The art and work of funny at the festival

David Kibuuka in his show David Wasn't Built in a Day. (Cat Pennel, Cuepix)

David Kibuuka in his show David Wasn't Built in a Day. (Cat Pennel, Cuepix)

I braved the second row of David Wasn’t Built in a Day, an autobiographical routine that is showing here at the National Arts Festival. It surveys everything from Kibuuka’s own dyslexia to dating and the outmoded romantic mechanism of the mix tape.

But not only does this statement reflect Kibuuka’s personal and professional etiquette, it also suggests the totality of his endeavour: David Kibuuka lives his comedy. “I’m trying to get my comedy to be the same as my real life,” he says.
At first this strikes me as a tad all-consuming, and then Kibuuka proceeds to entertain me for the next half-hour of the interview, stringing together disparate story after story with some thread of tenuous logic.

He starts with an anecdote about his one and only “proper job” at Spur, to his comedy beginnings as a covert sketch writer for TV comedy, The Pure Monate Show. He just can’t help it.

Born in Uganda, Kibuuka immigrated to South African when he was eleven. He followed the conventional straight and narrow as a good student and eager achiever to his matric year as head boy of Krugersdorp High, and then on to Wits where he received an Honours in Insurance and Finance.

Kibuuka’s entrance to the comedy scene was part financial desperation and part “not wanting to do something hard,” he says. The first formal induction was a comedy competition that offered a winning prize of R10 000. “If they were offering R1 000, I probably wouldn’t be a comedian,” he says.

Funny - but I don’t believe him. Even nice guys can suffer from self-deception. Kibuuka also says he’s a sort of outcast at the festival, asserting: “It’s comedy, at the end of the day, it’s not art.” And you’re unlikely to see him on the street promoting his show.

“Do I look like the kind of guy who would hand out fliers?”

While being funny might come easy for Kibuuka, delivering comedy to the masses is something he’s very consciously worked at for past last ten years.

In fact, last night when he stepped into the spotlight, Kibuuka’s first words were, “I’m at work.” They had a tinge of irony and seemed to me like the verbal equivalent of pinching himself; that, with a touch of ‘OK, let’s get down to business’.

For those of us who struggle to remember knock-knock jokes and only think up funny comebacks a day later, comedy is most certainly an art. Regardless of how easily that skill comes for a performer, the work of sharing it requires dedication. Kibuuka really does know all this, he’s already acknowledged: David wasn’t built in a day.

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