The first ever Kigali International Comedy Festival held at the weekend featured popular local and international acts in an event organisers hope can give people a platform to further express themselves.
It was a culmination of three days of hilarious performances delivered in English, Kinyarwanda, Swahili and French.
Comedians came from Congo, Guinea, the United States, India, Israel and Japan to share a stage with Rwanda’s own lineup of jokers.
Saturday, closing night was set aside for the English acts, among them actor and comedian Daniel Omara from Uganda, who delivered jabs at his members of parliament as well as the presidential motorcade.
Omara is well known at home. He said Rwandans were a tough crowd but sees the festival becoming a major attraction in the region.
“Rwandans need to laugh at, I think the only thing about Rwandans is they don’t want to laugh out loud, normally they want to laugh and keep it in, they are gentle people, they are also respectful and very closed in. So they want to laugh… Rwandans rarely go ‘ha ha ha’… its more like ‘hm hm hm’… I like it. So to actually see people willing to come out and laugh and express themselves, not just for the comedians but also for the audience, it is a step. I think it is about time it happened,” he said.
Japanese act Saku Yanagawa was one of the highlights of the English night – making reference to stereotypes about his origins and just how surprised immigration staff were at the airport that he came all the way to Rwanda to tell jokes.
There are already some local comedy shows, but few as high profile and vast as this one.
“These guys have the jokes that can kill you. For sure my lips are cracked,” said Fabrice Ishimwe.
“I am happy with comedy night, because comedies is very good for heart… and the laughing,” said Shubadju Devandra.
Organizers hope this can be an annual event, which also features workshops and mentorship programmes for aspiring comedians to work with more established ones.