KENYA’S STAND UP COMICS: There Can Only Be One.
The last few years have seen a major rise in Kenya’s Comedy Industry. It is very commendable to see how financially the industry has become viable. Long gone are the days that Joshua “Chieph” Maina (RIP) and crew would go to the streets to “make people laugh”. In fact, people nowadays go to look for places to get the laughter. This has seen this industry grow bigger than earlier anticipated with lots of upcoming talent showing up almost on a daily basis.
Comedy has become so big in Kenya that comics are all over town “doing their thing”. From TV shows like Churchill Live to radio, to clubs, to theatres, to corporate events…everywhere in Nairobi, there is this and that happening.
This article is a wakeup call to the newcomers in the industry. It follows a chat I had with a few “boys” at The Kenya National Theatre.
Let’s start with a definition of Stand-Up Comedy:
“Stand-up comedy is a comedic stylesx. Usually, a comedian performs in front of a live audience, speaking directly to them. The performer is commonly known as a comic, stand-up comic, stand-up comedian or simply a stand-up. Their performances are sometimes filmed for later release via DVD, the internet, and television….Stand-up is an art form that is openly devoted to getting immediate laughs from an audience above all else, unlike theatrical comedy which creates comedy within the structure of a play with amusing characters and situations. In stand-up comedy, feedback of the audience is instant and crucial for the comedian’s act. Audiences expect a stand-up comic to provide a steady stream of laughs, and a performer is always under great pressure to deliver. This pressure can be thrilling, but also threatening. Comedic actor Will Ferrell has called stand-up comedy “hard, lonely, and vicious” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comedy.
Why would I want to define standup comedy? Well, I realized that all these people who wake up one morning and decide to be stand-up comedians know nothing about standup comedy. They can never define it and the best they can tell you is” Sisi ni watu wa kuchekesa wadhii.. Haja yetu ni tupate ka kitu, hizo descriptions, hatuna haja nazo”
That said and done, let’s talk facts here.
THERE CAN ONLY BE;
One Churchill: I’m a great fan of Daniel Ndambuki aka Churchill aka Mwalimu King’ang’i. I admire this guy with all my art and I believe that he is a great example to where dedication and determination can get you. I say this not because of the stories that appear on the press but because I got to the Kenyan theatre circles early enough to remember how far the guy has come. FACT.:I also happened to be one of the greatest beneficiaries of his rise; I used to “doea” his lift when he bought his first car, a Toyota Levin, when we both used to stay in Kinoo (87).
Seeing Dan rise from the funny Kongowea in Siku Njema as a school set book actor, to his role in Kisulisuli to his appearance on Redykulass and Red Corner to Radio and eventually starting his own show and company is a great thing. It is nothing but inspirational.
To our upcoming comedians, THERE CAN OY BE ONE CHURCHILL. Accept that fact. Accept the reality and live with it. Yes, he opened for you the fame highway by giving a platform on Churchill Live but he is him. You cannot be him and will never be him.
The same applies to the likes of Mzee Jalang’o Mwenyewe, another inspiration to those who knew Phelix Odiwuor until Jalang’o showed himself. The struggles that Zebedayo Mshamba and Crew went through to have comedy recognized makes him one in a million hence you will never be him. Neither will you be Kazungu Matano aka Otos/Cleopas Awinja, Kajairo, Eric Omondi etc.
Those comedians who came before you established themselves, distinctly, and it is high time you also distinct yourselves and came up with your own stylesxs….
It saddens me to see the likes of Mathayo Theophelous trying so hard to be Churchill, it makes me shrink with shame to see Othuol Othuol and Owagonyiro fight their asses of to be Jalang’o… The list is endless.
To you all of “Churchill Academy” alumni, this is a simple advice, be yourself. Define your path and work on your own delivery and aspect. Whether on stage at Alliance, a Club in Town, On TV, on Radio wherever, we will remember you and respect you for being you and not trying to be those who came before you.
You all have an advantage, a very huge advantage that you are joining the industry at a time when everyone appreciates comedy. You have unlimited options on where and how to showcase your talent as opposed to the pioneers. The biggest of them all is that you are lucky that comedy is now paying and it is paying in a big way. Take that chance and utilize it before you are officially written off because that time is surely coming. Ask Nyambane, KJ, Kajairo, Tony Njuguna and those who brag to have led the revolution. As a matter of fact, all of you will be so done by the end of this year that you will be shocked and the reason is, you are not creative, you are not. You are all in a hurry and you don’t know where you are going. All you want to do is, be comedians.
Define your purpose, draw your roadmap and work along that to be the next whoever you think you can be because he/she is already there and will remain to be himself/herself and you will never be them!!!!