‘Festival of Laughter’ in Abidjan Celebrates African Stand-Up Comedy.

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The Festival of Laughter organized and hosted by Nigerian-born comedian Mamane gathered comedians from across French-speaking Africa this weekend for the ninth edition of the festival. The host and organizer of the event among his many talents hosts a satirical radio show “The Very, Very Democratic Republic of Gondwana” on RFI. 

The event aims to promote stand-up comedy on the continent, including poking fun at your ethnic group. It was a way of celebrating African humor and developing comedy as a career path in Africa. 

The festival’s highlight was the Palais de la Culture which was the so-called “Battle of Ethnic Groups”. Although not as violent as the title suggests, comedians of different origins were invited to go face-to-face to establish which ethnic group was the funniest.

Mamane directed contestants from all over West and Central Africa, including Congolese, Cameroonians, Togolese, Burkinabe, and Ivorians who competed in improvised sketches.

Winners of the 2018 RFI prize for stand-up comedy, from the comedy duo Les Zinzins de I’art, Kabore I’Intellectual said, “ We suggest a theme and put a sketch together quickly, in full view of everyone”.

He suggested themes such as heartbreak or what’s known as “goumin”, and further told RFI’s Marine Jeannin, saying “How does each ethnic group express itself when faced with “goumin”? He continued “I’m Burkinabe and “goumin” is a taboo subject for us, it hardly exists. But the Ivorians, they cry a lot, a bit like the French”.

Another theme was suggested, Daring to offend, laughing together.

According to Cameroonian comedian Sylvanie Njeng as part of the battle, contestants are invited to make fun of their community, even if it can offend.

She said to RFI, “There will always be someone, somewhere, who will take offense, but what’s interesting is the self-mockery. Your ethnicity is part of you and then you come along, and talk about it and what characterizes it.

She noted “It is often said that it is the preconceived ideas that offend. Once we have developed that, and played it out altogether, you see that nobody wants to set one ethnic group aside and make fun of it. 

The aim “Really is to laugh together, not to poke fun,” she argues. and claims that seeing various ethnic groups perform on stage is beneficial to everyone.

For instance, “I’m Boulou from the south., I’m very confident that after this edition I’ll be the town celebrity!”

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