Many believed comedian Francis Munyao, alias MCA Tricky, was a street boy who had dropped out of school and moved to the tough streets of Nairobi to eke out a living before his Churchill Show breakthrough.
It was mostly true. But he had really not dropped out of school. By the time he became a household name in 2016, he was a third-year student pursuing an engineering degree at Kenyatta University (KU).
That is a fact many of his fans did not know, and so it was a shocker when Tricky graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from KU on December 20, 2019.
Did he construct a false narrative about himself? Is he planning to ditch comedy in favour of spanners? The Saturday Nation on Friday caught up with the comedian-cum-radio presenter.
The little information that came out about his higher learning, he said, was because he wanted to study in peace.
“Everybody leads their life and you must not live your life with others. There is a life to live with others and there is a life to live alone,” he said.
Moreover, his enrolment at KU was not fully under wraps because his classmates knew him.
“The people who knew are the ones who should have known. In KU, comrades knew me. I would perform there as MCA Tricky. But I wouldn’t take a vuvuzela and a trumpet and start walking in town announcing that I’m in class,” said the comedian.
The reason he chose being discreet was to avoid unnecessary attention in university.
When he debuted on Churchill Show, not even the patron of the show, Daniel Ndambuki, aka Churchill, knew he was in university.
He convincingly brought the street boy persona to the stage. From his creased clothes to the slurry speech delivered in Kiswahili, everyone was convinced this was an urchin out to share his street experiences.
Tricky admits he once struggled as a homeless street boy but it was more because he was out to make money.
“I was a normal hustler in Nairobi,” he said, noting that from a very young age, he made a decision not to bother his parents – who are peasants at their rural home in Makueni – with demands for money.
Being the last born of three children, he always sympathised with his parents’ struggle to put food on the table.
“I would look at my dad, who struggled to raise even Sh100 for my fare. So instead of asking for it and humiliating him, I would toil hard,” said Tricky.
He came to Nairobi after sitting his KCSE exams, which he passed well. In previous interviews, he said among the jobs he took up was being a porter in Nairobi.
Doing stand-up comedy alongside a demanding engineering course was not easy, he admitted.
At university, there is the dreaded supplementary exam popularly known as “sup” that one is punished with if one fails in a course.
He conceded that he got a number of those from 2016 when he became a star. “But I never failed the retakes.”
The comedian said most of the ‘sups’ were as a result of missing classes as the rules at his school frowned upon absenteeism.
Churchill Show fans must have noticed his absence in the recent months, and he says it was out of his desire to ace all the units in the final year because he dreaded failing in any.
“There is no way I could have travelled over the weekend to have fun with other artists when an exam was awaiting me on Monday. If you mess up in the fifth year, you repeat,” he noted.
Despite the challenges of burning the candle at both ends, comedy improved his life drastically and suddenly it was easier for him to pay fees.
“Before joining Churchill Show, I was struggling to pay fees. I was paying everything for myself,” he said. “Your parent is supposed to take care of you till you turn 18. Past that, hustle.”
Among his sources of income was acting. He was part of a group that staged plays based on set books, mostly those being studied in teachers’ training colleges. “They are the ones that sparked my comedy side,” he said.
With all the fame and fortune that has come from comedy, he is glad to have helped his poor family by supporting the education of his elder siblings and helping his father get a bigger plot to farm.
“If the celeb life found me in a well-off family, I would be far by now, driving Range Rovers. But I cannot buy a Range Rover and my sister is not in school or has no certificate.
I have to keep it low and move with them because they are the ones who brought me up,” he said.
Going forward, he said, he will be dropping the street boy persona to adopt a more versatile style.
“(In future), there are times I will be making jokes that Kenyans won’t relate to because they want a story about Piento at Afya Centre. But there is someone in Kampala who doesn’t know Afya Centre. How will I make him laugh? I have to grow. So I will have to transit,” he said.
How about pursuing a career in line with what he trained for? He said he plans to enrol for a master’s degree at a university abroad later in the year.
“My ultimate dream is to do something related to my career (engineering). But for now, let’s do comedy,” said Tricky.