Clive Chigubu’s last act

The Chronicle

Robert Mukondiwa
There is a thing about comedians. They open their hearts the most with jokes that often poke fun at things related to themselves or things they relate to and with the most. And yet they are the most deceptive people. Ever!

You see, we feel like we know them and are part of their open book lives and yet deep inside, they hide their most fragile truths. In their creativity, they flaunt their scars and tell us of the most embarrassing moments of their lives.

But when it comes to the scars, the small things that sometimes are difficult for us to see easily and clearly, they hide them in plain sight.

Why does a man so proud of his wounds hide his scars is the question we ask of the men (and women) who make life lighter and easier for us?

The same went for Clive Chigubu. His battle with identity and embracing life on tribal faultiness was a popular theme of his comedy.

His lack of a father figure was the butt of many of his jokes. Things that we or may rather not talk about. He was like an open book.

Or so we thought. And so, when he passed on after battling cancer on Tuesday morning, his deception was laid bare.

He never really told us that he was leaving. He never really showed how he was actually standing at death’s door, about to cross the threshold to the other side.

And all of a sudden, we were left with questions. How did this man, who we thought we knew and who hid in plain sight, suddenly slip out of our lives?

But that answer will never come. The 31-year-old father of one who passed on due to a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cancer in the family that also took the life of Tongai Moyo in the arts, left a fitting legacy in his short life.

I had read with bemusement comments made to a post by blogger Plot Mhako a couple of years ago when he argued that in his opinion, Clive Chigubu was the best stand-up comedian in Zimbabwe.

He had stirred debate. I chose not to wade into the Facebook debate because it was like debating how the sun is the celestial body that warms the earth the most.

It shouldn’t have been up for debate at all and I said this not speaking glowingly of the dead. It is and was a fact.

I had seen Clive melt many hearts and minds and create smiles from the least likely of faces and concluded that in this patch of land called Zimbabwe and certainly in our Southern African neighbourhood, Clive was the best.

At the inaugural comedy night at Pakare Paye Centre in Norton, sometime around the year 2015, Clive went onto the stage and delivered an awesome set.

Those who knew the private life of Oliver Mtukudzi would tell you that the man had a poker face. He hardly cracked out in laughter.

Sometimes Oliver behaved like he had borrowed a face carved out of the resilient stones of Matobo. Stone aced, he had sat through a number of performances by a raft of local comedians.

Occasionally, he would give the odd wry smile and smirk. Most times he would sit as if he were watching paint dry.

Then when Clive went on stage, the man they called the superstar, the hard to please Oliver Mtukudzi was giggling like a little baby on nitrous oxide. Clive had made a rock laugh so much it dried tears of joy.

After the event, talking to Clive, Oliver showered him with praises and said he had never fathomed stand-up comedy would be this fun yet didactic and a plan was hatched to make the event bigger although that was never to come to pass.

Clive had an uncanny ability to touch on some of the most sensitive and controversial topics and poke fun at people and certain demographics in ways they could only laugh at; shaking their heads in wonder thinking ‘who is this wretchedly funny creature who offends all of mankind and none at all?’

Zimbabwe is a nation of lily-livered people who run away from robust discussion and introspection on some of the most controversial topics. Sometimes, we would rather not talk about it. Other times, we suddenly become a ‘Christian country’ to avoid certain topics.

Clive was a phenomenon made of stuff from the future. He was one with a spine made of nothing less than silicone carbine, arguably the hardest substance known to man.

Arguably! He adapted and moved around to confront his environment, and his audience and provoked them into asking themselves crucial questions.

The late King of Comedy

From religion, tribalism, homosexuality, atheism, sex, drugs and alcohol, nothing was taboo or out of bounds to Clive.

And all that without being offensive and being terribly offensive in equal measure. Balancing out the nonsense and making sense of the lives of diverse people and topics.

But it was his uniting clarion call on all things tribal that he shall always be remembered. He should also be remembered as a strong resource that we could have engaged as a nation to help address the elephant in the room around tribalism.

And as Joni Mitchell said, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” and so it was with Clive.

His death itself was in the typical nature of the deception of comedians. Clive had slipped out of the public eye.

Waiting to die. Waiting to die because had he planned on living, perhaps, he would have made his illness public. But he had told his friends not to make it known that he was battling illness at all.

And when he finally let the world know, he was just less than 48 hours from his epilogue. He exited the stage in pain. And so, he left the stage before many fathomed he would.

And herein lies further deception. Babongile Sikhonjwa speaks of how Clive had been in pain and battling in his last days.

And yet on the last day he had visited, Clive had mustered what seemed like strength and preparedness to fight cancer. He had even deceived Babo into thinking he would make it.

“Kumele ngidle ndoda, kumele ngidle,” he reportedly told him as he needed his guests to leave and have him dig into some food. Eating is after all a good sign among the unwell.

Yet perhaps he was staging his last act. Preparing to be well so we would all leave and focus our eyes elsewhere so that he would peacefully look his five-year-old daughter one last time in the eyes and bid her farewell. He would close his eyes for the night. He would sleep and never wake up.

Word is perhaps we may not even get to have one last glimpse of him tomorrow when he is laid to rest because he had become so frail in his last days and hours.

No body viewing would be heart-breaking. But maybe, that is how this player wants to exit the stage.

That we may only be told that ‘ladies and gentlemen, Clive Chigubu has left the stage’ without actually seeing him. But it would be a privilege to see him and say goodbye.

And we have, as a nation, lost our most humorous sensation. As Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber would say, if the table of artistes were a feast, there’s one less place at our table.

In the galaxy of stars where Clive shone the most, the shooting star’s abrupt nature of how he suddenly left us means there is one less star in the sky. Our galaxy has lost its shiniest star in the world of comedy and that he certainly was.

Because that 5am, death came creeping into his room. Breathing down his frail body. Setting icicles of cold onto him, rendering him lifeless and cold and taking him from us.

Did they have a conversation before he left, death and Clive? As beautifully stubborn as he was perhaps, they did. Perhaps in true Clive style, he cracked a joke. Or perhaps he just walked off silently into the afterlife.

And yet my biggest bet is he cynically flashed that beautiful wry unforgettable smile and seeing St Peter he stood naughtily and said; ‘Yeeeeyeh!!’

Goodnight Clive Chigubu you awesome soul!

Article Source: The Chronicle

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