Last week I attended a wedding. It was a very lovely wedding. There was only one thing that was irritating. When the bridal couple went to take pictures there were 2 comedians who came to entertain us. When they started talking I was put off. Reason: tribal jokes whose humour is based on stereotypes. I immediately switched off and so did some of my friends. We started having a discussion on Kenyan comedians.
I have always said that our Kenyan comedians are not international comedians. This is because their humour is based on tribal stereotypes. 95% of comedians in Kenya specialize in telling tribal jokes. Let me tell you about the Kikuyu, or the Kamba or the Luo is how their lines start. Some of their jokes are funny, when you hear it the first time but not much after.
But if you take the comedians to another country even our neighboring countries they will not be found to be funny. That is because their jokes are not based on human nature or even better on intellect. A great comedian needs to be able to transition from their home town or base and go somewhere else and make people laugh.
I find our comedians to be lazy. They tend to repeat the same jokes at all the events they attend or MC. So if you attend one event hosted by the comedians it is like you have attended them all. Instead of developing good material that would be humorous anywhere they decide to stick to tribal jokes about stereotypical behavior. It is no wonder there is only one Kenyan – Eric Omondi on the 20 best African stand up comedians of 2013. This list is controversial but check it out http://www.gidilounge.com/news/20-best-african-stand-up-comedians-2013/
One of my all time favourite comedians is George Carlin. He was brilliantly funny. Even though he was an atheist and I don’t agree with some of his opinions he still made me laugh when he discussed religion. This is a guy who died in 2008 but his stuff is golden. You do not need to be interpreted for the situation in order to get the joke; they are funny in any language.
There are some amazing comedians out there including South’s Africa’s Trevor Noah. He makes you burst out into laughter. He had gigs everywhere in the world and is celebrated.
If you look at some of the great past and present comedians like Chris Rock, Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Russell Peters, Ellen DeGeneres, Whoopi Goldberg, and others you will find that they have global appeal. Their material is funny and audiences around the world love their humour. Years later you will watch their earlier material and it is still funny. That is the mark of a great comedian. Their humour transcends time.
Why is it that our comedians only go international to perform to Kenyans in the Diaspora? There have been cases of Kenyan comedians performing to African audiences and their jokes have fallen flat. That means that their humour is only funny in a very small context – Kenya. And some of us don’t even find them funny.
It is time that comedians sat down and looked at how to grow the industry beyond tribal stereotypical jokes. That is a cow whose milk is drying up and one day they may find themselves without an audience. They need to be professional about comedy. They need to get material that has local and international appeal. As one of my friends said they need to put in the time to research material, and practice for hours like professionals do.