I remember quite vividly the first time l came in contact with King Kandoro’s stand-up comedy at Chez Zandi in Harare, Zimbabwe. My prior engagement to his art had been through various satire skits and web series. Years in, the Madhorofiya Republik Creative Director has come to be known amongst the best in comedy in Zimbabwe. Since his rise in 2017, he hasn’t stopped perfecting his craft. It is evident in his journey that his success was not by accident but by pure sore hard work. With the success of his Conspiracy Theories special in which he interrogates and challenges his audience’s views on the political and socio-economic discourses in Zimbabwe.
During our conversation the comedic maverick shared how he intends to use his platforms to change the narrative of his generation. He further shared how his upbringing played a pivotal role in his career as it gave him an advantage of how he saw the world and how it equipped him with tools and skills which have become in handy today. He breaks down the role comedians assume in deescalating political tensions and bringing awareness to their audience.
CheckoutAfrica: Why comedy?
King Kandoro: Comedy was the one thing that spoke to me more clearly of all the things that l think l was able to do. Its the way the ideas come to me, that’s how l know that l was meant to be doing comedy. I don’t have to think when l do comedy, l just say out things as they come to me.
How do you think your upbringing or background has contributed to your comedic career?
100%! My comedy is my upbringing. The way l was raised informs the way that l speak now, the way that l see the world and all my biases. How l was raised gave me an advantage of how l saw the world. I come from the ghetto. Ghetto youths are naturally optimistic people; we are born in societies that really don’t have a lot. You literally have to make a dollar out of fifteen cents. It’s a community where you are raised to use the things that are to your disadvantage to your advantage. I grew up learning how to have fun on a small budget, learning how to create with very little. It works well in this day and age because reflective of the current times am having to put those skills to good use. Didn’t realize they were skills then because of the poor background. The most important thing l learnt growing up is the idea of happiness, observing the people l was around growing up there was an underlined importance on money.
In 2017, you mentioned in an interview that the long term goal for Madhorofiya Republik was to inspire one or three people to follow their dreams. Has that goal changed? And how does it feel to see that the movement has grown phenomenally and the blind jump paid off?
It was a beautiful realization at the time that we wanted to create a movement. I would have liked for someone to do this for me and to create a model. There was no intention in the process, so for me, as a college drop-out l had to set aside comedy, I had to put my all in comedy. Staying true to that ideal; its been a journey and the feedback from people who support me has been humbling and reassuring that maybe am on the right path. I don’t think l have done enough for someone to copy me and say l want to model what Kandoro did.
Madhorofiya Socials was one of your first initiatives to gain traction. What was the goal with that intervention?
The idea was trying to cultivate a community for myself, where l would be able to convince people that l am someone they could bank on and it was also to build relationships off social media. At the time there was little buzz on the web series l was doing and l was now trying to convert those relationships. The web series l was doing was meant to increase visibility towards my stand-up comedy. I wanted to create a community where when l had an upcoming show l was going to be guaranteed that l would have at least ten people that show up and have a good time. So Madhorofiya Socials became the platform that the people who watched the skits on YouTube and Facebook would get a chance to hangout with the comedian they watched and hear what more he had to say. It was all meant to be a platform to have a good time, sell merchandise and do Urban Grooves karaoke.
You mentioned that there was not a sense of community in the comedic space at that time. What are some of your comedic inspirations from Zimbabwe?
In 2017, almost everyone was doing their thing and energies started becoming more collaborative. I enjoy Louis The Prince, Doc Vikela, Ckanyiso, Kadem and Tinaye. We performed with each other several times over the years and there is now a sense of community. It helped, we helped shape each other’s material which enhanced the collaborative nature. Comedy is the only art form where we can all win together. Where someone is winning doesn’t mean the other is losing, we can all win at the same time.
Looking at your career, you have always navigated as more than a comedian but more of an entrepreneur. Was that a conscious decision or..?
This is the first time am hearing of this (laughs). To be honest l have never saw it that way, I have always thought that at the end of the day we have to eat. It was never from a “we have to make money” point of view. With Madhorofiya Socials the money that was paid for entrance was enough to cover the expenses incurred with regards to setting it up. I have always believed that as long as we are paying the bare minimums we are good, the idea is to not get debt. My philosophy from day one was that l never worried about the money but more on the product itself. I think with that focus on the product meant we were going out of our way to create brilliant content which made it easy to convert it into material people are willing to pay for. If we had planned it in a way where there was premium subscription beforehand, people would have not been interested.
In these current times there is tension around the world in the socio-economic discourse because of the Covid-19 pandemic, what do you think is the role that comedians play?
Comedians have always been those people who bring up that mirror to society, make us laugh about our own and societal insecurities. I enjoy satire so much because l get to play devil’s advocate. Just before this conversation l had put out material which interrogated the governance in Zimbabwe and it’s interesting to hear people’s views. So l would say that the role of comedians is to create platforms where people can converse. If the role by comedians is played well, comedians can easily create a space where we deescalate the tension. It’s a very important role during these times.
