By Bridget Mananavire
One cannot talk about comedy in the country without mentioning comic characters like the late Lawrence Simbarashe (Mdara Bhonzo) and Timothy ‘Timmy’ Tapfumanei, the duo who popularised the television series Timmy na Bhonzo.
While the two were inseparable, the death of Simbarashe this year left Timmy on his own although he still believes he will manage to continue with the work the two had started. The Daily News on Sunday caught up with Timmy and below are some excerpts from the interview.
Q: How did you get into acting?
A: I started at ZBC as a gardener and rose through the ranks to the position of manager.
Of interest is how I got to the stage. When I started I only had three “O” Level subjects and then I started developing myself.
I supplemented till I had my full “O” Levels. I then went on to the polytechnic to do my national certificate in Library Science and after that I proceeded to do a national diploma in Library Science because then I was working in the ZBC library.
Those days I used to be called Father MC. I proceeded to do a higher national diploma in Library Management because I wanted to develop myself in the area that I was in.
I then diversified and started working with Mdara Bonzo doing adverts. This was in the late 80s, early 90s.
I went for my first degree with the Zimbabwe Open University (Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies).
I then went on to do my Masters in Business Administration and I graduated last year. Now I am studying towards my PHD.
Q: At what point did you start on your comedy journey?
A: We used to make jokes in the ZBC staff bus and when Mdara developed a radio programme titled Uyu Chake Uyu Chake, we used to go there and make jokes for five minutes.
At the time, I was still working in the garden as he said to me “just do what you do in the bus”. So that’s when we started cracking jokes and the programme became popular.
So during one of those years people got retrenched and we were called to entertain guests at the farewell party of some bosses. Jonathan Moyo was the Information minister then and he was impressed and asked why we were not on TV.
So we started with a five-minute programme that used to be screened before news every day and we used to act out those jokes that we had been used to talk about, that too became popular, and that’s when we extended to a full programme.
So around 2001 we started having issues with payments and we stopped that programme. I went on to do another programme titled Chatsva.
It was a comedy but without Mdara Bonzo.
Around 2003 we stopped it and I left ZBC and went on to join the National Social Security Authority as a liaison officer.
I left and crossed the border to Botswana in 2007 because there were opportunities that had risen there.
I went and joined the insurance industry. I came back to Zimbabwe in 2012 and joined Old Mutual as a financial advisor so I was then promoted to sales manager but because of arts I asked to go back to the field and became an executive financial advisor. It’s flexible, I interact with a lot of people so it doesn’t really matter where I am.
Q: What productions are you working on currently because your face has become a popular feature on many adverts these days?
A: I have a lot of adverts; I think they’re more than five that are currently being shown. I have also done music videos; I did one with Shinso for his Kumazuvandadzoka song. Now I see that the adverts are really taking up my time for productions.
We have a Timmy na Bonzo project we did before Mdara passed, so we are re-editing it and we are currently negotiating with ZBC to have it screened over the Christmas holidays.
It’s only one episode though that’s when Mdara started getting ill. We were trying to come back and we wanted to sort of rebrand it. It also had new actors. And there is a short movie I wrote called Friendship, so we should also be done with that soon.
Q: Which countries have you visited?
A: I am well-travelled, I have been to places here in Africa, Asia, Europe, and America. I have been to Hong Kong, I have been to China. Then I’ve been to New York, and Miami and Orlando and I even went to Disney. I also went to Denmark, the United Kingdom and Germany and well Africa I won’t mention.
Q: What are your prospects for the coming year?
A: I have my own production house called Rocked Media Cooperation, we are just starting and we have been facing a lot challenges because of the economy. But next year, I want to venture into full time video production and do joint ventures with others outside the country.
For now I am working on doing a production with Mr Ibu (Nigerian). We have already started talking so I am weighing options of him either coming here or I go there.
I know if we engage the tourism authority they might be interested in that. We also want to do movies like how Nigerians are doing it, we can do it.
Q: What is your assessment of the governance issues in relation to the arts industry?
A: We still have challenges because we are still being joined with sports, so much emphasis is being put on sport. Like now we have Kirsty (Coventry), she is more aligned to sports because of her background.
We don’t even know where the deputy came from. If maybe they could have taken someone form the arts sector, we have so many artists who are educated these days.
Maybe where we might all fall short is venturing into politics because it sometimes kills careers. But we can still do a lot of things, look at Stephen Chifunyise, he was a permanent secretary in the ministry of Arts and Culture and still wrote books and plays while there. We can’t even talk about piracy, zvakutonetesa.
Q: Apart from art, and work let’s talk about your family, how do they take your acting talent?
A: It’s not everyone who appreciates it. You get more appreciated outside.
Families have their own expectations, they want you to behave normally, yet when you’re in the arts industry it involves a lot of creativity.
You know it’s very hard to entertain people and to make people laugh. But then you realise hey, I’m the one with the gift. But my family really appreciates me. I have three boys, three girls, now I am a grandfather — I have two grandchildren and very soon might be having three.
When you get to this stage you start preparing for your pension, that’s why we have started this production company. And as more TV stations open there will be that demand for content. I have a son, anomboita semuni’nina because I don’t like dressing like an old man, so we compete in terms of dressing.
Q: And have any of your kids ventured into the arts industry?
A: Yes my son, we have a production he features on Timmy nechikwata but sometimes you just let them do what they want even if you wish they would be like you. But I always encourage them to pursue their education because the arts industry is quite poor.
Q: How do you deal with rumour, for example that you have dated some women in the industry?
A: Well I just laugh it off, for example the rumour about me and Muchaneta, but we work together on several adverts and that is it. Well it doesn’t affect me.
Q: And how do you deal with the pressure of fame?
A: How I have taken it is that for me to be popular it is because of people. I see that others shy away from people. Well, I walk around, talk and meet up with people.
I even go to places where people hang out a lot. And I am able to relate to anyone, if I get to executives, I talk that language and when I get to other people I talk that language. I take selfies with people and I enjoy it a lot.
Q: You used to sell your discs at hang out places, are you still doing that?
A: I have stopped because of pressure, so I no longer have time to walk around but I might have them in the car. And that time I used to publicise my comeback, and people used to be amazed by that but I was actually making money.
Q: What advice can you give to people who want to venture into the film industry and comedy?
A: It needs whole lot creativity, so you really need to sit down and think about your production, it’s not easy to make people laugh.
Q: And digital platforms like Facebook, YouTube are they something you would want to explore?
A: Yeah, this is an area where I had slackened a bit but deliberately. I need to put my house in order, do a lot of things so that I am consistent when I start posting, not wait six months to post something. So they are platforms I want to explore so that we get people excited and will be posting consistently. Daily News.