Simuka Comedy celebrated its fourth anniversary last month. The concept was initially inspired by the Book Café Open Mic sessions intended to address the lack of performance space back in 2011. The standup comedy night – the first regular comedy show in the country – held their celebratory show at Sopranos with a star studded lineup that included Victor Mpofu a.k.a. Doc Vikela, Simba ‘The Comic King’ Kakora, Michael K, Samm ‘Cde Fatso’ Monro, and Carl Joshua Ncube. Toropito was the only performer missing from their original lineup while Cde Fatso was the only newcomer. A comparison of the two shows will reveal the great improvement in both performance and attendance.
Simuka Comedy co-founder Doc Vikela said, “We had only 5 people at our first show at the old Book Café at Fife Avenue but at this anniversary show we attracted around 100 people.” This is not their record number though. “I think our best attended anniversary show was our first one which had over 150 people in the audience at the Zimbabwe Germany Society,” he said.
They have however attracted even greater audiences at some of their monthly shows while attributing the recent drop in attendance figures to economic hardships. “Right now we are re-strategising to see what we can do to improve our craft and continue developing the industry that we started and helped build,” said Doc Vikela. They have a vision to establish a comedy club that will cater for different types of comedy. “By the time we celebrate our tenth anniversary, we will have our own venue with structured daily shows and events, including screening humorous films, karaoke and theatre performances,” he added.
Simuka Comedy has a special slot for open mic sessions for comedians who want to try their luck and improve their work. They also encourage female performers to join in and help to strike a balance in the industry which is currently male dominated. Doc Vikela said, “We try to give others a platform that we never had, but after one successful open mic session some young comedians start thinking they are stars and deserve to be paid.” He added that comedy is all about consistency. “Only after you have performed many times and on different stages and after your craft is solid, do you then deserve to get paid. For us this is the year we think we deserve to get our dues having tightened up our act all this time.”
Like many other performers in Harare, the closure of Book Café has hit them hard as the venue had become the home of standup comedy. “We are in talks with different venues about introducing Simuka Comedy as a monthly fixture but we are still to pick the right spot for us,” he said.
Simuka Comedy is credited for developing the comedy industry in Zimbabwe, being the pioneers of the genre. The organisation has also benefited performers by opening up various opportunities including international tours and performing at corporate gigs. “Simuka Comedy opened many doors for me, to the extent that you can’t say anything about me or Simba the Comic King (co-founder) without bringing up Simuka Comedy,” said Doc Vikela. “I’ve achieved a lot. Right now I’m working as a full time comedian.”
Their efforts have opened another door, this time to the annual Shoko Festival to be held next month. There they will rub shoulders with celebrated South African comedian Tol A$$ Mo among other well known performers.