Mental health and stand up, I don’t know whether they are synonymous with one another, but both do seem to contribute something in the other. As a comedian, bearing your soul to strangers is risky and leaves one vulnerable but the reward is immense for all the time one is surrounded by an appreciative audience. There’s something self-affirming about being surrounded by an audience, laughing and clapping engrossed by the contents of your mind.

Njambi McGrath by Steve Ullathorne

Njambi McGrath by Steve Ullathorne

People taking time to buy tickets and come to my show to listen to what I have to say is very humbling. And for those people to nod in agreement or shed a tear makes being a stand-up comic very special. It’s when you realise you are not alone because life as a comic can be very lonely, always on the road mostly alone. But it’s at the stage where one reaps the reward, being granted an hour or however long to tell your truth is truly special.

When my father died, I was raw with emotion. I called a friend and told him of my anguish and his reply, write an Edinburgh Fringe show about it. ‘I would be too emotional,’ I replied. ‘And that’s why it would make a fantastic show,’ he said. Armed with this knowledge I proceeded to pen a show. This was a pivotal moment in my career, I guess when people say that a comic finds their voice. For the first time, I could write material with meaning and an honesty I couldn’t find before. It felt natural and truthful, and I guess people could see it was written from the heart. There’s something healing about being heard, like therapy except you’re getting paid for people to listen to you. It’s such an honour.


Title of Show: Njambi McGrath: Black Black

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard – Baby Grand

Time: 5:50pm

Dates: 5th - 28th August (except 15th August)

Previews: 3rd & 4th August

Kenyan stand up Njambi McGrath returns to the Edinburgh Fringe this year to the Pleasance Courtyard Baby Grand, after a sell-out run in 2019 with her show ‘Accidental Coconut’ and a limited run in 2021. In her new stand up hour, ‘Black Black’, Njambi explores striking similarities of identity politics amid growing emboldened racism alongside the special relationship she had with her grandmother.

Ash smeared faces, muffed defiant laughter masked by mud plastered walls, lit by dim embers is not a typical setting for a comedy show, but there is something about adversity that calls for satire. Afterall oppression, injustice and bad governance are the perfect recipe for resistance and mirth! Populist leaders, mass deportations of blacks and deforestation as well as rampant spread of virulent diseases, one would be forgiven in thinking Njambi’s grandmother lived in 2022’s Britain instead of 1940’s colonial Kenya.

As Britain declares a culture war in a bid to contain the ugly ghost of its past, Njambi scrutinizes her grandmother’s life whose entire life was determined by British occupation in Kenya in her new show Black Black. On arrival in early 1900’s Kenya the British created a society of haves and have-nots causing rampant homelessness, deportation, starvation, and delinquency whilst despots lined their pockets with ill gained money. The current state of mass homelessness in Britain, cronyism, corruption, deportations are stark parallels of the colonial past. Njambi explores striking similarities of racial politics implications on blacks, amid growing emboldened racism. Both Njambi and her grandmother were/are comedians because amongst adversity, there’s always humour.

Njambi and her grandmother had to leave their homes and had to spend time in institutions where discipline and compliance were absolute. Njambi in an exclusive boarding school and her grandmother in a concentration camp. Like the suffragettes each found modes of defiance and resistance against authorities that sort to deny their human rights. When she felt unheard in her autocratic boarding school Njambi ran away, whilst her grandmother rebelled against colonialists in active verbal and nonverbal defiance. As a teenager, her grandmother had rebelled against her stepmother by running away to live in a missionary so she could be educated and Njambi ran away from her abusive father who beat her up and left her for dead.

She’s the author of the critically acclaimed chart-topping book ‘Through The Leopard’s Gaze. “Beautifully written” BBC Radio 4 Loose Ends. “a stunning portrayal of human brutality and human resistance – heart-breaking and empowering in equal measure.” David Lammy MP. The book is a true account of the breakdown of her family, and the factors that played a role when as a teenager she became estranged from her father who beat her up and left her for dead. Njambi was also chosen as one of the Guardian and Jacaranda publisher’s Twentyin20 BAME writers published in 2020. She is currently writing her debut fiction novel.

This year she has supported Jason Manford who deemed her “very funny” and late last year performed a sell-out run at the Soho Theatre. In 2019 she won the NATYS award (previous winners include Stewart Lee the same year she was named as one of Fabulous Magazine’s Up and Coming Female Comedians and was shortlisted for the BBC New Comedy Award. Her live comedy specials Accidental Coconut, African In New York and Breaking Black are available on Next Up, Amazon and Apple.

On TV she was a star of the BBC International Comedy celebration and has appeared on BBC Two’s Edinburgh Nights and on Channel 4, BBC TWO, ITV’s 6 O’Clock news and Sky News.

Her Radio 4 series ‘Becoming Njambi’ was made Comedy of the Week by the station and a new series has been commissioned. She has also appeared as a guest on numerous radio shows on BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 4Xtra & BBC Radio World service.

RELATED: Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022: Emmanuel Sonubi shares how comedy has helped his mental health