Congratulations on your successful Conspiracy Theories special. It has been received well demographically. You spent a sizable amount of time on your special addressing political mishaps and bad governance in Zimbabwe. Why was it so important to address those aspects?
For a long time, my stand up has been centred around addressing those aspects. I personally believe that young people were getting robbed, if those things are corrected young people can gain their lives back. With everything that is happening l feel like we have been robbed of our innocence and our future. Going back to how l work. I feel like it’s important in getting people to sit down and really speak, creating that conversation. Like l said earlier it deescalates the tension. When you watch Conspiracy Theories you will realize that almost everything l said creates that conversation where it’s trying to navigate that line of saying our lives are dependent on these aspects. Our lives as so intertwined with the politics. Imagine as young people if we got together and started educating each other about these issues and start dialogues. We are creating a space where our future leaders know what we want what we don’t want.
Taking comedy as a career in Zimbabwe is such a huge blind jump. Do you have any comedians from Zimbabwe that have created a model which inspired you to want to assume comedy as career?
For me it was just a blind jump. It was literally my confidence in my ability at the time believing that if l dedicated my time to this art form it would work. It wasn’t modelled on anyone, I would have loved for it to have been modelled around someone but at the time no one had a successful blueprint. Even in the current industry the young generation have no one to model their careers on but it should be modelled around that self-belief that you can do it.
Does the reception of your skits and stand-up comedy differ? And how do you deal with that disparity if it does differ?
I wouldn’t say there is a disparity per se, because it’s more of which art is easier to consume. Stand-up comedy is a niche market whereas skits are generally popular because they are easier to share and they are easy to relate to. With stand-up comedy sometimes the content might not speak to certain individuals.
I also wanted to congratulate you for being part of the Pungwe Sessions Volume II. How did that opportunity come about and how did it contribute your brand?
I have a relationship with guys who ran the project so it was a “let’s see what we can do” type of situation. There was no marketing plan. I was engaged for skits because the creative direction was to bring about that classic album feel such as a classic Hip Hop album like College Dropout.
You gained quite an audience and following in Zimbabwe. What prompted you to move and relocate to the United Kingdom?
I got married bro (laughs). I moved because l got married, my wife is based in the United Kingdom.
Congratulations man, so how are you managing the transition to the United Kingdom?
So far, things are under lockdown. The lockdown has been a hinderance to a proper transition but we are making it work, trying to maintain normalcy as much as l can. There are limitations in terms of content creation, you can’t be out and about. We will see how it looks like after things get back back to normal but am excited, there is work to be done.
While on that subject, how do you think the move can enhance your career?
I’m excited to see what happens. The first thing that comes to mind is that am now in country that has proper structures where there is an actual comedy industry; there are agencies, promoters, and comedy clubs dedicated to the craft. We will have to see how it goes down on the ground but the thinking is in terms of Youtube partnerships, Instagram partnerships and more collaborative work. The main limitation with doing comedy in Zimbabwe was that as much as people would have liked to support you, there was no disposable income. Whereas in the UK there is more disposable income, people can afford to come to shows and people can afford to pay for merchandise. It’s an exciting thought for what comes next.
In summation what would you say has been the most important part of your comedic journey? And why?
The people. Definitely the people. I have had people who have been supporting me since day one. As a creator sometimes you become insecure about what you have created and somebody comes through with those kind words and it just reassures your work. People have always shown up throughout my career and supporting, just look at the support the Sadza In the Morning Podcast got from inception and the phenomenal support Madhorofiya Socials has got. More so, the support the Conspiracy Theories special got and even support from people. Now that l am in a different country creatives have been reaching out for collaborative work and just lending a hand. Am excited for what the future holds.
What advice would you give to upcoming creatives, especially creatives in Africa?
Staying true to your passion; thats the most important thing. Stay true to your vision and not go for trends. If you look at my work, it’s been a slow burner. I wasn’t going for trends. When a clip goes viral it speaks to the work that goes into writing, editing and the filming. And also drawing lessons from successful projects. Figure out how to combine those forces to communicate something important. When you chase viral trends you end up producing work that is irrelevant and kind of diminishes the art. Your content should communicate so simplfy complicated concepts for people.
You have done some amazing work with Madhorofiya Republik, Magamba Network and ZiFm Stereo, you have literally been everywhere. Quite a spontaneous journey, what can your audience expect in the future?
They can expect more work. I’m always going to try to challenge myself to do the difficult work, to write better and trying to create content that resonates. I am always happier when my material resonates with the older generations. Naturally we have that ‘versus’ relationship with the older generation, so I want to take the mantle of representing the generation saying ‘there is more to us’.
Watch King Kandoro’s Conspiracy Theories special below.
This interview has been edited and compressed for clarity and length.