Rwanda native Michel Mpambara is a stand-up comedian with formal training in acting and theatre from Université Laval.
Born in Burundi in 1973, Mpambara immigrated to Québec with his family at the age of 17 and has been wowing audiences ever since. His wild tales of an African man’s struggle to adopt the North American way of life, his first experiences in urban Québec and various misadventures rival the most melodramatic American soaps. This newcomer claims—and this may be news to you—that World Vision is an African soap opera and he was one of its stars!
This character also talks about how he blended into Québec society and eventually fell in love with the province. He does consider himself racist though, claiming he’s tired of seeing white all over the place, that there’s just too darn much of it in Québec! (When in fact, by white, he means the snow.) Mpambara has been likened to Yvon Deschamps and was the audience favourite at the 1996 Just for Laughs Festival, earning the Coup de cœur award.
In 2001, he put on his first one-man show, Y’a trop de blancs au Québec, which was a huge hit, and won the Félix award for best comedy show of the year. That same year, Mpambara was nominated at the ADISQ awards gala in the best new artist category, alongside Martin Matte. He was also nominated in two categories (best writing for a show he co-wrote with François Avard, and best stand-up comedy act for L’immigrant de Jonquière) at the 2002 Gala Les Olivier. During the closing ceremony for the FrancoFolies de Montréal in 2002, and in front of more than 100,000 spectators, he hosted La fête africaine, an outdoor show featuring some of the city’s African talent. In 2004, he shared the screen with Maka Kotto, as Gégé in Dany Laferrière’s feature film Comment conquérir l'Amérique en une nuit.
In 2006, he hosted a show on the Évasion channel called Adoptez Mpambara, in which he explored different parts of Québec in wintertime. Then, in 2008 he played the part of Boura in Salif Traoré’s motion picture Faro: Goddess of the Waters starring Sotigui Kouyaté, which was shot in Mali and was jointly produced by Canada, France, Mali, Burkina Faso and Germany. In 2009 he played a taxi driver in the film Pour toujours, les Canadiens! directed by Sylvain Archambault.
In 2011, he became a spokesperson for the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, joining the ranks of Stefie Shock and Clara Hughes, to support organizations that help people with mental illness. After making a guest appearance on ICI Radio-Canada’s Les Pêcheurs as a comedian with bipolar disorder, Michel Mpambara is now rumoured to be preparing an eagerly awaited comeback.
In 2016, as part of the Galas ComediHa de Québec broadcast on Radio-Canada television, Michel Mpambara successfully presented a new monologue touching on bipolar disorder. Mpambara also gives talks throughout Québec to discuss mental health in schools and organizations involved in this subject.