Local comedy fans were treated to a night of fun and laughter this past Friday night at Avani Hotel featuring some of the world’s respected comedians. The show dubbed International Heavyweight Comedy Festival (HICOFEST) was organised by Major Moves Comedy, one of the biggest amusement movements in the country and featured top acts among them Rich Lyons (USA), Fredi Lilius (Finland), Bonez Masapo (Lesotho), Vuyo Jiya (South Africa), Mdura (Swaziland) as well as Clive Chigubu hailing all the way from Zimbabwe.
Having missed out on an opportunity to attend the previous night’s show (Thursday), aptly tagged HICOFEST ‘vernacular’ simply because it featured only Setswana speaking comedians who dished out their content in the mother tongue, I was engulfed with an overwhelming sense of FOMO (Fear of missing out) as I arrived on Friday night wanting to catch up on the English part of HICOFEST.
The atmosphere at Avani was mellow as only a few people had started arriving for the night of laughter. A few comedians milled around the venue, some rehearsing their lines while some wrote theirs on a crumpled piece of paper; going over and over their verses one more time before taking up the big stage and facing their fear. The fear of not having a single person laugh at your joke.
Well, it didn’t really matter what everybody was doing on the hotel foyer, as the inside of the hall looked seemingly empty, and the only sound coming out of it being that of DJ Fondo Fire as he played song after song in what seemed like a desperate attempt by the organisers to buy time. The show was slated to start at 1930hrs but ended up starting an hour later at 2030hrs. Unlike the past HICOFEST, today’s crowd was dismal.
And the first comedian who took up the stage didn’t really help the situation as he kept repeating his lines over and over again. To add salt to injury, there was a drunk heckler who kept interrupting the poor guy on stage thus making himself the centre of attraction and stealing the sloppy comedian’s shine.
Security was called into the hall to tame the raging troublemaker who ended up being the roast of the night as comedian after comedian had a go at him the entire show. The MC of the night, Clive Chigubu from Zimbabwe had everyone eating out of his comical palms.
Making a comeback to the HICOFEST stage by popular demand, Chigubu continues to be a hit at every HICOFEST he’s billed to perform, having been a favourite at last year’s 4th HICOFEST, and comedy patrons had specially requested that he should be brought back this year.
He’s definitely a raw gem from the City of Kings and Queens and always stands out wherever he performs. The Bulawayo-born and bred actor-cum-comedian has been nominated more than once for a National Arts Merit Award. It is his catchphrase “Ye Ye-e”, which has become his trademark and a hit with comedy audiences.
This man is extremely funny. Our favourite joke from him is the one where he argues that no man can have the audacity to cheat on a wife that can prophesy. Despite the joke itself being funny, his frolics on stage also become the cherry on top of his comical cake. Chigubu did extremely well in saving a few comedians who seemed to choke on their lines.
Our very own Kay-lo started off well with his bombastic English jokes before sinking into an unexpected abyss. He kept repeating some lines thus peeving a few comedy buffs in the audience who were on the brink of booing him off the coveted stage.
Despite him being one of the few best comedians in Botswana, this time around the Dame Fortune seemed to have eluded the man who usually refers to himself as “the only yellow bone who can speak English fluently.”
He simply just kept choking to the grief of the HICOFEST audience.
Kay-lo wasn’t the only one who seemed to have come unprepared. The Finland comedian, Fredi Lilius who unashamedly took to the stage holding a Carling Blacklabel dumpy dismally failed to charm the gathered comedy masses.
The man who performed clad in a stripped New York baseball T-shirt was sloppy in his overall delivery. Having performed just before everyone took a recess, the feedback in the lobby was not good. Several people seemed disappointed. We overheard some lady telling a friend, “Why bring this man all the way from Finland to bore us like this?”
The comments were unrelenting as a few expressed displeasure at how the Sweden-born but Finland-bred Lilius failed to tickle their fancy. I’m not sure if the Finnish comedian failed in his quest to appeal to the Botswana market or it was simply a case of being at the right place at the wrong time and with the wrong mode.
However, the skinny-looking Bonez Masapo from Lesotho was on top of his rib-tickling game. From the moment he took to the stage up until he dropped the mic, the hall was in stitches throughout as he discharged several funny deliverables, mixing English and his mother tongue, Sesotho.
With his squeaky and funny voice, Masapo had the HICOFEST supporters eating out of his brimming and hilarious palm.
We also liked Mdura from Swaziland. This fella is hella funny. Our favourite joke from him was when he pound-for-pound compared Botswana Television (BTV) with his native state broadcaster, Swazi TV. The audience couldn’t help but burst out into frenzied spells of laughter with many nodding their heads as a gesture of affirmation.
The icing on the cake was the headliner of the show, Rich Lyons hailing all the way from the United States of America (USA).
We must warn you though, his gags are definitely not for the fainthearted. He regaled the HICOFEST audience by first telling them that at age 52, he’s currently dating a hot and sexy 24-year-old, and they are both head over heels in love despite the occasional sneers from conservative members of the public.
The word ‘tantric sex’ kept tumbling out of his mouth whenever he mentioned his hot catch. His material albeit uncouth gets one surprisingly cracking with laughter, thanks to his meticulous delivery and well-articulated sentiments.
Lyons began his stand up career in 1997 and has since performed throughout Europe and in his native home New York, USA. In 2009 he was a runner up at the London Bridge New Comedy Fringe Festival and has since become an occasional headliner on the UK comedy circuit.
Despite the low turnout, fun was had and until next time, well done HICOFEST!