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Gringo, Saluting Zimbabwe’s TV Comedy King!

South Africans esteem standup comedian Trevor Noah. Ugandans are proud of Anne Kansiime. In Europe, there are an array of comedians, not lim...

South Africans esteem standup comedian Trevor Noah. Ugandans are proud of Anne Kansiime. In Europe, there are an array of comedians, not limited to Mr Bean. 

When Bill Cosby retired, Americans were not starved of comedy, other able actors took over.

The late Lazarus Boora aka Gringo was a king of the Zimbabwean entertainment industry, particularly the comedy sector. His sidesplitting sketches on local television were enjoyable moments to loyal viewers.

Television access in Zimbabwe was limited then, with only one channel on offer, and censorship was prevalent. And one offering that guaranteed smiles to Zimbabweans was Gringo’s witty vernacular acting exploits.

The weekly episode became a requisite for those attached to local television productions. Missing a single slot when Gringo featured on television was regarded as a viewers’ sin. In his crudely sheared shorts, and a similarly fashioned, sleeveless shirt, the expressive character sent us into laughter hysteria even before he uttered a single sentence.

The shoeless gardener was a pain to those who underestimated him, aptly extinguishing their efforts, humiliating them further. Underestimating the gardener had its own liabilities, as exemplified when he locked the maid’s boyfriend inside the house, exposing their shenanigans, to the appreciation of his employer. Through his misdeeds, Gringo covered his flaws by exposing his competitors.

The 1980s comedy era was dominated by the late Safirio Madzikatire, aka ‘Mukadota’ – a musician and comedian extraordinaire, who served the entertainment starved nation with his roguish tactics towards his family, and community. When Mukadota passed on, the nation was robbed of a humorist who deserved national reverence. 
Gringo, Saluting Zimbabwe’s TV Comedy King!
Gringo, Saluting Zimbabwe’s TV Comedy King!

When Mukadota vacated the acting scene, Philip Mushangwe, ‘Paraffin’ to his disciples, popular for his wolfing a patient’s food in a hospital, claiming it was too much for an ailing person was birthed. Paraffin’s insensitive and unbecoming character lured us back to the television sets, staying glued throughout the 30 minute weekly episodes. 

After the demise of the two, Gringo became an able replacement, as a misinterpreted gardener. Born in the Rusape communal areas in 1973, and launched his acting career while still at school. The actor trained in theater production, and he first appeared in a local television drama in 1997. He featured in a full movie, Gringo the Troublemaker.

Though the fame was there, the remuneration was minimal. Disappointed by the diminishing returns, he temporarily shifted back to village life to pursue other interests, momentarily halting his acting career. Perhaps the biggest washout in Gringo’s career was the lack of technology during his peak period. Without other media channels to showcase his vast talents, the actor was confined to local television productions which are notorious for their elfin earnings, if any.

With only one TV station, production houses sell their content to ZBC only, meaning their rewards are minute. Without social media channels like YouTube, his performing role was limited to ZTV, and his talents never ventured beyond our borders, so was his earnings.

Like the biblical Lazarus, Gringo lived on morsels, until his paining end. After a memorable acting career, entertaining millions, he rudely vacated our screens, injured by the lack of credit. Efforts to revive his character were futile. At his deathbed, he survived on handouts and complained of neglect. 

Without Gringo, the comedy will continue, but his rib-tickling meanness will be missed.

He deserves to be celebrated alongside Mukadota, Paraffin, Mutirowafanza (Simon Shumba), and Mudhara Bhonzo (Lawrence Simbarashe).
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