We’ve never met but that doesn’t seem to matter. When he spots me at the restaurant, Herman Kago walks over and gives me a bear hug.
He asks how I am morte than once and if I’ll have something to eat. He prefers that we sit outside at the garden even though it’s cold and he didn’t have jacket.
He is open to talking about anything but his family. “I want them to be free to live their lives. I chose this life; they did not,” he says.
I am in the company of Professor Hamo, the funny man who appears on Churchill Show.
When people meet him for the first time, they always expect to meet the funny man they see on Churchill Show or the one they listen to on radio, and that is exactly what they get.
Comedy is who he is; it is not an act he puts on for particular occasions and switches to someone else when it is over. And the comedy king is what I get to interview.
Rumour has it that you made an inappropriate joke at the State House
Did I? I talked about corruption. And it’s one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. One day I got a call from State House for a gig.
It was around the time the government had gone public that Kenya is broke. I had been given instructions not to say anything that would embarrass the president.
When I got there, the first thing I did — and I could see the guys in black suits going tense the moment I started talking — was tell the president to pay me in cash because they’d just admitted they are broke and a cheque could bounce.
He laughed, and so did the guys in black suits.
What happens when people don’t laugh at your jokes on stage?
For me everything is a reaction. Curiosity is what helps me. I’m curious to know what you’re thinking when you’re not laughing. I’ll talk about how people don’t get jokes, ask them if what I said was too hard for them to grasp, and they laugh about it.
When I run out of things to say, I tell the audience I’ve run out of things to say and they laugh at my honesty.
I read that one of your role models is Miguna Miguna. Is that true?
Yes. I love his honesty. The problem with most of us is that we are afraid of our opinion. We’re normal until we get to the age of five. We’re told not to do this or that and become stifled.
When you’re in the shower you can sing and dance without inhibitions, but become a different person in public. Miguna Miguna is one person who has found liberation.
You were in college set to be an engineer. Then you weren’t. Why?
You know when a child becomes an engineer, it gives the parents some bragging rights. And then the child goes to college, then drops out and they’re left wondering what they will tell people.
The pride of a parent is when they have done their part and sacrificed a lot to ensure you turn out fine, so can you imagine going to your parents and saying you don’t want to be an engineer.
Not only did I not want to be an engineer, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I didn’t have a Plan B. I didn’t know where I was going. It took me another three years to find direction, one that had no money and didn’t seem to have a future.
I started doing music. They never stopped me though. For the first time they saw that I was passionate about something.
What is the one thing you know for sure about life?
That your actions are a manifestation of your thoughts. What you think is what you become so guard your mind jealously. I’ve seen people who were so good at something and now they are deep into addiction.
I also suffered self-esteem issues in high school and college. I was very average. I used to look at people doing music, comedy, poetry and couldn’t do it because I didn’t feel like I was enough.
Later, I almost slipped into alcoholism. I know what it means not to know yourself. Prayer helped me. I am a very prayerful person. I didn’t go for therapy because I didn’t think it was a big deal then.
Now, looking back, I think it was. On the radio show I co host, we have a segment called A Story A Day where people share experiences and sometimes you hear very sad stories; sad things that happened to people and how they are trying to crawl out of those holes.
I was left wondering how many people don’t have the chance to share. And you know when you’re mentally ill, sometimes people don’t understand.
I have started a show on mental health. It is basically psychology meets comedy. They say laughter is the best medicine. I’ve been using laughter to heal people but now more deliberately.
On the show — it happens Monday to Friday, 6 to 7pm on my social media handles, but mostly on my Facebook page Hamo the Professor. On it, I share a light moment with a psychologist but in the process talk about these issues.
In what ways have you surprised yourself?
Becoming a comedian. I was cheeky all my life but I didn’t know I could get paid to do it.
In fact, I didn’t want people to call me a comedian because that gave me the burden to make people laugh.
But now I am called a comedian and being paid for it. In high school, I was short-sighted and I didn’t know or I didn’t pay enough attention to it.
I used to sit at the back and could not see anything on the board. It gave me about three years of fantasizing and every time the teacher spoke, I was that guy who had something mischievous to say. I was the class entertainer. I know some people endured high school because of me. I am responsible for the well-being of some doctors. Write that one down.
I can’t tell if you’re being serious.
Make sure that makes it to print. I want them to know. There are doctors I have helped. They didn’t love Chemistry, they just loved me in Chemistry class.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?
I am a believer that what is not yours is not yours and what is yours is yours. That is what has kept me sane, in my relationships and in my work. If I don’t get a job, I believe that it was not my job. There are people who’ve been in my life but are no longer in it. I used to think like that, that there are mistakes in life, until I started living fully. I realised there are no mistakes. Everything is by design. That is why when you called I said yes. I’ve been called many times for interviews by other journalists but I’ve been saying no, even when I am not busy.
Why did you say yes to this one?
I don’t know. Maybe one day I will. Someone called me recently. He wanted me to do an advert for his school. I asked him what he teaches and he said counselling psychology. One day earlier, I had told a friend that I wanted to go back to school and study psychology. I didn’t know which area though. And the next day I meet a man who teaches counselling psychology. So, if you’re here, God wanted you to be here.
· He has eight siblings and is the fifth born.
· He dropped out of Kisumu Polytechnic where he was studying electrical engineering
· He scored a C minus in high school and that is because he was not examined in his field. He believes everyone is a genius, they just need to find their field and grow it.
· He got the name Professor Hamo when he auditioned for the Churchill Show. He was told he looked like an intellectual and went with the name.
· He used to sing in a band and it was in music that he found comedy.
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