SPOKEN word poetry and standup comedy are two sides of the same coin. Both of them involve standing in front of strangers while bathed in the spotlight, and talking until fingers snap or ribs crack.

Stand-up comedy grew out of minstrelsy, which is a form of poetry that showcases a medieval singer or musician, especially one who sang or recited lyric or heroic poetry to a musical accompaniment for the nobility.

Spoken word poetry and standup comedy rely on artistic skill, technical proficiency, a keen sense of timing, quality written material and fluent delivery in the way eggs depend on chapattis to be called a Rolex. So it makes sense that the two shall be brought into single focus this Friday at a show at Arena Bar and Grill in Kisementi entitled ‘Standup and Slam.’ The latter refers to slam poetry, a form of performance poetry that combines elements of performance, writing, competition, and audience participation.

One the best practitioners of this style of spoken word poetry is Jason Ntaro. Not only has he been one of the best stage and page poets in Uganda for the last 10 years, Ntaro is also mentor to a crop of up and coming poets across the region. His layered wordplay evokes Robert Frost as his easy energy reminds one of Eminem in the way he threads together disparate images like a completed needlepoint. Having started his career with the Lantern Meet of Poets, he went his own way like Michael Jackson going solo after leaving the Jackson 5. Always ready to perform his heart out, here’s one poet who is sure to get people jumping out of their seats with applause this Friday.

Mercy Geno calls herself the shy poet, but her gregarious manner belies this presumed reserve. As one of the most versatile poets in the land, Mercy’s merciless assault on the bastions of political correctness is smoothed out by a relaxed manner and velveteen wordplay. She can be vehement and vulnerable in equal parts expressed variously by a ferocious passion and icy unconcern. Not above the gushy ballad, Mercy rolls up her sleeve so as not to wear her feelings there.

Mickey Mouse is an energetic poet who commands a huge following due to his infectious enthusiasm bubbling over the surface of the spoken word stage. His ability to elevate a simple one-liner into storytelling rhymes mined straight from his experiences in Muyenga is second to none. Largely an unknown quantity in the world of mainstream poetry, Mickey Mouse is a cat who runs with the big dogs when it comes to dropping vividly visual rhymes delivered with the correctness of Café Java’s caffeinated customer care.

Hilary Okello is, in my opinion, one of the most naturally hilarious comedians in the game today.  With a mischievous sparkle in his eye, he delivers a stream of jokes within a storied flow leading to the audience’s uproarious laughter as a contrary wind to his Valium-calm manner.

His good-natured ribbing of himself and his world reminds one of a younger, funnier Salvado (arguably the funniest man in Uganda). Since Okello is a doctor, you can go to him for a second opinion on that…even though I am sure he won’t be able to repair the damage he does to your ribs.

Watching comedians you love grow due to hard work and commitment to continuously releasing fresh material is something to celebrate. Timothy Nyanzi is the Kevin Hart of Ugandan comedy in the sense that he works his tail off. So he will only get better, and better.

These five performers will set in train the Open Mic night this Friday at Arena Bar and Grill and will surely be key in turning Standup and Slam into the best poetry and comedy showcase around. The show starts at 7:00 pm and entrance is free.

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