Humble and reserved as he is off stage, Bugingo Hannington is one of the most popular and funniest comedians in the industry. Describing himself as a very focused and simple dude, he smiles satisfactorily as he says he is a happily married man and a father of four children. He also says he is very friendly, outgoing and loves making friends.
Bugingo has been doing comedy professionally since 2003 while at campus at Makerere University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Drama. On the entertainment scene, he needs no introduction having become a household name as part of the popular comic group Fun Factory that cracks ribs very week at National Theatre. He recalls how they performed for 15 people on their first show; the owner of the venue (TLC) and his few friends plus staff made the audience. None of his friends from campus were present as they were broke and did not believe in him or that he can be funny.
He is part of Fun Factory with Zzizinga, Richard Tuwangye, Veronica Tindi, Simon Base Kalema, Nina Katamba, Emma Kakai, Cathy Bagaya, Kwezi Kaganda, Isaac Kudduz, Veronica Namanda, Frobisha Lwanga, Raymond, Eve and Anne Kansiime among others.
Bugingo, Managing Director at Fun Factory talked to ChimpLyf’s Rowland Bon Gaucho about his life as a comedian, how he keeps his marriage going, his embarrassing moments and how people do not take him serious off stage. Oh, plus his views on the ongoing political situation the country.
Talking of being happily married, tell about that…
Yes, I am happily married to Ester Mirembe Bugingo and we have four children. We got married nine years; exchanged vows at Namirembe Cathedral and later hosted a reception at UMA show room. I remember when it was my turn to say vows, my friends made noise in church and I got ecstatic before saying I Do.
The first time you met Ester; did you ever think she would become your wife?
Honestly, No. I met her when I was very young and not thinking about marriage. I thought we would just have fun but as you can see, she is now my wife. I met her through a friend at her parents’ home through a mutual friend. Our first date was at the Monday Jam Rock at National Theatre.
Nine years is no walk over, how have you managed to keep the marriage going to date?
It is not easy but we somehow manage. Of course our children are the biggest reason. Plus, my wife’s calm personality and understanding nature has helped.
Many marriages have stumbled because partners fail to balance between career and home. How do you strike a balance between being an entertainer with so many temptations and a husband?
I have been in this industry for a long time and have seen all sorts of temptations. So I know how to handle them. About balancing between the two, I always give my family enough time. Plus my wife also gives me my freedom because she understands me.
Back to comedy, how do you describe the kind you do at Fun Factory?
It’s called sketch situational comedy. It is improvising based on current issues in society like politics, sports, events, weather etc. basically we try to get funny stories out of everything.
When did you know that you are funny and could make comedy a profession?
I did not realize the comic bit of myself until campus while doing my drama degree. However, as a child I used to act in schools but not comedy.
Any comical influences while you were starting out?
At that time it was Philip Luswata. He had featured in a number of commercial adverts and was making a name and I wanted to be like him. Besides, he was my lecturer. He spotted me and recruited me to work with him and I never looked back.
So, what’s it like being a comedian?
It feels nice when I make people laugh. It is not easy but we try. As you know it is not easy to make people laugh as we have make nuisances of ourselves on stage; wearing funny costumes, making faces and saying unbelievable things. Seeing people laugh makes happy. But after, they don’t you serious as they think you are always joking.
Do you ever laugh at yourself while on stage when you say or someone tells you something really funny?
Of course I laugh at myself. Sometimes it gets too much and I can’t help it but laugh. Because it’s improvised, you get caught off guard when someone says something you don’t expect and burst out laughing.
Of all the comedians in Fun Factory, who do you admire most and what is it that you admire?
It is the humility of all of us in the group. You know we are big time celebrities but we are very humble. It is that humility and element of togetherness that has kept us going all these years thanks to Luswata. We have really had internal fights and I admire all my Fun Factory colleagues because of that.
What has been the most embarrassing moment for you on stage as a comedian?
For a comedian, every time you crack a joke hoping the audience laughs and they don’t, its every embarrassing. You repeat it and they don’t laugh still.
What do you do when that happens?
I try to move on as swift as possible since it is all about improvisation. But that does not happen to me a lot.
Have you any regrets for becoming a comedian?
No. Not at all! I am actually very happy that I took this direction. It has exposed me to very many things, people and opportunities.
What would you say has been your most rewarding moment as a comedian?
I don’t have just one moment. It’s quite a lot. One of them was in 2011. Metropolitan Republic from South Africa came to Uganda looking for me to work with them. They knew everything about my work and head hunted me for my services. That time I was working with Scanad Uganda. I worked with them for three months in South Africa and it was a really good experience. I have signed a number of endorsement deals because of the fact that I am a comedian. And that is rewarding for me.
Of all the skits you have acted, what stands out as your favorite and why?
They are quite many for sure. But there was called ‘Haji’s daughter’ with Tindi and Zzizinga; I fell in love with a Muslim girl and she seduced me to go meet her parents. I gave myself a cool Islamic name like Sadam that could intimidate and crammed a few words from the Quran. All went well until it was time for Salah prayers. I stayed down when everybody was standing and got caught since I had no idea how to pray and her father took me for circumcision. It was really hilarious.
Do you think society’s perception about comedy as a profession has changed since you started out?
It has changed so much today because we comedians are being respected just as much as any other professionals. Comedians are now successful; we drive posh vehicles and stay in our own houses. Society has since accepted that Comedy is like any other profession after realizing it is not all about acting silly.
Why comedy of all professions?
Well, for starters it is what I studied. I didn’t want my three years at university studying drama to go to waste. Even my friends dong other courses kept asking what I would do when I graduated and this challenged me to become successful doing what I studied and enjoy.
How would you compare the comedy industry today and back then?
Comedy today has grown compared to back then. Many people have come up and made it in life as comedians and even gone to an international level like Anne Kansiime and Salvado among others. And many more are still coming through. This is a plus for us comedians in the industry. Back then we had just a few known comedians like Amarula Family.
Who are your five favourite comic locally and internationally?
Here I like Dickson Zzizinga, Amooti, veronica Namanda, Anne Kansiime and Richard Tuwangye. Internationally, it is Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Zach Galifianakis, Dave Chappelle and Trevor Noah.
What is your view on the country’s current political situation?
It is really terrible for the country. There is a lot of hate between opposition and ruling regime. We are at crossroads. It is really sad that people are being tortured for no reason.
You are part of the ‘I Am a Comedian’ campaign advocating for the release of singer turned politician Bobi Wine. What is that about?
We came together as comedians to give a voice to the oppressed who is Bobi Wine in this case. He is our friend and a very young leader who needs all the support he can get right now with lots of potential.
What are some of the things that people do not know about you?
I am a very serious person when not on stage. I don’t know how to and don’t like to cook. I am a shrewd businessman. I am God fearing. I have lots of responsibilities.
Any hobbies besides cracking people’s ribs?
I love to watch and play football, working out especially jogging and hanging