Akau Jambo is an award-winning South Sudanese comedian, actor and activist. Looking for a Visa was his debut Australian offering. The show mainly focused on Jambo’s stories of being raised in a refugee camp, his observations of the cultural differences between Australia and African countries, and travelling as an African immigrant.
At the beginning of the show, it was a pleasant surprise to see Jambo introduce two support acts: Ciang Ajeic and Mark Muo. While other comedians may have support acts for cross-promotion, Jambo’s purpose was to elevate other African comedians beside himself, which was heartening to see. While Ajeic was self-deprecating and relatable, Muo’s act was about deriving pleasure from the failures of another. The contrast between the two comedians was interesting to see, and a welcome addition to Looking for a Visa.
There is a tendency for comedians to overuse stereotypes about themselves for audiences to laugh at them. Luckily, this tendency was not pronounced in Looking for a Visa. Self-worth and a hint of ego served as an overarching theme for some of Jambo’s jokes, which elicited some of the biggest laughs.
Through storytelling, Jambo subtly and overtly called out political and racial injustices with sharp wit and irony. Thankfully, there was no hint of self-righteous preachiness – a trap that some performers can fall into, even if not immediately obvious. Depending on his stories, Jambo had an innate ability to either reframe traumatic stories and histories with dark humour, or do so in empowering ways.
Jambo’s talent for linking related and unrelated concepts was another highlight of Looking for a Visa. When audiences felt ready to move on from one of his stories, he linked them to an unrelated observation, feeding off the original punchline. These felt like mini surprise Easter eggs that we gladly consumed.
There were no real flaws evident in the show, although Jambo’s crowd work was not particularly smooth. Luckily, it did not take up too much time. However, Jambo repeatedly mentioned how great Melbourne was, which was a nice stroke to a Melburnians’ ego. But for those from overseas or interstate, the mention could wear thin.
Looking for a Visa was a strong start for Jambo’s debut Australian tour, and it would be great to see him come back next year.
Akau Jambo: Looking for a Visa was performed as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival at the Rubber Chicken on 11-12 April, and 21-22 April 2023.