You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. You can import a good idea from elsewhere and launch it here. The success lies in how well you localize the idea. The XYZ Show is not unique. It had been done elsewhere. In fact, one of the founders, local cartoonist Gado, says that he visited the set of the French show “Les Guignols de l’Info” and knew instantly that the show’s 20-year success could be replicated in Kenya.
The cast describes XYZ as a spoof newscast featuring latex puppets. The concept seems to me like very hard work. The characters are usually well-know personalities who feature regularly in the media – politicians, local heros, musicians, etc. The characters are created as puppet caricatures in latex. This means that their features are exaggerated through distortion to making them both instantly recognizable and very humourous. The puppet for Obama, for example, will always have huge ears and rolled up sleeves. The show has a permanent newsroom cast but sometimes are sets are required to create realistic impressions. The puppets must change their shirts as well.
Then comes the creative work. This involves writing scripts, to depict political satire at its best. This involves a cast of comedians to do the voice work of imitating the real life personalities in a humourous way. The jokes also need to be relevant and timely. But there’s no shortage of content. There’s always a Kenyan personality ready to make a mockery of self in the media without prompting and sometimes that scene need not be scripted. It can be reproduced as it happened.
I believe a lot of work goes into creating each show, even though I have never visited the set. It is also quite possible that the work is expensive, But I suspect that is why the shows are brief. Or maybe the real reason is to keep us hungry for more.
Still, more needs to be done on the recognizability of some characters. The main ones are instantly recognizable while some others take a precious few minutes to recognize.
I cannot know if the show is a financial success. But in other ways, it is a huge success. It helps Kenyans to look at themselves with some distance and laugh at themselves. It is also a success if you look at the numbers: Facebook “likes” are one indicator.
If you have never watched the show, you can catch it on YouTube or on buni.tv. That is one creative Kenyan idea.