Comedian cooking through coronavirus pandemic

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020 00:00 |

Harriet James @harriet86jim

“I am proud of the responsible man that my son, John Byron Otieno aka Owago Onyiro has become.

The birth of Owago’s Kitchen YouTube channel couldn’t have come at a better time than this and I’m proud of the fact that he is using the skills I taught him to keep him busy, and get something monetary wise during this pandemic,” his mother Truphena Otieno says. 

Owago’s Kitchen YouTube channel has so far received positive feedback from Kenyans and he is happy with its progress.

He uses the platform to teach his audience how to cook. He credits this knowledge to his mother, who taught him how to cook since he was in Class Five. 

Born and raised in Uriri, Migori County, Owago is Truphena’s first born and only son.

She has two  younger sisters and as his mother recalls, despite him being the eldest, he was the cheekiest and most stubborn.

Life was tough, and they lived from hand to mouth. However, his humour began early in life. 

Stubborn child

“He loved entertaining his classmates and teachers when he was in school. Even at home, he used to make us smile in tough seasons though I never knew that one day this would end up being his career,” says Truphena. 

Owago’s dad is a teacher, and because he was being transferred from one school to another, the comedian followed suit and went wherever his father went.

However, the stand-up comedian did his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) at Kolwal Primary School, Migori County in 2002.

“Kolwal was well known for drama and music festivals and that’s where his stage name Owago Onyiro was born,” says his mother 

The 32-year-old joined Kanyawanga Boys High School in Rongo District within Migori County in 2003.

Owago with his mother Truphena Otieno. Owago learnt his cooking skills from his mother. Photo/PD/Harriet James

His mother recalls that his stubborn nature still continued, which got him suspended more than three times because of sneaking out of school.

Though Truphena was worried, she just had to cope with his son. He loved Physics and desired to pursue engineering.  

After his secondary education, Owago joined Moi Institute of Technology, Rongo, Migori for a Certified Public Accountants (CPA) course in 2008.

He then moved to Railways Training Institute (RTI) where he enrolled for Electrical and Electronics Engineering.

“He later on joined The Technical University of Kenya (TUK) where he studied Electrical and Electronics Engineering (Power Option).

In 2010, he began teaching Mathematics at St Paul’s University (Town Campus) as a part time job,” Truphena narrates. 

However, even as Owago went about his job as a lecturer, he desired to do comedy. In 2011, he started going for auditions, but was unsuccessful.

This, however, did not make him give up on his passion. His breakthrough came in 2013 when he was first featured on Churchill Raw. 

Curving a niche

“At first, I thought it was a joke and I didn’t support him. I wanted him to be serious with his life.

But seeing what he has achieved with his talent, encouraged me and made me want to support him more in his work,” she says.

Owago’s fame has grown from his ability to examine how Kenyans, in particular, Luos live.

However, when he started out, he received criticism that he was not original in his jokes and was aping other Luo comedians such as Jalang’o.

This is a claim he refuted and over time, Owago is proud of the fact that he has curved his own niche and has stood out as his own brand. His censored versions are available on YouTube. 

“Performing in Churchill taught him a lot of things. I am proud of the fact that he has now grown.

Being there has made him learn how to be patient in life, not to rush into things, consistency as well as treating people equally,” Truphena reveals.  

In May 2014, Owago embarked on his first American trip where he toured eight states namely Dallas, Houston, Austin, Atlanta, New Jersey, Memphis, Minnesota and California. The tour made him learn more on being diverse and also grow in comedy. 

Going places

“He told me that international comedians are free to talk about anything freely unlike here in Kenya.

The trip made him have the desire to introduce uncensored comedy in Kenya where comedians can talk freely about issues.

There too, he was not doing comedy in Kiswahili like he does over here, but in English, which stretched him to be able to communicate with a different audience. I am happy that he made the whites laugh too,” she chuckles. 

The comedian also worked as a radio presenter at Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) but he quit his job in 2019. For now, he is fully immersed in boosting his cooking skills as he awaits to see what the post Covid 19 season has for him and his fellow artistes. 

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