Winedown: Where wine meets comedy


Eric Lu Savali (left) and Greg Wahome performing at a stand-up comedy event at Two Grapes Wine Bar in Kilimani Nairobi on December 6, 2023. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

Wednesday, also known as Hump Day, marks the peak of the work week when most are exhausted and ready to get to the weekend.

That is why Punchline Comedy Club founder Eric Lu Savali believes it is the day when people need a good laugh the most, to get them going until they can say ‘Thank God, it’s Friday!’ Usually, most people wait until the weekend to do fun activities that lift their spirits but Eric realised that they did not have to.

In 2020, he met Coralie Piron who owns Two Grapes Wine and Friends, a cosy restaurant located on George Padmore Road in Nairobi.

“I met Eric through a mutual friend – who was also our interior designer for Two Grapes and a stand-up comic – Sharon Nderitu. I wanted to organise a weekly comedy night – so Sharon introduced me to Eric and his team. It was in the beginning of 2020. We have been working with Punchline Comedy since then. Initially, we used to have the show inside the restaurant with only a few guests. When the pandemic came, we had to do it outside. We never went back inside as it becomes too busy now,” Coralie says.

The partnership birthed Winedown Wednesday. Eric recalls that the comedy club came up with the concept of an open mic since their artists needed a testing ground for their jokes. He says the first show started with only 17 people. Now, they host an average of 156 people per week. He says it is one of Africa’s longest-running and best-attended open mic shows.


Eric Lu Savali (left) and Greg Wahome performing at a stand-up comedy event at Two Grapes Wine Bar in Kilimani Nairobi on December 6, 2023. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

“Winedown Wednesday was a play on the main concept of Two Grapes Wine and Friends. We themed the show around the wine concept since house wine is sold at a discount of Sh450 per glass on Wednesdays. It is the best wine and the most competitive house wine price in Nairobi,” he says.

For Coralie, the collaboration was a no-brainer since she loves comedy. It was out of personal interest. She realised that only once in a while a good comedy event would pop up in Nairobi but that was it. No bars or restaurants had a weekly comedy night. Even though she opened Two Grapes in 2019, Winedown Wednesdays made business better than ever.

“In the beginning, it was very slow but we believed that it would pick up. And it did. It was a real investment. Now most of the weeks, it is one of our best nights. It is usually fully booked. Guests do not pay for the show – so they spend on drinks and food. Punchline also organises paying shows a few times a year at Two Grapes on weekends which are also good. Altogether, it has increased our visibility. We probably have a good number of clients who discovered Two Grapes thanks to Winedown Wednesday and the paying shows,” she observes.

Winedown Wednesday also became a safe place for those who would like to try stand-up comedy for the first time and ended up nurturing some of the best in the game. Ciru Mwangi, who was named the Breakout comic of 2023, first got up on the open mic stage in September 2022.

“I had been writing material on my phone for a little over a year and I knew I would want to share it with a live audience. However, I put off going on stage due to fear. The turning point that thrust me to the stage was when I got fired on September 1, 2023, and by the 14th I performed at Winedown for the first time. I was extremely nervous. I got a few laughs. It was overall very, very fulfilling,” she reminisces.

Since then, it has become a full-time job as a comic. She has performed in nine shows in Kenya and two in Tanzania. However, she still goes on stage on Winedown Wednesdays.

Ty Ngachira also started his comedy career similarly, but earlier in 2019.

“At Winedown, my first experience was not so good but we had very few audience members so I doubt anyone remembers,” he laughs nervously.


Stand-up comedian Ty Ngachira on stage. PHOTO | CREATIVELY WAITHERA

Punchline Comedy Club hosts paid events that have become an extra income stream for comics who eventually get to dish out their best jokes. Most of the shows sell out as comedy fans come out in numbers for a good laugh. The comedy club has also brought international acts such as Ian Lara from US, Ndumiso Lindi, and Tumi Morake from South Africa, to perform at their events.

“We have over 20 comics on stage per week,” Eric says. The comedy club also hosts a ‘whack shop’ where comics get to work on their jokes using feedback from their fellow comedians.

At one of their last shows of 2023, Eric - who is also a stand-up comic - entertained and poked at people in the audience which made it all more entertaining as he came up with random jokes on the spot. It was a full house and the only way you could get a seat was by reserving one in advance. At around 7 pm, Eric got up on stage with his fellow host for the night Greg Wahome. He went ahead to crack a joke hoping it would make a landing.

“The bar in Kenya is so low that our first suspected serial killer allegedly killed a total of …. 1 person. The court could not even sentence him and he was released. The press was at Kamiti when he was being released and they asked him, ‘Mr Onyancha what do you plan on doing with your life now that you are free?’ And he said, ‘To do better !”

He scored. The audience cracked up and laughter filled the air. It was more relatable for those who remember when self-confessed serial killer Philip Onyancha hit the headlines in 2010 following police reports that he confessed to killing 17 women. In 2021, the High Court acquitted him over insufficient evidence.

“Enjoy the wine offer. We are funnier when you are drunk,” Eric said on a light note as he invited the next act on stage. He warmed up the crowd for them so that they could continue enjoying the show.

Somboriot Kipchilat has been going to the shows for almost a year now as he enjoys standup comedy from a Kenyan perspective.

“There is a crowd work play that I thoroughly enjoy,” he says.

It is all about the delivery. Some hit, some miss. Some of the comics use their personal experiences to tell their jokes. Others like Marcus Douglas and Abdi Mohammed use dark humour and wordplay which works for some audiences.

“At Winedown, you should never take anything to heart as no topic is off-limits. It is best to not sit at the front because that is where you get roasted but that is what makes it more fun especially when the comics interact with the crowd. It is a spectacle to see Eric freely make fun of himself and others and watch people fall out of their seats while others laugh until they cry,” says Susan Wambui who is a regular.

Even more recently, comics from Uganda, Ukraine and the UK gathered enough courage to step up on the stage to try their hand at the craft.

The crowd is also a mix of locals and foreigners, which is one of the aspects the comics like to play around with.

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