Kouthia, a comedian in Dakar, is impersonating Donald Trump for Senegalese audiences

The World
Kouthia, left, in character as Donald Trump visiting a Senegalese shaman.

If you've had the chance to visit Harlem in the past decade, you may have noticed that a lot of West Africans now live in the neighborhood. Especially Senegalese people.

Several blocks around 116th Street are called "Little Senegal." That's one reason the US election is being followed very closely back in Senegal.

There's a lot of concern there about the anti-immigrant talk from Republican candidate Donald Trump.

But at least some Senegalese are having a good laugh about it, too: Kouthia, a comedian in Dakar, has been impersonating Trump.


Ask most Senegalese and they'll know exactly who Kouthia is. His popular TV show is called simply "Kouthia Show."

He found a wig at a women's hair salon in Dakar, and adjusted it to create Trump's massive cowlick.

And his face makeup is white, even though that's not the color most satirists have settled on as Trump's primary skin tone.

Senegalese audiences, in Dakar and in New York, love it.

That's what New York-based Senegalese journalist Dame Babou said.

"I can tell you that is one of the most watched shows in the community here," Babou said. "Including even compared to US television, they watch 'Kouthia Show' more than they watch shows from the US."

In the show, Kouthia's Trump travels to a village in Africa to meet a shaman.

The conceit is that Trump thinks he should consult an African shaman because only a shaman — Trump has heard — would give him the power to be elected.


So he goes to Africa and meets a wild-eyed medicine man who shows him all the leaders he's empowered with his spells: Barack Obama, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Nicolas Sarkozy of France.

But as it turns out, Trump is in the same village where a different shaman is giving Hillary Clinton a magic potion that would give her special powers.

So what's the appeal for a Senegalese comedian of diving so deep into the US election?

It has everything to do with Kouthia's boss, Youssou N'dour, the owner of the TV station where he works. N'dour wanted the people of Senegal to be aware of the things Trump has been saying.

So he asked Kouthia to come up with an act.

Kouthia's blond wig helps, but really, he doesn't look a thing like Trump.

Still, "Kouthia Show" has launched a discussion among Senegalese expats in the US about the candidate. Generally, they don't like him.

It's actually a bitter relationship that goes back to the 1980s, when Senegalese peddlers tried hawking their wares in front of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York.

Trump alleged at the time that the Senegalese were part of a scam, trafficking in stolen merchandise, and that most of them, according to Trump, worked for "a small band of extremely wealthy people who probably have big homes in New Jersey and Connecticut."

The vendors all denied that.

But now the rivalry is alive again.

And journalist Babou says, for many Senegalese in New York, "Kouthia Show" is not just entertainment.

"Here in the community, there are still a lot of people who are not fluent in English," Babou says. "So they don't get it when Donald Trump says it. When the satire comes with Kouthia, it's like they almost take it like 'The Daily Show.' It's like news to them too."

Are you with The World?

The story you just read is available to read for free because thousands of listeners and readers like you generously support our nonprofit newsroom. Every day, the reporters and producers at The World are hard at work bringing you human-centered news from across the globe. But we can’t do it without you: We need your support to ensure we can continue this work for another year.

When you make a gift of $10 or more a month, we’ll invite you to a virtual behind-the-scenes tour of our newsroom to thank you for being with The World.