Johnson Fish Chege aka Njoroge of the TV Drama, Auntie Boss speaks about his love for comedy, being a stammer and his alter ego.
You play the role of a house help in the TV series, Auntie Boss. Do guys ever look down upon you?
I enjoy playing the role. I don’t think it is stupid. In the series, Njoroge is just an African man who works hard to provide for the family. He does everything to put food on the table. He was brought up in shags and is trying his best to fit in the city life. I love playing Njoroge.
What about your women fans?
Women are so good to me; I would say women love me! From the reactions I get from the public, I am almost certain to say that women appreciate me because I make them laugh.
Comedians are generally loners and fairly quiet. How true is this?
Very true. Most comedians are loners since people do not understand us. We go through so much, we make people laugh but the question is who makes us laugh?
Comedians end up drinking too much and are depressed. Most people don’t understand how you can be in low moods or sad. They always demand you crack jokes for them and that’s why we tend to keep away from friends and sometimes, even family.
When did you start into comedy and acting generally?
I started in school by taking part in the drama festival. In 2006, I joined the Kenya National Theatre, where I used to act in set books. Later, I started doing comedy. Comedy is difficult and people walk in with the fear of not being accepted.
What was your first role?
My first role was a funny character in Merchant of Venice; I loved it because it had the Shakespeare accent. I played Askari in Kifo Kisimani. I was paid Sh250.
As a stand-up comedian, how do you create comedy?
Comedy is all about the environment around you and what people relate to. I create comedy from what I observe, whatever meets the eye and my daily life. Comedy is out of experience, from home to my neighbours.
Do you ever find yourself playing a role in between normal conversations?
No! I am a totally different person from the character I play. For instance in “General Theodore” that is an old man, I can’t play old in real life. Characters are limited and act on demands.
Has the education system you went through played a role in shaping what you are today?
Yes it did. Education plays a very big role, from learning to communicate to speaking English or Kiswahili. The 8-4-4 system made me a hardcore, it shaped me.
How has your childhood experience influence your adulthood career choices?
As a child, I didn’t speak much. I am a stammerer, a reformed stammerer, but I still stammer when it is cold.
As a child, I didn’t speak because I feared people would laugh at me, so staying quiet made me very observant and I would absorb so much around me.
The role of Theodore is highly borrowed from my folks. So, my childhood has been impactful. For instance, the role of Njoroge as a house help comes easy because I grew up watching one Taita guy who was a caregiver in my neighbourhood so I borrowed a lot from him. I was also very smart in class and had two or three friends.
How do your kids and wife view you?
I am married to an artist; my children are proud of me and appreciate what I do. So I do not have a problem in my house because my wife understands since she is in that space.
What are some of the challenges you faced when starting your career?
I was the first actor in my family, so I didn’t get any kind of mentorship, and my parents envisioned me as a doctor so it was difficult to convince them that this is what I want.
Is comedy an inborn talent or someone can learn how to do it?
Comedy is talent. You can’t just get up and make people laugh. It has to start somewhere, it is inborn. What you master is the confidence to get out and stand in front of people.
Why is Trevor Noah your favourite comedian?
This is a person you can relate with directly, born in South Africa, gone through apartheid and he thrives in a totally different land hosting live shows in a foreign land.
Who is your role model?
My role model is Tyler Perry. He has done good for himself! I want to have my own production company.
What can you look back and say is your greatest accomplishment?
Creating the character General Theodore is something I consider as a big achievement.
What is the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your face on TV?
I am boring person because I am very reserved and I like observing and I am always quiet. I spend most of the time reading.
What is that one thing you would change if you look back at time?
Nothing! Things happen the way they come. Everything has fallen into place, in God’s timing, I trust the process and I respect the process.