Meet Eddie Kadi, the history-making Congolese comedian taking on Strictly

Comedian has described ‘Strictly’ as the ‘scariest thing’ he’s ever done

Isobel Lewis
Saturday 28 October 2023 14:32 BST
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Strictly Come Dancing is back on our screens this autumn, with presenter Eddie Kadi among the stars hoping for a shot at the Glitterball Trophy.

The eldest of four siblings, Kadi, 40, was born in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Growing up in the African country, Kadi was performing from a young age, thanks to his extended family’s love of all things music.

As a kid, Kadi loved to dance, and has said: “Congo is known for its music, that’s one of the riches we have apart from everything else. That’s played a very big part in my work; me being a guy who loved dancing from early, I incorporate that into my performance.”

Aged eight, Kadi and his family moved to the UK, settling in Fulham, west London. There, Kadi’s interest in television began. He idolised entertainers such as Ronnie Corbett and Victoria Wood (and even former Strictly host Bruce Forsyth), but imagined he would become a teacher or spend his adulthood travelling rather than performing.

In the end, Kadi stumbled upon comedy coincidently while studying. When his university’s African Caribbean society were unable to book a presenter for their forthcoming talent show, society president Kadi was asked to step in. With no experience in comedy, he joked about his background and family, which connected with the audience.

“Early on, when I used to do stand-up, I didn’t think I was doing it, I was just telling stories about my culture,” he said in a previous interview. “But a lot of people from that culture could relate, and those who weren’t found it revealing.”

Initially, Kadi continued in the presenting direction as part of a group called Black Grape who hosted shows across the country. He made the move to stand-up on a friend’s suggestion and quickly became a known figure on the university comedy circuit.

On stage in 2011

Soon, the comic was experiencing success. In 2006, he was nominated for Best Newcomer at the Black Comedy Awards. And just four years later, in 2010, Kadi became the first Black British comedian to headline the O2 Arena.

Before his history-making set at the music venue, Kadi had approached the O2 asking if he could gig, only to be shot down and told to try out their smaller venue first. But after he sold out the 2,000-capacity space – then called the indigO2 – in 2009, he was given the change to play the bigger venue the following year.

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Speaking to The Independent at the time, Kadi said: “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. I am always looking to improve and move my career forward.”

While comedy has remained his first love, Kadi has branched out in recent years to other career endeavours. He’s hosted at the Olympics, the MOBOs, the BET Awards and the National Comedy Awards.

Kadi (right) with Mo Gilligan at the 2021 MOBO Awards

Music has remained another passion of Kadi’s, and one he’s been able to fuse with his presenting work. He presents BBC Radio 1’s Afrobeats Chart Show and took part in the Brit Awards this year, while also hosting for the likes of Wizkid, Lauryn Hill and Nas, and Burna Boy on tour.

Kadi is a co-host of the Wheel Talk podcast with fellow comic Babatunde Aléshé, and is producing a documentary for Channel 4.

Despite his wide-ranging career, Kadi has no qualms in describing Strictly as the “scariest thing” he’s ever done.

“Because I love dancing, right?” he said on Hits Radio’s Breakfast Show. “And as a Congolese, as I’ve said it many times, like, we dance every opportunity we get.

“But then you realise you’re not really dancing, you’re just wiggling your bum. And I’ve got these illegal hips – they just don’t listen to anybody! But I’m looking forward to learning.”

Strictly Come Dancing airs every Saturday from 16 September on BBC One.

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