Young comedians in Cameroon are steadily gaining both strength and popularity — with social media platforms so far being their primary means of comedic expression.
Nevertheless, the value of direct exchange between performers and the audience provided by in-person standup comedy shows is not lost on this growing trend.
Leticia Fotso, a comedy spectator, expresses her enjoyment of the art form, “I usually see a stand up like this in other countries, in Europe in fact it’s a pleasure to attend and to take a time to laugh, to be able to forget everything, it’s just wonderful.”
No More Starving Comedians
Stand up comedy shows showcase local talent as well as confirm the craft as a viable and lucrative career path.
Valery Ndongo, comedian and organiser of events at Canal Comedy show, shares his industry insight, “I’ve been doing this job for more than 15 years, and in 15 years there have been many other young comedians, there’s Major Asse, Ulrich Takam, there’s Moustik the Charismatic, there’s Markus, there’s a plethora of young comedians today who make a living from their art, that is to say, that the public follows. And if the public doesn’t follow, it doesn’t work because nobody can live from their art.”
New Heights for a New Era of Comedy
Ndongo seeks to revive the Cameroonian comedy tradition from the 60s and 80s and make it not only more contemporary and professional but also more lucrative for the comedic performers so that local comedians can keep the art form in the country alive while also still making a good living. The comedy visionary and businessman is currently casting young Cameroonian talent for a show he is organising in November.
Valery Ndongo reflects on the perception of comedians in Cameroon as he outlines his vision for the evolution of the industry, “Artists were criticised for being like thugs and dressing anyhow, so we had to marry a style that combines all that, that combines quality work and style, so the stand up is a bit like that. So now with this extra, it’s more than stand up, it’s something that tries to go as far as possible towards the current events.”
Laughter is the Best Medicine?
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has put a sanitary strain on live comedy shows, many comedians remain positive about the future of comedy in the country.
Alain St Baba, a local artist, affirms that laughter might just what Cameroonians need to get through these unprecedented times, “The disease doesn’t prevent you from smiling, it’s very good to be in contact with people, every time it’s organised here, the public comes in large numbers, it’s just that we need to get back to the atmosphere that prevailed before Coronavirus”.
Indeed, talent, professionalism and public support are what foresee a bright future for comedy in Cameroon.
Many young people are now participating in stand up comedy shows, an art form in full expansion in Cameroon with the aim of making themselves known. Something that makes professionals such as Valery Ndongo, the pioneer of stand up comedy in Cameroon, say that the art does indeed nourish its man; even if the theatres were closed for 7 months because of Covid19.