By Carlo Kuteesa
I met Anne Kansiime at the National Theatre one evening after trying to get a hold of her for a couple of weeks. First impression was that she was tired and she confirmed this by sighing in exasperation at the prospect of doing yet another interview.
Despite having agreed to meet, she was not happy about the idea.
“If you look in your archives, you will find that you have already done my profile. I have been interviewed by so many people that there is nothing you do not know about me. I have told you where I went to school, where I come from, how I got into comedy; your audience knows all about me,” she said in frustration.
Maybe she was right, there was very little she was going to tell me that had not been told already. Okay, let us not talk about her past then, but about her sketches. At this point she stops sighing and starts to open up about the process of making her widely-viewed brand of comedy.
We have all seen at least one video clip of Kansiime’s comedy, they are all over You Tube, and she adds at least one every week. They have been watched all over the world, and are one reason she stands out in the crowded Uganda comedy industry.
There is the one where she confronts a man on the street for whistling at her, turns the tables on him and then insists that he seduces her.
Poor guy backs away in shock.
In another, she complains about how she has lost her prowess in quarrelling, calls her husband out of the house, proceeds to quarrel with him for two minutes, and then tells the shell-shocked guy that it is alright, she was only practising quarrelling, nothing serious.
Another popular one is where she tries to divorce her husband, or even the one where she tries to karate chop her husband’s mistress.
The less-than-two-minute-long clips are topical and touch on issues that we face in our daily lives.
Her audience varies so much that children, adults, foreigners, even those that do not understand the local Ugandan languages are entertained by the genius that is Kansiime. How does she do it?
“I do not actually practice for the shows, but instead thrive on adrenaline,” she says.
Her assistant, Grace, who was with her during the interview, explains that there was no rehearsal that went into any of the work that they did. She says everyone had to ‘be in class’ in order to make a sketch work.
Kansiime explains that she felt the energy of the room and went with it, as opposed to having a set of practised lines and punch lines.
“Let me give you an example, I went to Kuala Lumpur to host the African Social Awards Malaysia. As soon as I was invited, I started writing down ideas,” she said with that famous sparkle in her eyes. “I kept on writing these ideas down, even on the plane, until the last minute.
While I am doing my hair and make-up, I will look through the ideas and come up with lines of delivery, all of it, last minute. I have to have that audience energy when I get on stage in order to make a good show, so I do not practice and that gives me the adrenaline I need for a good delivery.”
Speaking about awards, this little girl from the hills of Kabale has indeed come a long way. Last year she won the Best Comedian at the Black Entertainment Film Fashion TV and Arts (BEFFTA) in London. Nobody recognised her, and she was even refused to go near the red carpet.
She laughs at the memory of it all, from the time she heard about the nominations to the morning after the awards ceremony when her cheeks hurt so much that she could not dare smile again.
Kansiime appearing at UK’s ‘Sporah Show’
“I was in shock,” she remembers. “I had to go to the Internet to look for the BEFFTA awards because I did not know about them. I found that there were only guys who had been nominated and that is when I lost hope that I would win, but I was just happy that I was in the same category with those guys.
I went to the event and no one knew me, took off my heels and was walking around enjoying the free food and free wine and totally not bothered. Then they reached my category and called out my name and I ran onto the stage. By the time I got there, I realised that I had no shoes and had to run back to look for them.”
She also won Best Actress award at the Lagos International Film Festival Awards, and then that call came to go to Malaysia, where she came back with yet another award. Next week she will attend the Commonwealth Day reception in London, and she hopes to rub shoulders with Queen Elizabeth II.
Later this year she will co-host the Afro Australia Music & Movie Awards 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Her co-host will be Pascal Atuma (a Canadian/Nigerian actor, screenwriter, film producer, film director and comedian).
Not bad for a girl from Mparo, Kabale, uh? But maybe the real Kansiime is the girl who went to accept that BEFFTA award and all she said in her acceptance speech was, ‘Thank you, I come from far.