When Alfred Kainga started doing stand-up comedy 13 years ago in Dallas, there wasn’t much thought of anything other than making the crowd laugh. This weekend, as Kainga headlines the Arlington Improv for the first time, he and the crew reflect on the journey that led to his name on the marquee of the club where his career started.
Kainga was born in Zimbabwe but has lived in Dallas for 16 years. The differences in culture and his perspective living in both countries provide the unique voice Kainga has established in comedy. His ability to make the unrelatable accessible and hilarious earned him a spot as a finalist in the Funniest Comic in Texas Competition in 2014.
While Kainga has had a successful run of working comedy clubs in DFW, his work has been recognized nationally as well. Kainga has appeared in clubs across the country and was one of few comedians featured in the first season of Kevin Hart’s Comedy Central show, Hart of the City. When Hart of the City focused its production on DFW, the show reached out to Kainga to assist in selecting talent and hosting its showcase.
William Cennamo, one of the managers of the Arlington Improv, works with some of the biggest names in comedy, but his work in promoting local comedians through the club’s weekly open mic has been a top area of focus. Kainga has been one of the greatest successes.
“Alfred's been a regular with our Improv for many years,” Cennamo says. “He started at our open mic and moved up to feature work quickly. We are incredibly proud to have him actually headline a weekend with us, and we can't wait to see how far he goes in comedy."
For both local comedians and comedy club staff, Kainga’s work being elevated to headliner status is an achievement to be celebrated. It proves that hard work and dedication can produce career-defining results in Dallas, a city not considered by many to be an industry town to get a start in entertainment.
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“Alfred was, literally, the first comic I ever saw at the Improv; I was an instant fan," Cennamo says. “We pushed and pushed to get him this weekend spot, and the stars finally aligned. In my opinion, the amount of work he's done for us and the many times he's helped us out, he deserves this weekend, and I am sure this won't be his last. He's one of the nicest dudes I've ever met.”
For Kainga, this has been a culmination of more than a decade of work, of arriving early to the clubs and staying late, of polishing a joke until it’s perfect.
“I cannot wait,” Kainga says. “I’m nervous and excited at the same time. It’s a huge opportunity for me after all these years of grinding.”