Introducing Sherlif Next Trouble: The Charlie Chaplin of Uganda

So Chaplin Days begins today (you can see my video talk on “Chaplin and Vaudeville” here) so it seemed a propitious day for a preliminary post on a contemporary artist I’m presently obsessing over. In a nutshell, you could describe him as the Charlie Chaplin of Uganda. Unless I have my information wrong, his name is Mulindua Freddie Snt and his character’s name is Sherlifa Next Trouble. He’s been sharing these short Youtube videos via Facebook etc, many of them to the music of Ugandan recording artist Eddie Kenzo. I’ve only watched a couple of these shorts but they were wonderful, funny and impressive (some of his physical moves are kick-ass). His own character is a direct homage to Chaplin, though some of his business reminds me of other comedians. It’s all very seat-of-the-pants, with a chaotic joi de vivre that reminds me of Mack Sennett.

His work makes me hopeful and happy. At a time when the world seems obsessed with closing off borders (I’m not just talking about the pandemic, which may be justifiable in some cases, but the xenophobic nonsense we have been suffering through for the past 3+ years), here is a phenomenon that is all the best of internationalism. This guy from the other side of the globe is interested in this English comedian who became famous in America. We in turn become intrigued by this African man and his culture. I find myself looking at the background in these videos to learn about life in his country, in much the way I study the details in Chaplin movies to learn about life in the nineteen teens. This is the world I want. I want a world that is coming together, not coming apart. And I love that art, comic art, is the instrument that is making it happen. Charlie would have been so happy.

I’m hoping to interview the artist sometime soon to find out more about him, but meantime, today seemed a good day to share this introduction; the movies are here on his Youtube page.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.