Interview with Bebão Cambaio

A young black man talking on the mic while hugging a young black lady.
Bebão presenting a young entrepreneur at one of his shows

Bebão Cambaio is a young humorist from Lobito (Benguela province). During the interview, we had a chance to talk about how he overcame his disabilities, as well as why doing humour in a country that experienced civil war so recently is difficult. 

When did you start being a humorist?

At first, I was part of a theatre group that unfortunately later disbanded. Therefore, every actor had to find something to do. I already had some interest for comedy inside me, I didn’t know what it was, but I was doing it in scouting and that’s where it all started. We created, within scouting, the group of Patrulha Porto, which I was the leader of. There, we joked around a lot and, among those jokes, people would look at me and say: “hey, this guy has a talent for humour.

I think I was born this way, it was always a gift and I did not know I had it. Once, I was invited by a young man named Milton to work for 5 minutes in a bar… and people loved it. Since then, I kept performing in that same bar, and I wasn’t even aware that humor could give me money – my pay was the customers leftovers. At the time, we lived in the surroundings of the city, so I had to have at least 200kz for transport – because back in that time a taxi ride was 50kz.

It was in 2002 when it all started, but my career as such got a real “boom” in 2013, when I went to the World Scout Camp in Canada. I won the Messenger Of Peace prize, in a worldwide camp that saw between 80 to 100 countries participating. I stood out among more than 50.000 scouts from all over the world, and I was then considered as the Messenger of Peace to Angola.

I also had unconditional support from the Tunezas, when they gave me the first opportunity to perform on a big stage, and since then the boat kept going. In 2016, I went to Portugal for the Stand-up Comedy Championship, and I won that competition. Thus, I’m a humorist since 2002, but my career as such only started from 2013.

Bebão, how was your youth?

I suffered a lot of bullying at school because I was disabled and I have down syndrome, and I had to do anything to stand out among my classmates. In addition to suffering from bullying, I had paralexic problems, meaning that I couldn’t stand on my feet for too long, otherwise I would soon fall. Theatre and the scouts were my starting points to overcome all this, by trying to excel there and to find out who I am and how I am. I was looking for my own reality in these groups. Finally, that is how I’ve overcome my difficulties and, today, I’ve come as far as to make fun of my own problems through my performances.

Who is your inspiration?

I have had several sources of inspiration in the comedy world; anyone who makes humour for me is a source of inspiration, because I think making humour is not easy. Making people laugh is actually difficult and not everyone has this gift. I used to say that there can be the funny humorist and the silly one, and these are two very different people. God gave us the gift, but we are the ones who have to develop the skills.

I definitely have the Tunezas as a source of inspiration, but also Calado Show, the Maestro, Kotingo. There are several humorists here in Angola that inspire me, but also abroad: in Portugal, there’s Fernando Rocha, who is great and really amazing, while in Brazil, there’s Toca Valcante.

These are people that I go looking for and I learn from every day, and as we are influenced by what we see, I think that every person who makes humour is – for me – a source of inspiration.

Among the various themes you speak of, on stage, which are the ones that identify you as a humorist?

Stand-up is a product of humour where the comedian tells what he/she thinks, but we, as comedians, have a big responsibility to select the topic, taking into account the environment we’re performing in. For example, if I’m in a show with kids, I have to know the type of theme that I’ll take to this audience.

Nowadays, in Angola, one of the themes that shakes the audience is sex, in its educational aspect, and not as an act. In an adult show, for example, I talk about sex as education, because not everyone has had sex education. I’m also very observant: everything I see that can be a joke, I use it. We, humorists, have a responsibility to show the positive side of humour, which in itself is education.

What assessment do you make of the level of Angolan humor?

Doing humour used to be very difficult because of the context. Today, our humor has the acceptance that it has, because many went ahead and opened the way so that, today, people could hear it. In a country that has experienced a war like Angola, a humorist appears with a microphone to make people laugh… I would say that isn’t an easy task, but, due to a lot of work – I am talking about the Tunezas and Calado Show who have revolutionized Angolan humour – today we humorists of the new generation that have the opportunity to even go to other countries to perform.

You have to respect and lower your head, spread the rug, for these two giants of national humour who have contributed so much to the growth of Angolan comedy. If today we are humorists, it is thanks to these two legends of humour: the Tunezas and Calado Show.

Today, what are the challenges that Angolan comedians face in order to succeed, including you?

I don’t really like to talk about success because I don’t work for success. For me, success is something temporary. I’m the first Angolan humorist who lives and performs in Benguela and is known by all of Angola. Most just go to Luanda to find publicity and audience, because Luanda has the biggest market. Someday I might go to Luanda myself, but in the meantime I manage to build a reputation for myself in Benguela.

We live in a province in which it’s very difficult to be an artist. Benguela is not like any province of Angola: I challenge any Angolan artist to come for a show here. I can ensure that the first show will fill, but the second won’t and at the third he/she will give up. Today, in the centre-south part of the country, when you talk about humour, you talk of Bebão Cambaio. It was hard work, because I never fought for fame or success. Today, I support myself and my family by making humour, so I have respect for the work I do. Success will come when you work hard, and I am on the road to it!

Two young men chatting at a table in front of a beach.
Armindo interviewing Bebão

Who are the artists with whom you have shared big stages?

Almost all the best artists in Angola. To begin with, every year I share the stage with the Tunezas. I have already shared the stage with Calado Show several times, with Kotingo, with Paulo Flores, Matias Damásio, Anselmo Raph, Yuri da Cunha. At the best family festival by Unitel, I was the image person and I worked with Unitel twice.

I already shared the stage with the Calemas, Kataleya, Yola Semedo, Ary. And several of these and other artists have also come to my show: the Tunezas, Calado Show, Kotingo, Dabeleza, Son of Zua, Bruna Tatiana and others.

Written by: Caterina Manzi