced with the greatest of all time in Malawi, Manganya, Winiko to name a few.
They paved the way for people like me. This has opened a lot of doors, Malawi is a growing nation with a lot of talented people. So I believe comedy in Malawi will also likewise grow into what it should be,” he explained.
One of Macheza’s fans, Grace Mzumara, believes the comedian is on the right track.
“Macheza is a funny character and what makes watching his videos a worthwhile venture is the fact that any other person can relate with the content. Talk of maluzi [being broke], heartbreaks, we all have or at least know someone who has ever gone through that. Give him time, all those not in his support will change their minds,” she said in an interview.n