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Comedy Allows More Biting Expression In Senegal

African countries like Senegal, where journalists regularly get sentenced to jail for what they say and write, or where the quality of reporting is not good, comedians are playing an expanding role as government watchdogs in the media. VOA's Nico Colombant reports.

A medley of music and best of moments introduces the Senegalese comedian known as Koutcha on his daily morning radio show.

In one of his bits, he does a parody of Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, saying he would like to be a candidate to become the president of the United States of Africa.

He also does satirical comedy about a son wanting to succeed his father, and corruption scandals involving government ministers, cultural promoters and sports officials.

Koutcha says the trick is not too individualize too much, but to make allusions very telling, so that people know what he is talking about.

He says his material is daily news, and that there is no lack of material for comedians to make listeners laugh, sometimes in disbelief.

He says he feels he has much more freedom of expression than journalists who are afraid they will be sentenced to jail or made to pay hefty fines if their reporting is not substantiated. He says this has never happened to comedians.

One theme he says he cannot touch is religion, as Muslim brotherhoods are very powerful, and can create problems he says.

Koutcha says famous people used to react negatively when he did sketches about them, but that would lead him to do more sketches about them, so they stopped.

He says, now, famous people ask that he make fun of them when they need to promote something.

His radio program director Antoine Diouf says comedy shows are very popular, and that he keeps adding them to his lineup.

He says comedians can talk about things journalists are too afraid to investigate, like corruption scandals, or conflicts between government officials.

Diouf says in Senegal there is a problem between the government and media, with too many journalists being arrested, and too many being afraid to do their jobs.

One satisfied listener is student Alioune Ba who listens to Koutcha every day. He says he learns more by listening to his program than any news bulletin.

Ba says behind the humor Koutcha can be very pertinent. He says when the comedian talks about difficult economic conditions and corruption, it seems like he is talking on behalf of all Senegalese.

Koutcha says his comedy is a gift from God. He says some people are born to become football players, mechanics or prison wardens, but that he has the gift of comedy, and that he intends to keep on using it.