The business of laughter in the words of celebrated Kenyan comedian Eric Omondi
CNN’s African Voices meets acclaimed Kenyan comedian Eric Omondi as he describes his journey to success and shares his thoughts on the power of comedy.
Omondi has been entertaining since childhood and making people laugh comes naturally to the young star: “I’ve been into comedy since I was young - I was the family entertainer at the dinner table. I cannot stand people [who are] bored or quiet. I’ll do anything and everything to make you laugh or to get your attention.”
The programme hears how comedy has changed in recent years and that laughter is now serious business. Omondi explains: “Comedy has really evolved. I started doing comedy at weddings, in churches. We would be getting paid through sodas and food. That would be our pay, our contract. Then it moved to very little money. That’s why I think my heroes are the former comedians, the older guys, Vitimbi… because they’re our freedom fighters.”
Omondi’s big break came when he appeared on ‘The Churchill Show’, Kenya’s popular satirical comedy series. After he met the show’s host at a mentorship event in college, Omondi was scheduled to emcee the show but impressed Churchill so much that he was given time on the show as a comedian. Omondi reflects on this time and describes his anticipation for how the audience would react: “I remember, the first time I walked out [on stage], I didn’t know how people would receive me. I came out and people were [slow clapping, thinking] ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ I did my first joke, then my second… and that was it, the rest is history.”
The young comedian’s fame has only grown since then and at the beginning of this year, Omondi appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show’. For Omondi, meeting Fallon was “a dream come true. It shows me that nothing is impossible.”
CNN hears that Omondi is passionate about comedy: “Number one, I love my job. Seeing people enjoying my work – that’s where I get my satisfaction from. When people are happy, I’m happy.” However, it seems Kenyans are a notoriously tough crowd and this keeps Omondi motivated. He explains: “Kenyans are very funny, so it’s very hard to crack them up. It’s a challenge. I thank Kenyans for that, for being a hard rock to crack. It makes you want to work more and more.”
According to Omondi, comedy is an essential part of society, particularly when times are tough: “Comedy is powerful because it helps us express ourselves… We had the elections in Kenya and tensions were high. To bring humour, it breaks that tension because we laugh at ourselves and how we behave… Comedy is a mirror, it’s about reflecting society.”
Omondi takes this powerful position very seriously and believes he has a unique opportunity at a crucial juncture in history: “I believe Africa is the future. I’m proud to be African at this time in history because everyone is looking to us for new ideas, the next big thing.” African Voices’ is sponsored by Globacom Limited.