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Phil Darwin “African humor is becoming a business that is turning more professional”

Considered an elder of Congolese humor, 45-year-old Phil Darwin, radio commentator, humorist and comedian never stops reinventing himself. Here is a look back at the career of this multi-talented artist, who is preparing the first Comedy Festival in Congo.

By Mérième Alaoui

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How does a son of a Congolese diplomat end up on stage making his audience laugh? This is the story of Phil Darwin, 45, a humorist who has been working on a number of projects to make his passions: humor and acting come alive. The man who reports on current events every day on Radio Africa n°1 with “Les théories de Darwin” will be on stage at the Théâtre Le République in Paris on October 14, then on tour in France and Africa.

“Usually, I tell about my travels, the encounters I have there. But in this new show ‘Juste Phil it’, it’s more intimate, innermost. I come back to my spiritual quest, my relationship with God. But all my Catholic, Jewish and Muslim friends absolutely want to convert me. I am living a religious Mercato! Like Kylian Mbappé, who has been approached by PSG and Real Madrid,” he says smiling. Religions, another way to evoke the mixing, the mixture of cultures “which made what I became!

The most Maghrebi of the Sub-Saharans

Born to a diplomat in Congo, he traveled very early. “First in France, then in Algeria, always to follow my father, before returning to the Congo. The family spent three terms in Algeria, a country that the artist knows well and which inspired many of his skits. “I learned the difference between the Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian accents … All these countries where I spent a lot of time. Thus, he becomes the most Maghrebi of the Sub-Saharans and plays with greed the differences between communities. “I am proud of it; at the beginning I was almost alone to do that. Today, it has become a style among the younger generations of comedians. But he says that for him, it was natural. “I was born in Africa, I grew up there, I am African at heart, I need to share my story. What I really lived.”

But imposing such a passion on his family, and even beyond was not that easy. “Like any good African father, mine wanted to choose my profession: diplomat, surgeon… He wanted me to go to ENA like my brother.” A real “arm wrestle” began and he managed to enroll in a management school, “simply to have time to play. He obtained a master’s degree and the year he graduated; he signed his first contract with the French production company “Juste pour rire”.

“Some believe that making people laugh was a thing restricted to Ivorians and not to Congolese”

“I remember very well that nobody took me seriously when I said at home that I wanted to be a comedian. They openly laughed at me. For people, making people laugh was something restricted to Ivorians, not to Congolese. It’s kind of normal, we didn’t have any models to follow. When he thinks back, this justifies his determination to hold masterclasses and workshops for young Congolese humorists. The goal was to launch the first Comedy Festival in Brazzaville, in the course of 2023, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture. The idea is to import the model of Jamel Debbouze’s Comedy Club and Marrakech du rire, which have become references on the continent.

While he plans to continue performing, he sees himself more as a talent scout, or even a producer. “I don’t really see myself as a producer, but yes, I want to be in the transfer side. I am proud to highlight new faces. Especially since African youths are full of talents. Many Africans have made themselves known with short videos posted on the networks. Especially during the various confinements due to the COVID. 

“Culturally, Africans go to theaters more easily and are willing to pay for a great comedy show”

If young people dream of Europe to launch their careers, more and more of them are making a living from their art in Africa. “Some of them fill theaters because they are known on the networks. They do not hesitate to place products in their video. Others manage to enter into a partnership with a telephone operator, for example, which finances private shows…”, says Phil Darwin. African humor is now becoming a business that is turning more professional. “Culturally, Africans go to theaters more easily and are willing to pay for a great comedy show. I’m very confident about our Festival next year!”

In the meantime, Phil Darwin will be starring in Claudia Yoka’s latest film “Mayouya”, with Tatiana Rojo who featured in French film “Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon Dieu”.

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