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Standup comics struggle under new climate

MOMPATI TLHANKANE
Penene Ponono PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
Recently, there has been a mushrooming of comedians who flock to the social scene of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to build profiles, gain popularity and test out their vines.

Vines are small videos of 4–5 minutes with some humorous content.

Social media is now the go-to platform to showcase creativity whether it’s with pranks, sketches or jokes. But there are fears that the traditional stand-up comedy is failing to survive in the new comedy climate. Over the years, comedians like Mjamaica, Jujuvine, Monna Yo Motona and William Motsetserepa have managed to build a huge online presence.

In the past few months more comedians like Dona BW, Mr Speaker and Honorable BW, Mhele Productions just to name but a few also took social media by storm. Their world of comedy created a different way to consume vines and as a result replace traditional set-ups.

Speaking of traditional set-ups, Arts & Culture talked to renowned standup comic, Phenyo The Master who believes that the respect for traditional comedy, such as standup in Botswana is declining as a result of social media comedians and their vines. He said as standup comedians, they started pushing standup comedy in Botswana in 2009 when people thought DVDs that were popular at the time such as Radijo and Ntsoro le Toki defined comedy.

“We did well until 2016 when we started having a decline. During that prime in standup comedy, I would get booked for shows in neighbouring countries such as South Africa,” he said.

Phenyo The Master recalled that before the mushrooming of social media comics, there were also comedians who did open mic sessions for free and that also killed their craft. He said vines have crippled them because standup comics depend on live shows.

“Our mission has not been achieved because we wanted Batswana to differentiate standup comedy and other kinds of comedy,” he revealed. Phenyo The Master stated that social media comedians overtook them by following and gained so much popularity when they started. He said getting booked for corporate gigs also declined because companies started looking towards social media trends.

Phenyo The Master who successfully did his ‘One Man Show’ DVD in 2016 explained that people think comedy is all the same, but he has observed that social media comedians are not used to live shows and do not have the skills when it comes to live audience and public speaking.

“Sometimes when they perform they don’t deliver and we get painted with the same brush,” he highlighted. He said as a standup comic who has been in the industry for 10 years, he doesn’t see the need to take the social media route because that’s not their mission. Phenyo The Master has close to 5, 600 followers on Facebook, 448 followers on Instagram and 775 on Twitter.

But Juvuvine, who has just over 113,000 followers on Facebook and also has countless viral social media vines, told Arts & Culture that standup comics should build a good online presence.

“What I have realised is that sketch comedy dominates standup because the latter perform at their gigs and stop there. Usually, I tell them to record and post their content on social media in order for people to see them. Guys who do vines capitalise on this and blow more than standup comedians,”

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he revealed.

Jujuvine, who was one of the first comedians to push vines on social media, said few Batswana understand the difference between the two genres of comedy.

“These are two different types of comedy because standup involves live performance while vines are recorded. Most Batswana know that it is all comedy,” he highlighted.

Jujuvine, who generally accumulates between 10, 000 to 20, 000 views per post said he doesn’t believe standup comics don’t get gigs because of the new comedy climate.

“These guys are not doing enough to be known by people and fans. Comedians who do vines work everyday and they are always shooting something and posting. Standup comics wait for gigs, they don’t record and it is not going to work for them because people end up forgetting about them. People need to be updated all the time. They could share their standup comedy videos on social media,” said.

Despite that, Jujuvine added that there is a chance for the two to work together and coexist.

“Standup comics are losing sight because they feel that they are not popular. Some standup comics try to do vines and that in the end will kill standup comedy. There is still chance and standup comics should work hard and should record their performances,” he further stated.

He said sometimes when one is a standup comedian and also tries to do vines, it doesn’t work. Jujuvine uses Facebook as his main platform to showcase his comedy.

On Instagram he has more than 12,000 followers with 6, 752 followers on Twitter. 

For his part, funny man Penene Ponono who doubles as a standup comic and also has a huge presence online, asserted that social media presence opens doors and leads to opportunities one may never be offered through traditional avenues. “It’s easy in social media because so many people are active and it’s a good platform to get your content out there,” he added.

The comedian, the winner of the 2017 President’s Day competition’s comedy category, said he does both standup and online video skits because he wants to capitalise on both worlds. He said he thinks that if one wants to be hyper successful in today’s landscape, one must master them both.

Penene Ponono further said people should understand that there is a huge difference between the two, so to him there is no way one could replace the other.

“But we should not take someone who does vines to standup comedy because it doesn’t work. Off course, there are others who can do both like myself,” he revealed.

Penene Ponono has performed standup comedy in so many shows locally like GIMC comedy and others. He doesn’t believe that traditional live standup comedy is obsolete just yet. The comedian has more than 135, 000 followers on Facebook, 2, 000 on Instagram and a less presence on Twitter with only 588 followers. From the times of Radijo and Ntsoro le Toki DVDs to today’s vines the way audiences watch comedy has evolved. Now digital platforms have birthed a new area for comedy to be displayed, so people can watch it whenever and wherever.



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