Some consider him one of the funniest men in the country, and ever since his debut on ‘Churchill Live’, Eric Omondi has arguably become the most sought after male comedian.
Although some critics think his best days are over, Eric tells Sylvania Ambani why he’s still the man to tickle your funny bone.
Asking me ‘why comedy?’ is like asking Usain Bolt why he runs.
I didn’t choose comedy, it chose me, and so far I like it as it is a God given talent. I enjoy doing comedy and I don’t struggle while on stage.
What did you study at the university?
I did Mass Communication at Daystar University and I started out as a story teller on NTV’s Generation 3.
I wanted to become a reporter so I went out of my way and did a story that went on air about the Kabaka in Uganda.
Unfortunately, I was told my voice wasn’t good enough for reporting — imagine that. Coincidentally, as I was told to stop reporting, I met Churchill and it was just when Churchill Live was about to go on air.
The rest, as they say, is history.
How did it feel the first time you did your first skit or act?
It was traumatising. Nobody knew me, even Churchill didn’t know my name and while he was introducing me on stage I had to remind him my name.
When I came out people thought that I had so many problems because I was thinner than I am right now. But I thank God that my first joke was very successful and people were laughing.
That was the ice-breaker that helped me to become who I am today.
What rituals do you do before going on stage?
I am always a nervous wreck: I walk, sit and squat. I just can’t stay in one place. It gets worse as the time draws near to my performance and it has been happening to me for the past five years.
Churchill is even worse, he looks like a mad man. But once I get on stage the fear just disappears and I feel right at home.
How was your life before comedy?
I grew up in Kisumu and came to Nairobi for the first time in 2004 to join university.
If it was not for Daystar I never would have come to Nairobi. I am the second born of four siblings, but grew up in a very big family.
We were 19 children in the house, including my step brothers and step sisters and I was the tiniest and weakest one.
It was survival for the fittest and I have told that story so many times in my jokes.
Do you see yourself doing comedy for life?
Why not? I would love to do comedy for as long as I can.
Although it is a very new avenue in Kenya, especially standup comedy, I think it is steadily growing and more people are getting interested with it.
Any challenges you might have faced?
I thank God I have had few challenges during my journey. But the biggest challenge I have to date is people asking me on the street to make them laugh.
Someone just comes up to you and says ‘Eric tuchekeshe’ — that thing is so overrated, and it doesn’t work like that.
Are you single, married or gay?
Why gay? By the way let me just tell you I am not gay and no African man should be allowed to be. It’s ungodly and alien.
I haven’t seen anyone gay near me, either as a friend or a family member, because we wouldn’t get along.
I am not married and about me being single or not, just keep watching the wedding show — you will find out sooner or later.
There were rumours going round that your brother Fred writes jokes and songs for you…
This is not true and I want to tell those people spreading these lies that I am a very creative comedian: it is a God given talent and 99.9 per cent of the content is mine.
The moment you start to rely on people for your content is the day you will find yourself in trouble. What if those people travel or become sick and can no longer help you? Every song and joke is usually something I have thought and done myself.
Do you see comedy in Kenya becoming the next big thing?
There is a spirit of comedy in Kenya, it is not like in the past when it was only music concerts all the time. Now we have events like “Kids Festival” being done by comedians, “Laugh Festival”, “Night of a Thousand Laughs”, Heartstrings and so on. I know in five years, comedy will have grown a lot in Kenya.
What don’t your fans know about you?
I am a staunch Christian; and I have been eating ugali for lunch and supper since I was in form two to date.
Even when I was in the US I used to go to a hotel in Dallas, which was owned by a Kenyan, just for ugali.
I am also an orphan; my mum passed on in 2002 — I had just cleared high school — and my dad died in 2004 while I was at the university.
I hope that they are watching me from somewhere because they didn’t get to see all my achievements; or God could allow me to carry just one DVD to go and show them.
Oh, I can’t also go on a merry-go-round as I am very scared and usually vomit afterwards.
Have you ever been on stage and nobody laughed at your jokes?
It happened to me once in Malindi. I came out and as usual I started with my trademark “Hawayuni” and people were just staring at me.
I immediately knew that there was going to be a problem. I did the show for two hours and nobody laughed; it was very embarrassing.
But someone told me that at that time NTV signals had not reached Malindi, so they didn’t know about me.
Where do you source your jokes? Explain the Jesus skit...
My source is everyday life and occurrences.
The Jesus skit just came to me and I wondered what if Jesus was a Kenyan. People loved that joke, but it got me into a lot of trouble with my pastor.
In fact, on that Sunday there were special prayers for me at my church. My jokes come from issues affecting people and just add a little humour.
What do you have to say to those who are saying that your lustre is fading and you are no longer as funny as before?
I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion and if you ask me I don’t think I have lost my funny side.
I keep saying this is a God given talent that I did not know I possessed until recently when I came to Nairobi.
The important thing is that I was able to prove myself as the funniest comedian in town and I still am — otherwise I would lose my job. I refuse to accept that I cannot make someone laugh.
Are you stuck with Churchill or will you branch out after a while?
Yes, why not? It is because of Churchill that all of you know me.
The show has been a stepping stone for me and it has also opened a lot of doors that were nothing but dreams to me.
Of course we all have individual goals and ambitions but these are still future plans, which I cannot reveal to you now.
But for now I think Churchill Show is the best home for me.