Comedian Lijodi Kokoto narrates his struggle with depression and alcoholism

Lijodi Kokoto (Photo: Courtesy)

When did you first join comedy?

I realised my acting potential in high school where I took on various roles in the school’s drama club. After clearing school, I went for auditions at KBC for Vioja Mahakamani programme in 2003. I won the hearts of the producers and landed a slot.

Was acting a childhood dream?

Not really. I was more drawn to dancing. I always knew I would one day become a professional dancer.

So what made you change your mind from dancing to acting?

At that time, dance wasn’t paying as much, so when I got a role in Vioja Mahakamani, I decided to give it my best. Looking back, I don’t regret.

Your stage name, Kokoto, is quite unique. How did it come about?

I didn’t settle for that name, but a fan did. I was in Naivasha for a show when a fan walked up to me and shouted, “Tobias are the guy who had been accused of selling kokoto as manure...ahhh wewe ni kokoto sana..” And from that day, the name Kokoto stuck.
Do you enjoy being a comedian?

Far right, Lijodi Kokoto with cast members (Photo: Courtesy)

Comedy is in my blood and I love it to bits. I can act for a whole day without getting tired.

At some point you were an alcoholic. What was going on?

It was bad! After losing my job at Vihoja Mahakamani show, I was low and fell into depression. I turned to alcohol to comfort me, but I slowly became an addict. Because I was so broke, I resorted to drinking busaa and chang’aa in Dandora.

When was your turning point?

In 2012. We were hopping from one chang’aa den to another. While drinking, a pal asked me to join him at Lucky Summer. He wanted to give me some cash that he owed me. We had to cross Nairobi River from Dandora Phase 4 to Lucky Summer. That day, the river was overflowing. I was a little bit scared, but my friend led the way and asked me to follow in his footsteps to cross safely. However, I fell and started drowning. I didn’t know how to swim, so the currents kept pulling me towards a water fall that was said to have crocodiles. I vowed that if I came out alive, I would change my lifestyle. I was rescued. I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol since 2012.

Why do you think actors drink too much?

Some actors drink too much because of being overwhelmed by the cash and fame, while others it is due to stress and depression.

Speaking of fame, what is the most annoying thing about being famous?

Nothing annoys me because this is what I chose to do.

Lijodi Kokoto in his element (Photo: Courtesy)

Does comedy pay?

Yes, it does. However, I also double up as an emcee, just to supplement my income.

I am sure there days when you forget your lines while on set or the jokes are flat...

Of course! It happens a lot. You have to think quickly and correct your mistakes.

What is your take about the comedy industry in Kenya? Are there enough opportunities?

If you have good content, opportunities are always there. You only need to exploit and make use of these opportunities.
Given the chance, what is the one thing you can change about our comedy industry?

If Kenyans can celebrate their own, then that can really help. Second, the government should support the local industry by giving them opportunities or incentives. Just look at Nigerians, their industry is bringing in a lot of money thanks to Government support.

Actors are known for going dead broke after retirement or losing their jobs. Why is this the case?

It’s hard to tell what happens because everyone has their priorities. I think they get carried away by fame.

Are there times you watch yourself on television and cringe? 

No. I am always confident about what I do.
What has been your worst mistake?

Not tithing. I believe that if you are a Christian and you fail to tithe, then, you are blocking blessings.
Have you ever missed important opportunities in life?

Not exactly. I believe God’s timing is the best.
What is this one thing you cannot give away?

My kids. I cannot imagine giving them away since they are my life.

Best advice to your fans?

Whatever you do in life, do it with vigour, you never know who is watching. Always make the best of your opportunities, talent or career and God will reward you.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

 God willing, I see myself in Hollywood.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of