Comedy trails Gringo everywhere

Scenes from ‘Gringo’ episodes

Scenes from ‘Gringo’ episodes

Godwin Muzari Memory Lane
Gringo is always hilarious. On and off the set he cracks jokes and has become a comedian even in real life. Few people call him Lazarus Boora, his real name, and he has accepted that it is difficult for him to have serious conversations where he is known. Sometimes he wears big hats to disguise himself in order to do his business without distractions from fans.

Since he hogged the limelight on television as the lead actor for the “Gringo” series, everyone expects him to drop jokes wherever he goes. He can only be serious when he is with his family or doing work outside comedy.

But the actor reckons professions that do not involve his comedy skills are difficult for him to handle because workmates and clients hardly separate Lazarus Boora from Gringo.

It is inevitable for him to look for other jobs between acting roles for sustenance. In the face of piracy that has eroded acting and sales income, Boora has to go to work to feed his family.

He recalls how working as an undertaker at Doves Morgan between 2004 and 2005 was a challenge, not because of the nature of the job, but the interaction he had with clients an mourners.

“When you are a professional undertaker you have to be a serious person. Most of the time you interact with mourners and a funeral is no place for fun unless uchitamba chiroora or chisahwira. So it became difficult for me because some mourners would tease me. You know it is not easy to suppress laughter,” Boora recalls.

“Just imagine you are in a chapel and after the funeral service an official says ‘now I will introduce you to the man who will take care of your deceased relative from now until burial’ and you see Gringo stepping to the podium. It becomes funny. I would always see some people laughing in the crowd. I had to pretend I was on set to keep my composure. When I became a centre of attraction at a funeral and when some mourners made me laugh, I knew being an undertaker was not my profession.”

Boora is comfortable with jobs aligned to sales and marketing where he can use his fame and skills to lure customers, but he maintains that acting is his calling and most comfortable field.

He relishes all the days on set as they did the Gringo series that was written by Enock Chihombori. The cast changed over the years and Boora remains the main character.

In the early days, the cast had the likes of William Matenga (Gweshegweshe), the late Stembeni Makawa (Mai Gweshegweshe), the late Collin Dube (John Banda), Memory Guzha (Anna), Memory Makuri (Madhumbe) and Fanuel Tonganai (Firimoni) among others.

Boora remembers how he borrowed a dollar from John Banda and how he would intimidate the latter everytime he came asking for his money. He says the scenes with his late friend were the best.

“I knew Collin before the ‘Gringo’ series started but our relationship grew stronger when we worked on the production. We became close and we were together most of the time off the set. I would regularly visit him in Highfield and he came to my place in Mabvuku several times.”

Boora and Collin got roles in “Yellow Card” in 2000 because of their popularity in “Gringo”. We did many projects besides ‘Gringo’ together. People would hire us as MCs at weddings and parties. It was always fun being together. When he died, he had gone to Bulawayo for a short production. He got the role because of the popularity we amassed with ‘Gringo’. I was so heartbroken when I received the news of his death. I felt like I lost a part of me. We lost a good actor and I miss him up to now.”

Boora also enjoyed the scenes when he gave Tobby (Enock Chihombori) a tough time as the ‘London boy’ made several visits to Gweshegweshe’s house to see his girlfriend Anna. He says Chihombori only did skeletal parts for Gringo on the script because he knew the actor would spice the production with his comic expertise.

When John Banda died, Gringo’s sidekick became Mbudziyadhura (Blessing Chimhowa), another interesting character who added hilarious scenes to the production.

Gringo, Mbudziyadhura and Gweshegweshe are the only characters from previous “Gringo” productions that feature in the latest edition titled “Gringo the Troublemaker”, but the new characters have maintained the film’s humour. The new faces are Evangelista Mwatse, Tapiwa Mavindidze, Chati Butau, Agnes Tigy and others in supporting roles.

Boora also cherishes his combination with the original Madhumbe (Memory Makuri). The maid-garden boy scenes were the most popular with viewers while Madhumbe’s dull boyfriend Firimoni made the acts more exciting.

Makuri relocated to the United States and Boora says they communicate regularly about their good days on screen.

“We chat regularly on Facebook. We laugh at some of the old scenes and she is always eager to know how the arts industry back home is performing. She hopes to return and feature in more local productions.”

Through the Gringo role, Boora managed to secure contracts to market various products and he is grateful to their first director Dorothy Chidzawo for giving him the role.

“I worked with Mai Chidzawo in the drama “Mafuro Manyoro” that was written by Aaron Chiundura Moyo and she was impressed although I had only done a cameo role as a junior police officer. She told ‘Gringo’ writer that I was the right actor for the main role.

“Chihombori agreed to have me in the cast and that was the beginning of a big project.”

Chihombori knew Boora from Screentalent, a club of actors that was based in Harare.

Boora had joined Screentalent to sharpen his skills in acting that he discovered when he was still at school in 1984 when he featured in school dramas.

He worked with a number of drama groups based in Mabvuku and also had a stint with Reps Theatre where he featured in a production titled “Mhondoro”.

At Reps, he rubbed shoulders with big names like the late Tsitsi Vera, Stewart Sakarombe, John Denison and Georgina Goldwin. Among all the actors he has worked with, Boora is close to Butao (who played Godobori in “Gringo the Troublemaker”) and Chimhowa.

He was with Butao when he came for the ‘Memory Lane’ interview at Herald House on Wednesday afternoon. They have known each other from the time they were together in a drama group in Mabvuku in the early 1990s. Butao said he is happy to work with Boora. “We became friends after working together in the same drama group. He helped me fulfill my dream of featuring in a film production. We have done many stage productions together over the years and we always wish the best for our industry,” said Butao. They both concurred that piracy has killed the arts industry.

Boora said he wants to be a full-time actor, but is forced to work outside the industry to make a living. He is currently employed as a marketer with a local company.

Previously he worked for Mutomba Supermarket and The People’s Road Show and he still does many road shows with different companies as part time work.

When he is not acting or working for any company, Boora spends time at his rural home in Nyazura where he was born in 1973.

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