Eddie Kadi: interview

© Rob Greig
Posted: Thu May 6 2010

He's the latest comedian to play a massive O2 Arena date. But who the hell is Eddie Kadi? Time Out finds out.

Every other comedian's doing arena gigs nowadays: Peter Kay, Billy Connolly, Lee Evans, Eddie Izzard. But so familiar are they to most people, that if comedians were diseases, they'd be urinary tract infections. Not, however, Eddie Kadi the latest name to join this impressive list, who will be playing O2 Arena on September 4 (although it will admittedly be scaled down to half its maximum 16,000 capacity). But who is he? Despite occasional presenting duties on Radio 1Xtra and a win at the 2006 Black Entertainment Comedy Awards as Best Comedy Newcomer, he's still a relatively unknown name. So why on earth is playing a venue this big?

You've done two sold-out nights at the smaller IndigO2 before, but why do a gig this big? Aren't you worried it'll end up being rather empty?
'It's not just about selling, although I do get nervous about it, I definitely do. But I started performing on the university circuit, where I was performing in front of maybe 200 people, then quite quickly I was doing my first one-man show which was 600. Then it was the 2,000 people at IndigO2, which was a massive step. I kind of look at it the same way when it comes to the O2. I don't believe in taking small steps.'

This O2 date will make you the first black UK comedian to play an arena. Is being a role model a motivation for you?
'Yes. There are young kids out there that want to get into comedy. I like to think that there might be some who'll go to their parents and say, “I want to be a comic like Eddie Kadi,” and their parents will have seen my comedy and that it's educating and not offensive, so they say, “You know what? Why not?” I've got a younger brother, he's 12 years old. So knowing that he's there watching me, and he's going to bed thinking, “Ah, that's my brother.” I always want to leave that sort of clean image in his mind.'

So you deliberately keep your comedy family friendly?
'Actually, it's not far off from the real Eddie. I've always tried to be myself. I had quite a strict upbringing. No, I wouldn't say strict. I would say militant. Dad knew school finished at 3.30pm, so it'd be: “I want you home at 3.31pm.” “But dad, school's 15 minutes away!” “Work it out, Eddie. Work it out.” I just carried that on to the stage. So I am sure a lot of people who grew
up the same way as me come down and relate, and that's why they laugh, like: “Oh my God, I'm not alone!”

I try to incorporate everything that I'm about. I have a presenting background. I have a comedy background. I love dancing. I love singing, even though I can't hold a note - well I can hold a note, but just long enough for people to clap and remember that, oh this guy can't really sing. I incorporate all that. I called it “An Audience with Eddie Kadi” because when I was younger I used to love ITV's “An Audience with…”, whether it was comedians, like Ken Dodd or Ronnie Corbett, or the Kylie Minogues of this world. I like Kylie Minogue. So I'll do some stand-up, then invite special guests on, and have a Jonathan Ross-type chat show. It gives me that chance to pick any member of the audience and they just throw a question at me and I turn that into a routine. God, I can't believe I said I liked Kylie.'

Who will the guests in the chat show segment be?
'It'll be a very interesting array of guests. All I can say is there's going to be some dancing involved.'

Is it Kylie?
'I don't know if I could conduct that interview. I might collapse on the sofa and just leave the question cards there for her to answer. I was born in Congo, and I came here when I was eight. Kylie Minogue was one of the three or four videos in a collection my dad had. Do not ask me why. I remember watching the “I Should Be So Lucky” video and thinking: This is what London is all about. Since then I've always been a Kylie Minogue fan. Yeah, I've said it. It's on the record.'

Do you think you're a big enough name to play the O2?
'I read an article about me and it said things like “unknown” and “novice”. I don't blame people for saying that, because they are not aware of a different market to the mainstream. But there is a whole new market out there for comedy where people can come with their families, the wife, the kids and the grandparents, and they'll all enjoy it. I've performed for crowds of 5,000. But because there isn't exposure on these audiences, people just assume that they don't exist. To get 2,000, 8,000 or 20,000 of those people in the same room is not a big deal. It's a market that's been neglected.'

Eddie Izzard also did the O2 Arena, but according to Google, compared to the 1.8 million hits for him, you only have 137,000. You're below Eddie Irvine's 351,000, but you're above haulage company Eddie Stobart, who only has 65,800.
'Fantastic! That was my aim! I can't believe this. Somebody hug me. Back when me and my dad were watching that Kylie video he said to me: “Son, one day you're going to be bigger than Kylie. You're even going to be bigger than Eddie Stobart!” '

But aren't you worried that this means Eddie Irvine could do a gig at the O2 Arena and blow you out of the water?
'Definitely! He's got more of a chance than me.'

'An Audience with Eddie Kadi' is at the O2 Arena, Sept 4.