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Comedian Eric Omondi’s take on nurturing talent and ban on foreign movies import

In this interactive series, we invite our readers to send in questions to select public figures. Answers will be published in the next print and online editions. This week, Comedian Eric Omondi responds to your questions.

Is there a possibility that you will return to the Churchill Show (on NTV) where you started? What has your relation been with Mwalimu Churchill since you left?

Philemon Odinga

Once in a while, I make appearances in Churchill’s shows. But, as a first-born of Churchill, I felt that it was time for me to build my own home elsewhere so as to give space to the upcoming talent and allow them the opportunity to also grow under his tutelage.

That said, we still do shows together with Churchill and in fact, on Friday, we were together to support one of our former colleagues John Kiarie (KJ) who had a fundraising dinner for his political ambitions. 

There are claims you are the highest paid media personality in Kenya, almost in the range of Churchill? How true is this and is being a comedian so lucrative?

John Juma

I would say that art has provided me with a source of livelihood because I do nothing else outside the industry.

Congratulations are in order for keeping us glued to television screens with your rib-cracking jokes. I understand that you studied journalism. If so, why did you leave journalism for comedy?

Bonny Mutai, Londiani

I have not stopped doing journalism — only that now I do it through other means, which is also informative and educative.

Recently there was a move to ban the importation of foreign movies. Do you support such a move? In your view, what ails the film sector in Kenya despite producing such-awarding winning artistes like Lupita Nyong’o?

Paul Gesimba, Nairobi

Personally I do not support that. That is because art is about sharing so that we learn different tastes and experiences from all over the world. I would also like to see the Kenyan industry flourish to international levels. The biggest setback for us is lack of support.

Is your work ever affected by piracy? Who then do you run to when this happens?

Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi

Piracy, I dare say, is a major setback for artistes today. However, for me, I have been trying to dodge them (pirates) by posting my productions on YouTube. That said, if I found out that my original work had been pirated, I would seek the services of a lawyer to handle the matter.

What proposals would you front to the government to help in nurturing young talented comedians at school level?

Andrew Maranga Ratemo, Malindi 

In my view, talent should not be allowed to go to waste. The government should not just insist on books but should also provide the chance to nurture talent by establishing entertainment centres like theatres across the country that would be accessible to upcoming talents.

I have seen a lot of great talent go to waste because no one nurtures it. What can the private art industry do to nurture talent in the counties?

Ichenga Mugao, Tharaka Nithi

While the private sector has a role to play, government should take the lead. By establishing entertainment centres across the country, talent will be recognised and it will be more rewarding. 

Sometimes in this country when we see successful individuals we tend to consider them very lucky without taking time to reflect on the back-breaking challenges which they might have endured. Eric, I bet you are no exception to this. Which are some of the outstanding challenges which nearly brought you down as you pursued your career path?

Komen Moris, Eldoret

I started doing what I am currently doing at age five and I can say it has taken me 27 years to be where I am today. As I have said above, in our society, there is no solid programme to nurture talent.

By now you may be aware that children of East Pokot are dying due to hunger. As a highly respected comedian, what can you do to put a smile on the faces of these loved ones?

Lowana Kemboi Edward, Meru

On my own I cannot do much but now that it has been brought to my attention, I will consider doing something to help not just the East Pokot children but all Kenyans in a similar situation.

Besides comedy, what do you do for a living?

As I have said, I am in art as a comedian. But I also have a company, Big Tyme Entertainment. As the name suggests, it is an entertainment company that among other things produces shows. 

Do you normally get approval from producers and musicians for your parody songs and are you paid royalties for these versions of the songs?

Daniel, Nairobi

Sometimes yes but other times no. However, whether I get approval or not, I am only paid royalties for my original works.

Churchill, who is perceived as your mentor, has been developing raw talent to keep the industry moving. Do you have any mentoring programmes for those who are joining comedy?

Certainly. Big Tyme Entertainment is not just about business. At the moment we are nurturing a dance group and producing TV shows by upcoming artistes that will air soon.

Congratulations Eric for the success you have achieved through your talent. In fact, one can say that you and other talented young Kenyans have been way ahead of the policy makers at the Ministry of Education who are now trying to create Talent-Pathways in the proposed Education System (2-6-3-3-3). Did the Ministry of Education bother to reach out to you and others for your input in this new system? If not, what would be your advice at this point?

Komen Moris, Eldoret

Unfortunately that did not happen but the proposed system, I believe, is still under consideration and we would be ready and willing to work with the ministry on the final output. My advice would be that the system should not put emphasis on just books but allow talent to also flourish.

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