John Kiarie
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KJ: The comedian who took jokes to Parliament

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John Kiarie, the Member of Parliament for Dagoretti South Constituency.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

He represents a constituency named after a corner, and what a sharp corner his life has navigated!

Mr John Kiarie alias KJ, the Dagoretti South MP, turned from a comedian lampooning government officials to a pro-government politician drawing tonnes of criticism after his latest remarks on anti-tax demonstrations.

Dagoretti is a corruption of “The Great”, which referred to a famous corner in the area. Such is the corner that KJ’s life has navigated and he is now in the box of Daniel arap Moi, Joseph Kamotho, Njenga Karume and other politicians he used to mock in his skits.

He rose to fame through the Redykyulass group that dared to make skits critical of the government of President Moi and his inner circle when few Kenyans would dare do so. They made fun of sycophancy, cronyism, ineptitude among other ills in the government in the late 1990s to the early 2000s.

On Wednesday when he took to the floor of the House, the United Democratic Alliance legislator was a reincarnation of the people and the ills he once criticised.

With an expressive face, the comedian-turned-politician said the first round of demonstrations against the Finance Bill, 2024 were “fake” and that photos circulated online were make-believe.

He argued that he made the conclusion after “meticulously” combining his skills as a “chief graphic designer” with “tonnes” of decades of experience in the world of graphic design. Indeed, he was a senior employee of two advertising and public relations firms from 2008 to 2017.

“Every photo has a digital footprint, if the photo was taken in 2020 and is being used yesterday, we can tell from the metadata of that photo and there is no debate about that, Mr Speaker,” he told the House. 

Denying the obvious is one of the lessons from the KJ book of comedy, or so it appears. In an undated clip that resurfaced online this week, he made a similar joke alongside comedian Walter “Nyambane” Mong’are. 

In the clip, he also appears to be giving “strategies” on how to be on the top of politics by always “denying” the truth and sticking to your guns.

“The success of a demonstration is measured with the intensity of the injuries that we get. For example, a successful demonstration has around 50 to 500 hundred injuries. An MP should be a warrior, mundu ungiikia ngundi (one who can throw a fist). If you are an MP, you should have the ability to deny anything that the Press says about any demonstration. And give them an ultimatum, tell them in four days they should refute and say that they misquoted,” he said then.

Trained as a fine art teacher at Kenyatta University, KJ who was first elected to Parliament in 2017 seems to have turned appeasing of the government of the day into a form of fine art. 

Known for his cartoons that made the “Head-on Collision” newspaper series, KJ through his remarks was on a collision course with Kenyans online, who shared his contact and gave him a piece of their mind.

KJ is a product of Kileleshwa Primary School, Dagoretti High School, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (where he got a certificate in information technology), Kenyatta University (where he was trained as a teacher and got to join the Redykyulass group), and his Parliament profile says he got his master’s from Daystar University. 

True to his cartoonist background, if the MP is not on the floor of the House, then he is holding his paper, and pen in one hand and throwing glances at his colleagues to come up with the best cartoon depictions.

In a social media post in April last year, Mr Kiarie took time out of a serious committee meeting to draw a cartoon and attached pictures of his colleagues. He also added emojis to depict their faces.

Further, the photo shows a witness with experience shooting themselves in the leg. He screams in excruciating pain. He inscribed the word “shoot” on the paper to illustrate the impression of “shooting yourself on the foot”.

As the comedian-turned-politician reflects on the next lesson to pick from the KJ book of comedy, he might soon allege being “misquoted” regarding the ongoing countrywide protests.