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The origins

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First things first. Let me say that Comic Relief revolves around light issues— when life’s hard parts are overtaken— in the arts and entertainment industries. Thus, music, sports and other things that make life— heavy as it may, sometimes, be — easy to bear.

In fact, Comic Relief originated from a conversation with award-winning columnist, Madalitso Musa, who, one day, asked me: Do you know what the term comic relief means?

Before I could answer, he said: “Come here, I want to show you something”.

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He then played a movie, but his interest was not in the whole movie. Now, Mada, as we call him, knows that I like Coming to America, which I watch every two days. Call it an addiction, if you want. An addiction it may be, but not in the same category as the noise one man makes in a certain radio advert, inviting all Malawians who love a certain brand of the stuff disliked by strict churches to all turn their noses into chimneys! Which, by extension, means a pastor should forsake what he or she preaches to the congregation and, in the name of love for that particular brand, turn his or her nose into a chimney.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Some things love forces us to do!

Back to the origins of Comic Relief, which is the story today.

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Mada did not let me watch Coming to America that day. Maybe he was afraid that, once again— as I do every two days— I would fall in love with Shari Headley upon watching it. Yes, the eventual Queen of Zamunda. The girl— that is the sad part about life. She is a girl in the movie, but old in real life— who captivates the hearts of many with her god-nurtured-ness, if there is such a thing. How I hate the man who, in real life, broke the Angel’s heart. How can a real man forsake Shari?

Anyway, maybe that is why Mada did not show me Coming to America.

That day, the day I had to be ‘taught’ about the concept of comic relief – of course, I know comic relief and its meanings. In college, I studied film for two years. Talk of screen writing, documentary and ethnographic film, film theory and criticism and advanced film production. So, I know about comic relief— we watched a war film. Soldiers, stuck in the middle of nowhere, knew what would befall them any moment from that moment. Their enemies were approaching. Danger was in the air. Death was not very far away. So, what did they do?

They started chatting, knowing it could be the last time they chatted. They talked about their youth, their abandoned lives, their children, their take on happiness, among others. The camera then zoomed in on approaching enemy soldiers. I sensed danger.

But my ‘teacher’ was not interested in the approaching soldiers. He started playing the film again, especially the point where the camera depicts the soldiers as being in a lonely place, before focusing on their discussion of how life used to be, their childhood, and other light things that make life meaningful. Mada stopped the film there.

“What have you observed?” He asked.

“I have seen soldiers who, despite knowing that danger is around the corner, are discussing a past that is no longer a part of them, instead of talking of a future that may soon be a part of the past,” I said.

“Good,” Mada said, “That is the meaning of comic relief. It is a point where, before bad things happen, you focus on the lighter side of life. That is comic relief.”

I nodded my head in, of course agreement.

Two weeks later, when The Write Stuff column was moved from Friday Fest in The Daily Times of Friday to The Daily Times of Tuesday, Comic Relief was born as a column. It is about the light things in life. FEEDBACK: 0999 333 528 or richardchirombo@gmail.com

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