Through comedy, Muhangi promotes talent, creates employment for fellow youth

Back in school, his peers used to tell him that he was funny and this was because of the hilarious stories he always told them.

He however left it at that but as he grew up, comedy not only turned out to be his main source of income livelihood, but it also enabled him to create employment for many other fellow youths.

This is Alex Muhangi, the proprietor of Comedy Store Uganda, a popular weekly live stand-up comedy show.

“I am an entertainer and entrepreneur,” Muhangi introduces himself. Back in school, my peers used to tell me I was funny. I would tell them hilarious stories. So I would say it was always there in my personality though I didn’t really think I would pursue it as a career.”

He says it was not until he joined university that he seized an opportunity that presented itself to join the comedy industry.

Muhangi has since become a household name in Uganda’s entertainment industry as a star comedian.

Comedy Store

In 2016, Muhangi started Comedy Store as platform to identify and promote talented comedians, as well as making comedy himself.

“It is a combination of events. One of them was my experience in the different comedy outfits I was previously part of. Comedians were not getting their real value. There was exploitation at the hands of those that ran the business end of things. Sometimes, non-payment of what was due to comedians. But also, when you’re many people, there are different interests,” he says.

He notes that the frustration that came from these experiences played a big role in ensuring he came up with the idea of the Comedy Store.

Starting out small with performances at a bar in Bukoto a Kampala, Comedy Store would a few years later grow to become a household name in the country in terms of comedy.

Top African comedians including Kenya’s Eric Omondi and Nigeria’s Basket Mouth on several occasions performed during Comedy Store shows.

“It took hard work and consistency, especially the beginning. Getting people to appreciate that this concept is worth spending their money on and that it will be different from what was already on the market was not an easy job,” Muhangi says.

He says having returned from the US for a performance, the earnings are the ones he used to start the new idea.

“Our audience has grown significantly over the last six years. We have moved from inside a small lounge at Diners Lounge, to filling a hall as big as UMA multipurpose in Lugogo. That’s no mean achievement,” he says.

Promoting talent

Apart from hosting big names in the continent’s entertainment industry including Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz, Basketmouth (Nigeria) Eric Omondi (Kenya) Klint Da Drunk (Nigeria) and Kenyan singer Nameless among many other established artists, Muhangi is proud to have identified and promoted several talents.

Many of these have turned out to be some of the best comedians and musicians in the country.

“We have put the spotlight on underground names who have since become mainstream. We don’t like to name particular names because some individuals may not hold the same view that attributes their success to Comedy Store. But there are a number of them both comedians and musicians on whom our platform had a big impact on their careers.”

“I pride in the fact that we have created employment for young people. We employ at least 250 people (mostly young people) directly every Wednesday. There are many others who earn a livelihood along the value chain. Whether it’s in printing, food, transport, security and equipment among others.”

Covid-19 hit him badly

Just like many other businesses, Muhangi recalls the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects like the lockdown that saw the entertainment industry closed for over two years.

He says apart from himself, many other comedians and musicians who previously earned a living out of Comedy Store were left cursing since there were no shows.

“The Covid-19 pandemic was a tough phase. There were very hard choices to make in order to keep the show alive,” he says.

He says he was able to maneuver through the hard times and after the reopening of the economy, Comedy Store shows resumed.

Muhangi says his company also had times where the brand was being soiled by individuals with selfish interests.

He adds that having been built on a firm foundation, Comedy Store withstood all the challenges to remain firm.

Muhangi says with the experience garnered in the last six years of doing business, the future is definitely bright for Comedy Store and youths who earn out of their talents.

“My advice is to youths is to identify your talent or where your passion lies and utilize it to earn some income. Because when that degree can’t get you a job, it could be your talent that will pay your bills. Also, it costs you nothing to have humility,” Muhangi advises fellow youths.

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