Rwanda native Michel Mpambara is a stand-up comedian born in Burundi. He immigrated to Québec with his family in 1990.
Since then, he has been wowing audiences with 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 that 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.
In 2000, 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.
Struggling with a mental health issue, in 2005 he stopped performing on stage but continued to play film roles. In 2007, he played the title role in the motion picture Faro: Goddess of the Waters (a joint Canada-Mali production) and a supporting role in the 2009 film, The Canadians, Forever.
In 2011, he became a spokesperson for the first Bell Let’s Talk Day, 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 in 2015, Michel 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, businesses and organizations involved in this subject.
In 2018, he returned to the stage at the Just for Laughs Festival.