Stand-up comedian, Eric Kariuki, 29, popularly known as Karis is an alumni of Kenyatta University where he studied Economics and Statistics.
Karis, like most Kenyan comedians, made a name himself in the Churchill Show comedy show. While it was not easy to feature in the seasoned show, Karis has grown in great leaps to become one of the most popular comics in town.
He says he is a living example that comedy pays in an interview with Standard.
You have been dubbed as one of the most consistent and biggest stand-up comedians of our times, how does this make you feel?
I am humbled. For me comedy is subjective, meaning one has to consistently make audiences laugh.
In stand-up comedy, the feedback of the audience is instant and crucial for the comedian’s act. Audiences expect a stand-up comic to provide a steady stream of laughs, and as a performer I am always under pressure to deliver.
Is this what you always wanted to do?
I have been acting all along but I liked funny and cheeky characters which I created. With time I realised I was funny and gained confidence to venture into stand-up comedy.
As a student in Njoro Boys High School, I was known for my hilarious manner of going about things. This prompted fellow students to encourage me to venture into comedy.
But it was not until I completed high school in 2008, that I decided to venture into the acting scene.
What followed next?
I joined a traveling theatre group that mostly re-enacted set books, and I found my niche as a theatrical comedian – playing mischievous characters.
However, it was not until early 2011 that I started doing stand-up comedy professionally.
How was it getting onto Churchill show?
It wasn’t easy. I auditioned for the show severally in vain. However, I did not give up. I took advantage of my talent performing at many events as possible among them kids’ events, weddings and even restaurants.
With time word got to the Churchill crew that there was a very funny guy in town. You see, it’s all about believing in yourself and taking advantage of available opportunity to expose yourself. And like they say, the rest is history.
What’s the one thing that keeps you going and to be better in comedy?
The fact that I was raised in Kayole; my story shows it is possible to overcome whatever circumstances you are in. Its mind blowing to realise that I have a responsibility, as a young person, to inspire, empower and help stabilise another youth’s path to economic success.
What has been your greatest lesson this far?
That whatever I collectively learnt from my mentors has been of great help to my comical journey. They made it clear that nothing comes easy in life. You have to work hard for it.
Other than comedy what else do you do?
I am an artistic director and also a radio personality.
What inspires your jokes?
I write about general life happenings including my personal experiences, things that interest me in relation life. If an unusual set of circumstances arises or I learn something that I can’t stop thinking about, chances are I will try to write a joke about it.
How do you deal with hecklers?
I love them considering that real, mean spirited hecklers are not as common as people think. Most people come to a comedy show to enjoy it rather than destroy it from the inside.
More often than not, if someone is yelling things during a show, that person is drunk and doesn’t realise how loud they are.
They could be vocally enjoying the show and doesn’t understand that it’s disruptive. In such cases, I usually try to politely ask the offender to be a little quieter for the sake of the show.
There are times when I try to be funnier or louder than the heckler and then feel frustrated for the rest of the night that I had to deal with a jerk.
How do you feel if the audience fails to connect with your jokes?
Bombing is inevitable. Everyone has sets that don’t go well. The first few times it feels really bad. You feel unprepared and confused thinking you may have lost your audience.
How do you spend your free time?
Tea works for me. I also love taking a nap and watching the Discovery channel, at times.
Are your parents supportive of your career in comedy?
Yes, they are proud of me but to them I am still Erick not a celebrity.
Does comedy pay?
Yes, it takes you places. Karis is a living example. Besides, there is hope for everyone out there who is exploiting their talent.
So they should not give up. All they need to do is master their art and stay on top of the game. You never know when your chance to shine will be calling
Your advice to young people out who aspire to be where you are…
Always keep in mind that laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age and dreams are forever.