- One reason I shy away from stand-up is because I feel humor and comedy are so culture-specific that one joke that’s hilarious to one group can easily fall flat for another.
- Humorists themselves will tell you they have to sweat to figure out the jokes that their audience will lap up.
Stand-up comedy is not a genre of theater that I’m well informed about. The only stand-up comedians I know are Churchill, Eddie Murphy, and Chris Rock, and that is it.
But when I got the invitation to watch Madam President aka Esther Kahuho in ‘The Man-Made Woman’ at Kenya Cultural Center, I was intrigued. I’d never seen a female stand-up comedian, so I was hopeful she would not let me down.
One reason I shy away from stand-up is because I feel humor and comedy are so culture-specific that one joke that’s hilarious to one group can easily fall flat for another.
Humorists themselves will tell you they have to sweat to figure out the jokes that their audience will lap up. He or she has to be highly attuned to their audience which is why some comedians take years before they develop the kind of rapport with their audience that can tune in to their sense of humor and wit.
A group like Heartstrings has cultivated that kind of rapport. But I had no idea Esther Kahuho had it among her fandom as well. What I saw and felt last Saturday night was a rising tide of the audience’s love and adulation for Madam President who gave an electrifying two-hour performance.
She’s a brilliant storyteller whose series of hilarious will-threaded tales kept her full-house crowd in stitches from beginning to end. Ever-engaging, she directed her stories straight at her audience as if she knew they were fully attentive to all her jokes.
One reason her stories went down so well is that in them, she was speaking about what she knew best, namely herself. But she did so in such a self-effacing yet confident style that we appreciated all that she had to say about what in effect is ageism.
Yes, she just turned 40, but she still had all her faculties. It was true she did not know where the time went. But then she proceeded to prove that she had not lost any of her memory marbles in the course of time.
Even as she did, she was in non-stop motion, illustrating the energy she proceeded to boast about. Ever-animated, one could not take their eyes off her since she told her stories with both body and soul.
Admitting that she had put on weight since she was last seen on stage, she never explained that five-year or told us where she had been but neither her weight nor her age hampered her from dancing throughout the show.
And starting off with the story about why she was looking forward to go to school. “It was not to study; it was to play, ”she’d said, and that spirit of playfulness was consistently confirmed throughout her show.
Admittedly, her playfulness often got her in trouble, but she even took delight in telling those ‘criminal’ stories, like how she got expelled from Sunday School!
In Loresho Primary, she said there were two types of children in the school according to her teachers. There were the bright ones and the criminals. She had a sister who was considered bright, but then there she was, cast among the criminals.
She admits she deserved the status. But she seemed to partly attribute her perfect sense of mischief and play to her reacting to her mother whom she described as a ‘house-wife-aholic, meaning she was super-big on her children doing so many household chores that Esther never had a moment at home to have fun and just play.
Again, in self-deprecating style, she admitted she was ‘notorious’ for her ways of having fun. But then, she got to secondary school and found the scene stricter. This was also a time for learning about boys and also learning about being a girlie girl.
One of the funniest bit in her show was when she had to struggle with her flat chest. She felt she needed boobs and finally discovered tissue paper to use as padding. That worked fine until she met a boy and then the tissue slipped and that was the end of that.
After graduation, there was job hunting and working mostly for Asians. But she got sacked by her first Asian boss who she claimed passed the word to the whole network of fellow Asians.
These and many other stories told with a brilliant sense of timing and bouncing flare, Esther framed her whole show around her arrival at age 40. She got two standing ovations from her fans, and she promised to perform again on May 31.