Heard the one about Eddie Kadi and the O2?

From obscurity to sell-out: how a comedian from Congo hit the big time in London

Kevin Rawlinson
Monday 08 February 2010 01:00

From Prince to Bon Jovi to Madonna, it takes a certain type of star to sell out London's sprawling O2 Arena.

But a little-known stand-up comic who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and who usually plays to a few hundred people in pubs, will perform at the vast venue in September after persuading management that he could fill the seats.

Eddie Kadi, 26, who moved to the UK aged eight, said: "When I first approached the O2 Arena, they laughed at me and said 'No way'." They suggested that he try to play at its smaller sister venue, indigO2.

The performance at the 2,000-capacity indigO2 sold out and Kadi soon after received an email inviting him to perform in the main arena. Kadi, who now holds a UK passport, will become the first black British comedian to headline the O2 Arena.

"Some people would say that I should continue playing it safe in smaller venues but I don't see why I should keep taking baby-steps when I am confident I can take giant leaps," he said. "I am always looking to improve and move my career forward."

Should there be one or two empty seats when he takes to the stage on 4 September, his will be a remarkable tale nonetheless. Kadi was born in the DRC in 1983. After moving to London, he grew up in Fulham and attended the Henry Compton secondary school, of which the sprinter Linford Christie is also an alumnus. While studying media technology at Kingston University in Surrey Kadi began hosting stand-up shows; he now counts Miss Dynamite and the rapper Tinchy Stryder among his fans.

Kadi's comedy is clean because he has never felt that he could swear or cover adult material in front of his mother, who often came to see him perform in the early days. "As long as it is OK for the fans, that is the most important thing," he added. Riffing on his ethnicity is about as risqué as he gets: "Us black people are addicted to guest lists," goes one gag. "So even if you went to McDonald's and you see a queue, you'd go up to someone: 'Er, excuse me. Is there a VIP?' You get to the counter and order a Big Mac. '£4.25.' 'Sorry, what?' '£4.25.' So you get on the phone to your mate and say, 'What? They're asking me to pay. I thought you'd got me on the guest list.' "

Kadi jokes that fans will have to block-book tickets and each bring 10 friends in a type of pyramid scheme to fill the venue, which can hold as many as 20,000 people but may be scaled back to around 8,000 for the performance.

Kadi can already be heard on BBC 1Xtra and lending his voice to the children's TV series Tinga Tinga Tales. He is also planning to return to the country of his birth for 10 days to film a programme called Road to the O2. "Growing up where I did, I was the first black man to do just about everything," he said. "The real honour will just be to step out on that stage as a performer."

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