Ugandan comedian challenges gender roles

By Apophia Agiresaai  |  June 27, 2013 at 5:46 PM
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KAMPALA, Uganda (GPI)-- Ugandan comedian Anne Kansiime, 27, portrays a wife temporarily separating from her husband in one of her popular sketches. The sketch opens with the troubled couple exiting a restaurant, she says. Then, the wife offers her husband a packet of condoms. “My dear, you are going away, and I know you might fall into temptation,” Kansiime says, demonstrating the wife’s lines. “I trust you, but I don’t trust the women you relate with. Have this pack of condoms in case you fall into temptation.” The husband accepts the condoms but reprimands her for her lack of trust. The wife then asks him to leave some condoms with her as an additional precaution, Kansiime says. But rather than oblige, he flies into a rage at the idea that other men might tempt her. Kansiime often uses comedy to explore relationships, gender roles and double standards. But men and women alike find her routines refreshing in Uganda’s conservative society, she says. Comedy is a popular pastime in Uganda, but men dominate the scene, Kansiime says. She estimates that there may be four professional male comedians for each rising female comedian. “Male comedians are just warming up to the facts,” she says. “We are here to stay.” Female comedians fight an uphill battle, Kansiime says. They have a difficult time pulling off certain jokes because society holds them to different standards. “As a woman, you cannot crack tribalistic or obscene jokes,” she says. “Yet a man can crack them and get away with it.” Her comedy challenges Uganda’s traditional patriarchy, she says. Conservative Ugandans expect women to submit to men, but the women in her sketches are anything but submissive. Kansiime did not always intend to challenge gender stereotypes through comedy. She graduated from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, with a degree in social sciences in 2007. But friends showed her that she was an entertainer, she says. She realized she was talented when they asked her to tell them her version of stories. That talent grew on the radio after graduation. Kansiime lent her voice to local radio drama Rock Point 256, which broadcasts episodes about health, empowerment and social issues. Since then, Kansiime has never shied away from tackling social issues with her material. For the past three years, she has sparked debates on current events as a co-presenter of “Minibuzz,” a television show featuring commuters’ opinions on news and culture during their minibus rides to work. Kansiime’s comedy delves into issues that affect all Ugandans, such as infidelity and domestic violence, says Ssanyu Kalibbala, a senior producer for Made in Uganda TV, which is the network that airs “Minibuzz.” That universality contributes to her success. “Her humor appeals to almost everybody,” she says. “Children, elders, housewives – all think she is funny.”

Dithan Musoke, an Internet cafe owner in Kampala, says he typically finds men funnier than women are. But Kansiime’s confidence makes her funnier to him than most women.

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