Failure by comedians to win elective seats shows that politics is no laughing matter.
As Kenya’s democratic space widens artistes, particularly comedians have resolved to test their popularity on the ballot.
In the last two elections, the growth of the internet and streaming platforms has allowed comedians to reach a wider audience with the hope that the views, likes and shares might translate to votes during the General Election.
However, reality offers a different outlook.
Among the first to plunge into politics was Redyukulass comedian Maurice Ochieng (Mdomo Baggy) who unsuccessfully contested for the Kamkunji parliamentary seat in the 2007 General Election. Mdomo Baggy tried his luck again in the 2013 General Election but lost in the ODM nominations.
He is now part of the ODM communication department.
John Kiarie (KJ) had gained popularity by mimicking the late firebrand politician, Joseph Kamotho also. He had become so good at his act that many believed he was related to the politician. After years of playing Kamotho, KJ would want to be the real deal politician and so he joined politics and vied for the Dagoretti Constituency parliamentary seat.
In the hotly contested 2007 election, the comedian lost to Beth Mugo and five years later, he lost to the current Dagoretti North MP, Simba Arati.
However, that was not the last time Dagoretti residents would hear from KJ who had risen to become ODM youth chairman. In 2017 he would decamp from ODM to Jubilee and won the Dagoretti South parliamentary seat. KJ is arguably the most successful comedian to have ventured into politics.
He recently won the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket to defend his Dagoretti South seat in the August 9 elections.
Similarly, Jasper Muthomi (MC Jessy), a second-generation comedian and content creator who was signed to Churchill Show as a comedian also decided to ride on his fame to vie for South Imenti MP on UDA ticket. MC Jessy who had initially declared support for his competitor Mwiti Kathaara (UDA) after they reached a consensus has since declared that he will vie as an independent.
Others in the race are comedian, actor and radio personality Felix Odiwour (Jalang’o) who has set his eyes on the Lang’ata MP seat on ODM party ticket. In recent months, Jalang’o has joined the Azimio la Umoja brigade campaigns in Nairobi to popularise his candidature. He will battle it out with competitors for the ODM ticket in nominations slated for April 21.
Walter Mong'are aka Nyambane, popularly known for playing late President Moi in the Redyukulass skit has also declared his candidature for the presidency under the Umoja Summit Party.
"I imitated the President and I, too, am becoming one. As Umoja Summit, we shall continue to speak with one voice, because this is our land, country, and moment together," Nyambane said.
Even though he has promised an all-out campaign, little is seen in his efforts to popularise his presidential bid.
Others venturing into politics are George Otieno (Ajo Mbuta), a comedian and Ramogi FM presenter who is eyeing the Kasipul Kabondo MP seat while George Mwangangi aka Mongolo is gunning for Pangani Ward Member of County Assembly.
Despite the comedians casting their nets in the sea of politics, experience shows that success and fame are not enough to win elections which are mostly dependent on political patronage, financial muscle and the backing of an established political party.
However, KJ has proven that even those in the laughter industry can still deliver as parliamentarians.