Everything around funny man Eric Omondi is funny.
Take his call back tune for instance. It features a voice of a person speaking in a Luhya accent, talking about mundane things, funny but stereotypical of the people from Western Kenya when it comes to phone calls. It keeps one glued to the phone, somehow forgetting that the person on the other end is supposed to answer.
Chasing after Eric is an extreme sport - he is flying all over to shoot skits, one minute in Kisumu, the next in Nairobi; now on an artificial turf with balls, the next second in an office boardroom with a socialite. His current content revolves around the AFCON, and Kenya’s tiff with our neighbours Tanzania, which had the likes of award-winning musician and Bongo star Diamond reposting the skits.
“I will be happy when Kenyan comedy goes around the world and comes back home. My impact on the game is to make sure the Kenyan flag flies high everywhere in this globe,” he said when I asked him what his greatest joy is. “The world has to appreciate and respect Kenya’s comedy.”
Third generation comedy
Eric is part of the third generation of contemporary Kenyan comedy. After the likes of black and white TV comedians like Masanduku, Mzee Ojwang and Baba Ziro, we were ushered into the colour-TV satire that was the Redykyulass. Then taking a shot at the government, they heralded a new dawn of skits.
“I was born to make people laugh, and thank God for my good health, I am still doing it,” he says.
What is notable about Eric is his relentlessness towards his craft. He ventured out of clique of comedians to start his own show, which tanked after a few episodes. On his list of drawbacks, he does not even consider that among the top.
“The only time I did something and people never laughed was in 2011 in some remote village in Malindi. But I guess they did not know who I was and what I was about,” he says, before laughing at the episode. He has done shows in 19 counties out of the 47, in Eric Omondi Stadium Tour.
Coloured hair now, faux dreadlocks the next, his relentlessness knows no boundaries nor challenges. He pushes on to be in your face, making appearances at Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, and recording skits in the streets of New York.
He is all over. He never misses a beat or slows down for anything, including love. When he posted a message explaining that he was accepting that Chantal Graziola has to pursue other things, the internet was unsure if they were breaking up or it was a ploy that was meant to viral.
“I will miss you. I met you when you were only 19...I have known you for 4 and a half years...Shared and created some of the best moments in life with you. You changed my life completely...As you move into your new phase in life with or without me I want to wish you all the best, my love??... The paths that brought us together are now facing different directions and as you move on in your path I wish you the best life has to offer. I want to let you know that I will always be here for you anytime, every time. You are the best thing that happened to me!!! Na kwa wale wadau wadaku, Chantal and I are okay. We were friends long before we were lovers and our Friendship stays for life.” read his social media post in part.
Chantal is the only lady who has dated Eric in the public eye. In fact, many were disappointed when the two parted ways. For all his appearances in the public, Eric is very shifty when it comes to personal stuff.
“Marriage is very important, but I feel as a generation, we are rushing into things. I believe this because I have witnessed it around me. We get into a relationship, then quickly have weddings, when in reality, we need time to know each other and understand what we are getting into,” he said. “Marriage needs to be considered at the right time, with the right person.”
Is he planning to settle anytime this decade or the next?
“We all have different personalities. I have an uncle who married at 22, and I know people who have walked down the aisle at 56. There is no formula really…” he trudges off, turning around to respond to one of his cast members.
You must have noticed Eric grabbing bottles of Belaire here and there, but few can testify to have broken water with him. Interestingly, a photo was doing the rounds two or so weeks ago, featuring officials of the Daystar Christian Fellowship (DCF). Guess who made an appearance? Eric. He was the Vice-Chair for the year 2006/2007.
He laughs, when I remind him about the old, or younger, Eric looking all skinny in a dark suit.
“I am Christian and born again. I view religion as something we, all humans need to have and try to live within it. Whether a Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or whatever, religion is very important…”
So, with almost 10 years in comedy, filling up stadiums, endorsing products, and Emceeing social and corporate gigs, how much is he really worth?
He thinks hard, then chuckles. He sidesteps the questions.
“Money and wealth is important, but it should not be the focus of what you do. It should be a by-product, a tool to make you achieve more. It should never be acquired at the expense of loss of life, like how politicians do it. Killing people, selling drugs or dealing in counterfeit money to be wealthy, you get?”
I don’t fear death
It has not all been a bed of roses for Eric though, who uses his brother’s (Fred Omondi) voice for almost all his parody songs. Mid last year, he lost his elder brother Joseph Omondi, who had been battling drug addiction for years.
“I do not fear death,” he explains when I ask him about his fears, before clarifying that snakes freak him out. “I have lost both parents, my grandparents and recently my brother. No one should fear death, it happens to all of us.”
Speaking of death, he explains that the loss of Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore hit him hard.
“I feel like an orphan. He has stood with me through my career and pointed me where to walk. He supported creativity and he is one of the best CEOs when it comes to understanding Kenyan youth.”
To give an example, he refers to a video that went viral of him swimming naked in River Turkwel in Turkana on March 3, 2018. A few people found it funny, majority were extremely offended. He apologised for the video.
“A few corporates that were in line to sponsor my inaugural Stadium Tour which was in two weeks time were suddenly not returning my calls. At around 12:46 pm Bob Collymore sent me a message that I did well to apologise. He said that comedy is a tricky area where you have to push boundaries from time to time.
He then called me and asked me to see him in the morning, I did and after along conversation about so many things he stood up suddenly and said: “Eric I have a meeting, I will sponsor the Stadium Tour. Forward me the proposal.”
This came as a complete surprise since we barely discussed sponsorship. The Stadium Tour is currently in the 19th County Sponsored by Safaricom,” he says before excusing himself to continue with his busy schedule.