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Punny and funny – meet comedian Anthony Ngachira, known for insightful jokes about human character

By , People Daily Digital
Saturday, September 18th, 2021 00:00 | 5 mins read
Comedian ANTHONY NGACHIRA. PHOTO/COURTESY

Anthony Ngachira, popularly known as Ty, comes off naturally funny. He is a barrel of laughs a minute, and is just as humble as he is self-effacing.

He can easily find and deliver punny humour and insightful yet witty observations in the blink of an eye.

He is both earnest and smart, aspects I get a glimpse of as we chat through lunch at Geco Café.

He was brought up by loving parents in peri-urban Nyeri, joking that his is not a sob story as he never lacked attention or food.

He has always loved books and looked forward to school holiday mornings, when his dad would take him to the local library to read.

Having been exposed to different types of books and literature and being able to easily talk about Greek mythology at the ripe old age of 10 indicated that he was destined for great things.

When asked about what he aspired to growing up, he says, “Babies and young children do not have a lot of ambition.

But I had bad handwriting, which I thought qualified me to be a doctor. When I was a bit older, I wanted to be a journalist, but changed that to law after high school.”

Anthony attended Nyeri Primary School before proceeding to Kiambu High School.

He was excited about this, as it meant that he now had a shot at getting into Dance-o-mania, a local dance competition that had a cult following among many youth in the 2000s.

Unfortunately, the competition was one season-long, which meant that he was just in time to see it end.

Travel is Ty’s preferred way of unwinding.

The comedian describes himself as a nerd, and the most athletic thing he could do was dance, and this he did well.

He jokes how the athletic gene jumped a generation, as his father was a boxing champion and his grandfather a Mau Mau fighter.

But he made the nerds look good as he could dance during academic-related functions, which was a huge responsibility in and of itself.

Spoken word

After high school, he would join Kenyatta University in 2010 for a bachelor’s degree in law.

He would start doing spoken word poetry in 2011 with St Andrews church in an event called Eve of Poetry that Elsaphan Njora was then helming.

At the time, spoken word poetry was a big thing in many churches. Some of his fellow congregants pushed him to join.

He would go on to become first runner-up in Slam Fest Africa, a spoken word poetry competition.

Most of the times, the judges would say that his pieces were humorous, which was a double-edged sword, as it was different in a good way, yet spoken word tends to tackle issues with more gravitas than humour.

He decided to use humour to MC spoken word poetry events. At times, he would go to church ready to perform spoken word poetry, but the audience would demand a stand-up piece instead.

While majority of artistes go for sketch comedy, Ty chose the road less travelled.

He would write and perform stand-up comedy pieces for a while. In August 2018, a friend shared a poster with him that was about a search for comedians to perform at Because You Said So (BYSS), a creative show that combined music, sketches, and comedians for a night of laughter and fun.

The friend impressed on him to audition, as he thought he was funny. He sent in an audition clip and made the cut.

He would become BYSS’s MC and perform bits during the shows. He would also share some stand-up material on social media, with some of his bits going viral and introducing him to new audiences.

“The thing about posting stand-up material on social media is that you cannot perform it on stage again.

You share it and get on with finding new material to perform at a later show.

Nonetheless, I still post new stand-up pieces on my Instagram page, @Anto-ty, and yes, that is a shameless plug. Hopefully the laughs you get are worth the search,” Anthony quips.

Vulnerability

Soon after, he would be approached to start screenwriting for television comedies.

He explains that the difference between writing comedy for a TV show and writing for a stand-up show is that, for the former, one relates personal experiences and insights, while the latter is more nuanced, as not only does one write witty and believable dialogue, they also write a multidimensional character that people can identify and relate with.

What keeps him going is the need to get better and having people relate with his jokes, whether in a show he wrote or on stage.

“Stand-up comedy is emotional stripping, as it hinges on vulnerability. Only an Apple B’s stripper is more vulnerable.

People could laugh or hate your jokes. But the worst moments are definitive, as they can make or break you.

There was a time I was booed off the stage, yet I was booked for a show the following morning.

I chose to pick lessons from the bad experience and forged forward,” Anthony emotes.

He shares that stand-up comedy is a skill more than it is a talent. The more you write, the better you get at it.

The more you perform, the better you get at it and the more you learn about your audience and what best resonates with them.

The more you get up the stage no matter how you are feeling, the more confident you get and the better your delivery.

He describes it as an art form that centres more on resilience and showing up than anything else.

You have to learn to show up after a great show, scared that you might bomb compared to the former, and learn to show up after a bad show, still smarting from curt whistles and boos to your carefully written and worded material.

Grounded

While a lesser comedian would already have a big head from getting considerable applause, Anthony says he remains grounded, as life has to go on after the show.

Life grounds him. His girlfriend still needs to be texted back, and he will walk out of the set and meet people who have no idea who he is, and that reminds him that he still has a lot to do.

He says stand-up comedy is his life’s passion. It is one of his creative outlets from his day job, where he does governance and policy work with a local non-governmental organisation.

The lawyer by day and entertainer by night notes that the comedy scene is growing, in part due to the increased appreciation of the same locally.

While there was a time Kenyans would not allow a comedian to be more than a fool, they are now more discerning and appreciating comedy in all its different expressions.

As to where he draws inspiration, everywhere is his short answer. “Inspiration is everywhere.

It is in experiences, both lived and imagined. I also believe that it finds someone as they work. I normally write stand-up pieces and fine-tune them at set times.

The creative muse should find you working. I love travelling, as it is one way of broadening my perspective and creating new experiences. Every time I travel, I try out the accents of the places I visit.

I will try any new thing at least once. I also love video games. Not only are they fun, they also reduce someone’s reaction time,” he shares.

About his plans for the future, Anthony aims to keep pouring himself in everything he does, whether he is doing policy work, writing a screenplay, MCing, or performing stand-up comedy.

You can catch him performing stand-up every Wednesday at Two Grapes, every Thursday at Mayura Westlands and every first Saturday of the month at Blues Restaurant in Absa Plaza, Nairobi CBD.