She is the latest female comedy sensation to burst into the scene with wit and killer punch lines. After nearly two years of onscreen success, with corporates lining up to work with her, things are looking great for Jemutai, real name, Stella Bunei Koitie. Boniface Nyaga spoke to her.
You have had a fantastic two years in the limelight, how did you get your major breakthrough?
I auditioned for 10 months straight without any success, every Tuesday my mother gave me fare from Embakasi and taxi money to go back.
The Carnivore, where we shoot Churchill, became a second home, I knew everyone, the watchman, and the camera men even the waiters. Initially I was auditioning as Stella but my act was not convincing.
Nonetheless I kept going back and the judges kept encouraging me to develop a character that will help me execute my comedy.
At some point I was about to give up and on October 20th 2015 I came for what was to be my last audition, after that I was to quit. However that week I was picked and October 22nd 2015 was my first show ever.
How did it feel?
It was a great relief to get picked after such a long struggle, by then I had gotten used to the stage and the set up so I was very comfortable. My first show became the best edit of the night and I have never looked back.
Tell us about your comedy?
My entire act is based on Jemutai’s character, who is a young naïve village girl trying to make it in Nairobi.
My mother is a big inspiration; Jemutai is a reflection of her and I get a lot of content from her. Most of the sarcasm, wit and snappy comments you hear on stage are very typical of my mother.
I think that is why most of my fans tell me that their mothers love me and I always ask them to say hi.
Jemutai is very naïve, are you like that in real life?
Yes, I am, I never know what is happening and when I learn a new sheng word I use it until it is dead. I am always the last one to get 411 on trends and cool things.
My concentration span is very small, I have actually never finished a movie because I get emotional and distracted very easily. It takes me like three days to finish a series. People also don’t know, but I am very shy; when I put on those clothes and get on stage I am confident, but in real life I am very shy.
Was this what you always wanted to do?
Comedy has always been my first love, it was always what I wanted to do. I never missed an episode of Churchill. I watched every act, took notes and developed my own content.
Even in high school my form 3 class mates once told me I would one day appear on Churchill but I didn’t take it seriously.
By the time I was finishing high school my big brother was doing electronic engineering and so my parents bought him a laptop. When it was my turn I choose to do IT so my parents would also buy me a laptop. The only thing I was good at in class was making people laugh; I did it effortlessly.
IT was never really my thing; I used to float in class. After I was done I got an internship at Kengen Olkaria; that was the most boring job I have ever done. When I came back from that internship in January of 2015 I officially hang my IT boots and began chasing my real dreams.
What is your worst experience on stage?
We once did a recording in Mombasa and I was slotted to perform at the end and unfortunately the show was delayed so I performed at 1 am when people were tired. It was like giving a presidential speech; people were just looking at me.
What is the best thing about your job?
When I meet a fan who loves what I do or whose mother is a fan and they ask me to take a selfie for their mom.
To have the ability to impact people positively with my art is simply priceless. It’s great to know I make people smile and have special moments with their loved ones as they sit to watch me every Sunday.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
I love teacher Wanjiku, she really inspired me. Maybe it was because she was the only lady at the time or it was her style. My only hope is that I can inspire the next generation of female comedians to step up and take the stage.
What’s your advice to upcoming comedians?
Don’t copy, every time you copy you are just marketing the original and reminding people why they should not pay attention to you. Find yourself before you hit the stage, don’t come looking like a cocktail of Professor Hamo, MCA Tricky and Chipukeezy; it will take you forever to make it. The best thing you can do for yourself is be yourself; build a realistic character that people can relate to. Have confidence and creativity and nothing can stop you. There is money to be made in comedy but be patient; work hard on your craft and opportunities will come knocking.
There are so many companies opening everyday so don’t chase money; work on your craft and let money chase you. I would also advise them not to chase the fake celeb lifestyle; hiring taxi’s and faking a fancy lifestyle to keep up appearances.
Don’t go broke trying to impress people, just stay on your lane and your time will come soon enough. Most of the deals I have gotten came looking for me because I am good at what I do.