Eric Omondi's take on parenthood, state of Kenya's comedy

Eric Omondi. [Instagram]

Comedian Eric Omondi has been raising millions to offer a helping hand to vulnerable Kenyans thanks to his huge social media presence.  He tells us about  his young family, the 'Sisi kwa Sisi' initiative and why he thinks comedy in Kenya is dead

You recently became a father, how is that going?

My daughter Kyla is my life and my heart. Nothing prepares me to do more than the genuine smile on her face. I am also grateful for her mum and fiancee Lynne. They are the reason for everything good in my life. She recently had her first crawl and that was heartwarming. I Pray God gives me the strength to Protect them for days to come.

How do you balance your busy schedule and young family?

It is all through creating a balance. The truth is, time waits for no one. With time I have realised giving service to mankind is service to God. It’s the fulfilling joy I get at the end of it all. I am a private person therefore those who know me well can attest that I give quality time where it is deserved. Besides my new family, many other people are dependent on me. I share the love equally and widely.

You have been active with your ‘Sisi kwa Sisi’ initiative where you are helping Kenyans in need. Is the initiative politically inclined?

Not at all. This is my initiative to give back to society. I have been in the industry for close to two decades and came to the realisation that Kenyans, the majority being the youth, suffer on their own. Not a day goes by before someone is asking for help. I would wake up to tens of texts from people living on the edge. I obliged and you would be shocked at how many people need just an inch of help to get by.

Eric Omondi with some participants of his 'Sisi Kwa Sisi' movement. [Eric Omondi, Courtesy]

With many facing severe economic hardships, how many requests do you receive and how busy is your phone?

Astonishingly, it’s been four days since I acquired my new phone. I’m at 38,400 messages right now (during the interview.) That should tell you the situation Kenyans are in. They are on their own, but we are helping a soul a day at a minimum.

Knowing that many opportunists would take advantage, how do you sieve to determine who’s genuine and who’s not?

It is not an easy task, but at the moment we are only focusing on public interest matters and prioritising cases by their nature. We are handling emergencies and those in dire need not civil matters like lack of school fees or rent related as before. Ninety nine per cent of all the issues I handle have been highlighted by Kenyans themselves. We are on our own, between a rock and a hard place, and all we’ve got is us.

You have been actively involved in fighting for the rights of Kenyan artistes...

When I started the artistes campaign two years ago, the industry was sick, literally on a deathbed, but easily re-ignitable. As we speak, we have now lost the patient. The entertainment industry is completely silent, it is dead.

Would you say the same about comedy?
At least we are mourning the music industry as it is, but comedy is dead and buried. The new generation lacks storytellers who can put up a two-hour stand-up show like I did when I hosted Eric Omondi’s Untamed or other comedians in my generation. This generation has been reduced to TikTok sketch comedians.

Why so?
If you trace back the history of comedy, we had the era of Reddykyulas who set up the pace and created that wave, and then came Churchill who took it a notch higher. Right now we have no comedy, just a bunch of social media users sharing basic material. The height of Kenyan comedy was with Churchill. Now we are no match to the likes of Katt Williams, Kevin Hart, Trevor Noah, we have nothing.  

Does it mean the last breed of stand-up comedians were all nurtured in your generation?

Churchill was the height of Kenyan comedy. He nurtured an entire pack of stand-up acts. We do not have not a single comedian in this generation who can fill up a venue like KICC and host a stand-up show on topical issues like the raging floods, corruption, high cost of living and other issues and leave people in stitches. Now we even have musicians cross-dressing in their partners’ outfits and Kenyans are forced to consume that as comedy. We are yet to see any strong sprouting talent who doesn’t use short clips.

You have been nicknamed ‘the saviour’ of Kenya’s music industry, even demanding a 75 per cent local playtime, are we anywhere close?

The funny thing is whenever you help people, you always get opposed. People fought me and criticised me when all I was doing was pushing for their good. We are still having other nationalities headlining our events when we can give a chance and consequently a lease of life to our own. Why are we promoting Amapiano tours when our Arbantone artistes are thriving? We are not there yet, but as long as I played my part, that’s all that counts.

American entertainer Nick Cannon has hinted at visiting Kenya in search of Kenyan comedians for his Wild n Out show, do you think our own will rise to the occasion?

It’s going to be a long shot for him. Let his people tell him that Eric Omondi has advised his team to come and scout for TikTokers and not comedians. Stand-up comedy is the epitome of comedy that we lack. In my capacity as President of Comedy, I see no comedian with the capacity to succeed and fit in my shoes.


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