With so much drama and tragedy around, what would life be without comedy? But since laughter is the best medicine after all, there are only a few who can deliver on making us forget about all the problems – comedians. Comedy is a fast-growing industry in Namibia but equally so, talented characters are making names for themselves.
In Namibia this year, there is only one guy who does it best when it comes to amusing the crowd and it is Mark Kariahuua. The recently crowned Comic of the Year and funny enough Diva of the Year comedian has made his mark in the industry coming to be known as the Fresh Prince from Okakarara.
“It’s a good experience and feeling to know that I’m the funniest guy around. Who would have thought of it? This is actually the first time I have won something in my whole life. Comedy is good; it could be bigger if it was included in the Harambee Prosperity Plan but… It’s nice to be creative,” narrated the comedian.
Just like a joke, Mark saw the funny side in him as a school boy by the age of 17 and with a few steers from his friends, he took on the stage of the creative arts industry. After a good five years with Free Your Mind, he has managed to elevate his status from the ‘no body’ guy to the Okakarara Prince who has now become a household figure.
“Growing up, I always thought I was funny. I was always that guy in the environment who could make people laugh, but I never took it seriously. My friends pushed me to do a few gigs. I gave it a shot. I took part in a Last Comic Standing in 2012 and I just stormed into the space. But then again as I said, I went to the last round but did not win. It was close, just like the other chances in my life.”
“But it’s not easy hey – especially when you are a rookie. You get onto the stage and people start judging you. They can say the most absurd things and you have to have a thick skin to make it. But after that, things started going smoothly. People started calling me for gigs at events and I went along for “exposure.”
His initial years in the industry have been like of any other comedian – doing it for his name, “being used here and there and sometimes doing gigs that I did not really like”. He recalls being called to do a gig for school kids in the uptown suburbs and it was a “hard one”.But along the way, the comedian realised that there was now a need to start making money because the fame and exposure were not settling the bills.
“It does not help that you are well known but you are broke. So, I had to go back to the drawing board and figure out the path I wanted to go because many people just want you to perform for ‘exposure’. People literally use you. You need to navigate your way through.”
A few months ago, Mark had his first one-man show titled ‘The Fresh Prince from Okakarara’ engaging his followership with the display of his talent. The comedian is a huge advocate of one being true to himself and maintaining his real identity. “I personally do not like following trends. I want to build my own image at my own pace. I am just a young man from Okakarara so I have my story to tell.”
Inspired by his daily life experiences, Mark says one got to love Namibians because there are just so many funnies about the people. Starting with his people from Okakarara to friends in Windhoek.
“My Herero people from Okakarara are just hilarious. My Coloured friends are just as funny. Why don’t they have other ambitions except for owning a GTi? Why do they not want to go to the farm like us Hereros? White people also, why are they not chilling with us? These are things that are just fun to talk about. I am also inspired by my fellow comedians at Free Your Mind. The platform is amazing. They give it to you and the rest is what you make of it.”
Gurus like Lazarus Jacobs and Neville Basson have managed to rub off some inspiration onto the young talent, who says they are good examples of what to be when one comes of age.
According to the young comic, the two gurus have made a mark worth following with a clear definition of what comedy should be. “I can’t believe they know me now.”
Loving the art of engaging people in a room, Mark feels that the business is one that people need to be serious at all times. He says it takes small steps accompanied by a lot of hard work to make it to the top. Unlike other genres of the creative arts industry, Mark mentions that with comedy, one needs to work extra hard to deliver good results.
“We work hard. We write a lot. We basically work like machines to satisfy our audience. The moment you repeat a joke, your audience will know and not take you seriously. I really respect my audience so I put in a lot of effort.
These people pay like N$150 for a ticket. That’s like two braai packs and kapana spice. You are literally telling people to keep quiet and listen to you. So you have to be your best. These people don’t owe you anything but when people show interest in you, you need to show your A-game.”
To Mark, entertainment is not something to be taken lightly – and this is one reason he says might have led him to get the Diva award. “People think I like whining. But for me, once your name is associated with something, you have to bring your game on. When things go wrong, it’s your reputation that goes. So, I took the awards with no worries,” said Mark.
Asked about the hype around the award, Mark says for him it is more of what next. He did not disclose any big plans lined up on his calendar but promises that every appearance will always be funnier than the previous one.
Photo: Disorganized Photography