When Dallas based funny man, Alfred Kainga started out in stand-up comedy over a decade ago, there wasn’t much thought to it, other than ensuring that crowds were left in stitches at the end of it all.
Born in Mbare, Harare, Kainga attended Chitsere Primary School and then went on to attend Prince Edward High School (PE).
“I have had a very diverse upbringing. I grew up in the ‘ghetto’ in my childhood years, which toughened me up. It helped me recognise who was real and who wasn’t. Who I could mess with and who I couldn’t mess with.”
“Moving to Cranbourne at 14 and going to PE allowed me to see another side and how to blend in with people of various backgrounds.”
Hidden talents and what he wanted to pursue before comedy
Kainga pursued music before taking up comedy full-time, saying that other than telling jokes for a living he wasn’t a bad musician.
“Music is what I wanted to pursue when I was still in Zimbabwe. In fact, music was the first thing I did when I was still there and had a gospel group.
I played the keyboard and piano and I loved it. I dabbled with the idea of going into music when I arrived in the States but decided to focus on comedy because I felt it would get me to where I wanted to be faster,” he added.
Moving to the States
Alfred moved to the United States in the early 2000s and entered the Dallas Comedy Scene in 2006 as an open micer, turning professional in 2010 after he was spotted by local club owners and managers.
“I moved to the States almost two decades ago. It wasn’t easy moving to a foreign country where I didn’t know anybody and had no family. It was just me, a bag and a few dollars in my pocket.”
“I always wanted to be a comedian and thought I was funny enough in High School. It became more apparent when I moved to the States, that it was something that I could make a living out of.”
Kainga took a hiatus in 2007 as he felt he was not realising his dream and didn’t understand the business.
“I thought I was wasting my time because no one was booking me. I didn’t understand the business and at the time, I thought I was going to be a superstar in six months.”
“I think a part of me was naïve. I thought I was that funny and would be flying in jets in less than a year but, that wasn’t how the game worked and I realised I had to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of the industry.”
Despite not being in it for a year, Kainga said something in him kept pushing him to pursue his dream.
“Something in me always lit up when it came to comedy and being in front of people. My heart was not settled during that 12 month break and I knew I had to persevere and go after what was essentially my calling.”
In 2008, Alfred returned to the scene with a renewed focus and determination, saying that since then he has never looked back.
He was a finalist in the Shaq All Star Comedy Competition in 2014 and also a finalist in the Funniest Comic in Texas Competition in the same year, which earned him a guest appearance on Rudy Rush’s tour. Alfred also performed in Universities and Colleges across the State of Texas.
“I was excited and I had always been a fan of Rudy. I had watched him on Def Comedy Jam and so I wanted to see and be a part of his tour but was gutted when I lost to a guy named Black Ron.”
“Despite the fact that I had not won, they wanted me to come out and do a guest spot for that show which meant I had the opportunity to be on stage and work with Rudy Rush.
The show was packed and that was the first time that I had done a sold out show with a lot of people there.”
Kainga said that the audience was amazing and Rudy had given him a fantastic shout out after.
“Rudy got on stage and said that I was hilarious and since then I have worked with him a couple of times.”
While Alfred has had a successful run in comedy clubs in Texas, his work has also been recognised nationally and internationally as well. He has appeared in clubs across the US and was one of a few comedians featured in the first season of Kevin Hart’s Comedy Central show, Hart of the City.
“Making my debut on Hart of the City was definitely a major highlight and will forever be grateful for the opportunity.”
Alfred, who has worked alongside some of the most celebrated comedians in the US, including Bruce Bruce, Capone, Michael Collier and Tony Roberts said that he’d love to do a show with Kevin Hart.
“I would definitely love to share the stage with Kevin Hart. I admire his work. It would be crazy because he is doing mega things.”
He recently toured with Basketmouth, with shows in Nigeria and at the Wembley Arena in London.
“The shows in Nigeria and London were huge for me. I love performing in Africa and have just done a comedy festival in Uganda.”
Key lessons and staying ahead in the game
Alfred said the journey has had its highs and lows but the fundamental lesson he has learnt is to never give up and to never pay attention to what the next person is doing.
“I have seen people surpass me. People who arrived on the scene way after me and it is human nature to feel frustrated but, the most important thing is to stay in your lane and not give up because you don’t know where you’ll end up”
Kainga said that perseverance has always been key to his success and that staying ahead in the game, in a competitive industry like comedy, is down to creativity and remaining original.
“If you believe in something that you are doing, be resolute in your pursuit of it. Sometimes it will feel like the guy who started way after you has passed you.
The truth is, someone will always be doing bigger and better than you but don’t look at someone else’s journey, focus on yours.”
Talent in Africa
The winner of the 2018 Zimbabwe Achievers Award for Outstanding Achievement in Entertainment said that there is a lot of talent in Africa and that we are yet to see more from them.
“My advice to rising African comedians is to be original, work on their craft and believe in themselves. They should never conform to society. If they feel like what they are doing is funny and that is what they have to offer then they should not deviate from that.”
Next on the cards
Alfred, who is currently on a worldwide tour said that he has a busy schedule over the next few months.
“I have just completed my tour in Nigeria and Uganda and the next stop is Dubai and Jamaica.”
“Cape Town and Johannesburg are also on the cards, as well as Kenya and I will finish off in Zimbabwe. It’s quite an arduous schedule but I am looking forward to it.”