Sharon Chideu, who plays the madcap character Magi in the popular Bustop TV comedy skits is the dynamite that came in a small package. Very few people, however, know that her childhood dream was to become a psychologist. NewsDay Life & Style reporter Winstone Antonio (ND) caught up with her for a chat about her journey in comedy.
ND: Who is Magi?
SC: Magi is a 28-year-old lady born Sharon Shamiso Chideu, first born, the type that was forced to mature quickly due to family situations. She is a single mother to a five year-old-girl. I studied directing and script writing and I hope to continue with my journalism studies plus psychology (trust me, it’s all connected). I’m a lover of food (meat), comedy, books and dancing.
ND: Describe yourself in three words.
SC: Smart. Patient. Flirty.
ND: What got you into comedy and how long have you been at it?
SC: I actually never thought I could do comedy. I never set out to do comedy. When I saw that my former college mates had started PO Box, I told them I wanted in. I auditioned, got the part and then I was shocked when I realised there was no script. We had to come up with lines ourselves. Now I even do stand-up comedy, who knew? I have been doing comedy for five years now.
ND: Where do you find your inspiration?
SC: From people around, from Zimbabweans. Zimbabweans are hardworking, a tough bunch who have been through a lot and still going through a lot, but still they stand. Then most recently I look at Danai Gurira and her achievements and think, wow, I want that.
ND: You have fitted well into the comedy circuit, winning an award. What is the secret?
SC: Persistence I guess, patience, because it takes a while for people to recognise and appreciate what you do. I am still building my name, I am not where I want to be at all I have hardly scratched the surface.
ND: Where do you hope to go with comedy and what are your plans for the future?
SC: Beyond borders definitely, a bigger stage and greater audience. I love directing so I’d love to direct huge productions in the future.
ND: How is Magi the comedian different from Sharon off set?
SC: Well, they are different in so many ways. For starters, Sharon is not tall. There is so much more, what you know about Magi is probably just half of me.
ND: So how are you managing to handle fame?
SC: I am not famous like that. Though there are times when someone recognises me and it’s not always the best of times. I have had to cut down or slow down on some habits as they would be frowned upon. That paranoia works double time.
ND: How do you compare the Zimbabwe comedy circuit to other industries?
SC: Oh it hurts! It hurts, I tell you. We need to work 10 times as hard to get where other countries are, partially because our generation is sort of breaking new ground so it’s tougher. Then of course there is the issue of our economy, it hinders progress, we have projects put on hold because of lack of funds. The consumer would not appreciate half-baked products. We don’t want to produce such too.
ND: Is comedy paying enough? Is it able to pay all your bills?
SC: At first it was not, for almost a year we would just work. It helped that we actually love what we do. Then companies believed in what we were doing. Nash Paints and Jan Jam were the first. Now we have good months and bad months, but I can safely say I am paying my bills through comedy. It’s my full-time gig and it gets better every year.
ND: You have been tortured. What has kept you going strong to be where you are today?
SC: Not physically, no, mentally and emotionally definitely. It has been a rollercoaster. I have had to go through therapy to find my footing again. That has helped. Most of that paranoia comes from that. I have been an extremely light sleeper, when I do sleep, so I guess I am still working on it.
ND: Last year you were nominated in the Outstanding Comedian category at the National Arts Merit Awards alongside Dumisani Ndlovu and Learnmore Mwanyenyeka. How was the feeling?
SC: It was surreal, unbelievable. I say unbelievable because I didn’t even believe in myself enough to submit my application. My producer did it for me and I had no idea. So imagine getting messages like “Congratulations for the nomination” while walking to work. I swear I got a bit winded. It meant a lot to me, that recognition, especially when you are always in the background. It gave me the push I needed to carry on.
ND: Are you in a relationship?
SC: I don’t know what I am in. However, dating is not easy, they don’t always get me and what I do and I don’t always trust their motives. I am paranoid. Not the “men-are-trash” kind of paranoia or distrust. No. I have met some really great men.
ND: Any five things that people don’t know about you?
SC: It’s Magi not Maggie, for Magirazi. I was born pre-term, at 61 days. My totem is Mhara, call me Maromo. I am not pregnant, but just gaining weight. I love meat. I love chicken.
ND: Word of advice to up-and-coming female comedians?
SC: Be aggressive, persistent and patient. Ask for assistance. Never ever compromise yourself. There are vultures out there; don’t let them get to you. The long route is always best. Getting to your destination will be that much sweeter, no burdens. Integrity matters.
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