Ugandan comedian Patrick Idringi bellows with laughter when addressed by his newfound title: Africa’s funniest man.
“It’s actually overwhelming because it’s too much pressure,” he says. “To get that title—it’s really far-fetched!”
The 31-year-old comic has made it to the semi-final stage of the “Funniest Person in the World,” a competition run by Hollywood comedy club The Laugh Factory. The competition carries a $100,000 grand prize—around 350 million Ugandan shillings—as well as a stand-up tour across the U.S.
The comedian has gone on to tour across Africa and become one of Uganda’s best-known exports, performing in the U.K. and the U.S. alongside household names such as The Daily Show host Trevor Noah at the 2015 Comedy Central International Comedy Festival in South Africa.
Not bad for an ordinary guy from the tiny village of Ombokolo in northwestern Uganda. “I’m a star [in Ombokolo]. I’m like their best-kept secret, I’m a national treasure in Ombokolo,” he says.
To reach the semi-finals of the Laugh Factory’s competition, Idringi had to overcome an old rival—fellow Ugandan comedian Pablo Kimuli, who beat Idringi in the 2009 national competition. Only one comedian from each country represented was allowed through to the semifinals, and Idringi’s video submission outperformed his old nemesis, though he is gracious in victory. “If they had chosen the top 20 depending on the votes, Uganda would have had two representatives, because [Pablo] was also doing well,” he says.
Idringi performs under the stage name Salvado, which he gleaned from a Spanish soap opera, a genre known as telenovelas, which are popular in Uganda. In one series called Second Chance there is a particularly alluring male character called Salvador.
“He was the most good-looking person on Earth. Every lady wanted to touch him or see him, so every time I called myself that it would cause a roar,” says Idringi.
Despite his onstage persona, the Ugandan actually says that his looks are the main source of his material, particularly when he is facing a tough crowd. An average-sized man and not particularly hideous, Idringi says that his career has improved his appearance. “Money has done a lot of good to me!” he says.
Before performing in Helsinki, Idringi says he will be touring in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. He names London’s Hammersmith Apollo as his best reception so far, but says he encountered problems in francophone African countries, such as Cameroon.
“The language was a problem,” says Idringi, who doesn’t speak French. “I had a translator, he was using my jokes and he was funnier than me!”