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I took up comedy to survive hardship

By Benjamin Njoku and Ishola balogun
Encountering Afamefula Igwemma off stage was a totally different experience. He cuts nothing of the picture he portrays on stage as Klint da Drunk. The Agwu_Ukwu, Nri born comedian was not born a drunk.  A multi-talented artiste, Klint  is not just a comedian par excellence, he’s also  a musician, actor, painter and a designer.

Unknown to many, Klint trained as a painter at the Institute of Technology,(IMT) Enugu, before abandoning his brush for the stage to make ends meet. Several years, after he made his mark as one of the leading comedians in the country. Klint da Drunk in this interview, reveals why he abandoned his career in music for comedy .

He also highlights part of his plans to use his act to affect the lives of those who live under the influence of alcohol as well as how he met his beautiful wife, Lilien, his stage personality and more. Showtime Celebrity ran into this prodigious artiste, last weekend, where he attended the premiere of a comedy movie, which he played a led-role titled, ‘Eno De Sawa”, held at the Water Parks, Ikeja, with his beautiful wife, Lilien and engaged him in this revealing interview.  Find out more about Klint Da Drunk and the character he portrays. EXCERPTS:

Klint, when will you give up drinking on stage?

Never, I will never stop drinking. I will never stop being drunk on stage as a comedian because it’s my source of existence and livelihood. Never, I can’t stop it. It must continue.

Klink da Drunk and wife Lilien
Klink da Drunk and wife, Lilien

How long have you been a humour merchant?

My brother, it has been a very long time. Like in 1993, when I gained admission to study Fine and Applied Art at the Institute of Technology,(IMT) Enugu. I was already doing certain programmes for NTA, ESBS and many other stations in Enugu then.

And that was after my secondary school education. I was doing some TV dramas as an up and coming talent. It was something few young men of my age then would want to engage themselves in because as at that time, the quest to work in an oil company, belong to those lucrative professions like medicine, law and engineering was very much in vogue.

But right from childhood, I have had this flair for entertainment. I started during my secondary school days where I would play the drunk and other comic roles. With time, it became an integral of me. I was in a drama group both in the church and in school.

I led my school band in secondary school then, and happened to be a force to reckon with when you talked of my school drama group.

In everything I did while I was growing up had some elements of humour in it.  I’m not surprise today because I have always expressed that flair for entertainment right from childhood.   Even when I completed my post-secondary education at IMT, Enugu, I was posted to Port-Harcourt for my National Youth Service Corps(NYSC).

But while in Port-Harcourt, instead of doing the service, I engaged myself in doing some entertainment stuff. I sojourned in Port-Harcourt for two years from 2000 to 2001, and principally engaged myself in entertaining people; going from night club to night club, performing on stage.

It was not lucrative then because there no were sponsors. Nobody then supported me. Even my parents were against my decision to go into the business of entertaining people. But because I loved what I was doing, I did not give up. I was performing for “spray-money.” I could go to four to five night clubs to perform at one night, just to have people spray money on me. Comedy for me then was for survival.

At what point would you say you started making money from the business?

It was after performing at the “Night of a Thousand Laughs” held in 2002 and 2003, at Port-Harcourt. It really exposed me and gave my the mileage I needed to move forward in the business.

Was it the highpoint of your career as comedian then?

It was obvious that when I was performing for the “spray-money”, I was never paid anything. But I would say the highest money I made as a starter then was N300.  I was still at IMT when there was the need for me to perform during one of the shows held in the institution. In the past, I had done a lot of free shows and later I vowed never to do it.

CLINT

As a result, the organizers of the show promised to pay me N300 at the end of the show. Between 1994 and 1995,  N300 was a very big money for me as a student. At least, I was able to use the money to buy myself a second hand T-shirt and a pair of faded jersey.

That was the situation I found myself at the beginning. It was not easy for me in those days because comedy then was just for survival and not a money-making venture. We were just doing it to survive,  unlike now where it has become a very big business.

How did you come about the drunken character you always portray?

I have told this story time without number. There’s this man called, Scatter Mojo. He used to be our caretaker in the village. Mr. Scatter Mojo was a real drunk, following his kind of person and the odd jobs he did in the village that usually got soaked.

So, each time he got drunk and staggered his way back to our house, I noticed that my father and my uncle usually entertained themselves on that day. Sometimes, I would mimic him, without knowing that I was consciously preparing myself to earn a living by adopting the character of a drunk. I just kept on practising what Mr. Mojo was doing. Then, I used to sing and perform on stage while I was in secondary school.

But I wasn’t really portraying the drunken comic, until one day I went for a show where I was to sing and it happened that 2Face Idibia was newly admitted into the IMT. At that show, 2Face was scheduled to go on stage before me. And when I watched him perform and heard his voice on stage, I immediately sneaked out of the place.

Were you intimidated?

Intimidation is an understatement. I was downgraded and belittled by 2Face’s performance. I felt I was stupid to even venture into singing because 2Face’s performance overwhelmed me. And because of that encounter, I decided to change my career.

2Face himself is aware of what I’m staying. He was the one that made me change my career in music.  2Face talks about it even till today.

As a result, I found solace in trying my hands in comedy, perhaps, recreating the drunk character that the man in my village was noted for. I did it once, and people embraced the act. And before I knew what was happening, I was everywhere in Enugu.

Then, I was the only functioning comedian in the Coal City. I didn’t relent in my effort as I had to set a standard for myself.

From Enugu, I started going for shows at the  Abia State University, UNIZIK, UNN and until one day, I went for a show at UNIPORT.  The positive reaction of the teeming audience that thronged the UNIPORT Sporting Complex venue of the show made me to relocate to Port Harcourt after graduating from IMT.

I had the feeling then that showbiz thrived in Port Harcourt. And it was a decision that actually paid off because it was in Port Harcourt that I hit the limelight.

Do you drink alcohol before mounting the stage?

No, I don’t take any alcohol before mounting  the stage. No matter who you are, the moment you take alcohol, you are bound to mess yourself up. But whenever I ‘m not on stage, I used to drink occasionally, perhaps, one or two bottles are okay for me.

If you were not a comedian, what else would you have been doing for a living?

God has a way of doing things. I studied Fine and Applied Art. I’m a painter by profession. If was not a comedian, I might have been painting or acting professionally, and better still, I might have continued pursuing a career in music. I’m somehow blessed.

I still act, sing and also do my comic act. My album is coming out soon. I’m still painting, and in fact, I’m going to hold a solo exhibition of my recent works very soon. I can’t stop painting and I can’t drop my brush for anything.

At home,I still find time to paint. I love painting, and I don’t joke with my colours.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

From what happens while I’m on stage. Such happenings  that elude the audience’s imagination. Sometimes, I bring in some elements of artistic imagination on stage, where I kind of play on colours to achieve harmony.

How often do you  get negative and positive reactions from fans?

Yes, I do. I remember one time, a woman confronted me, telling me how she liked my comedy but does not like my act. On inquiry, she told me that my act reminds her of her former husband who used to be a drunk, adding that each time she watched me on stage, her mind always flashbacked on the circumstances that led to her divorcing her former husband.

Based on that confrontation, I’m planning a show that will kick off in Abuja and Lagos respectively very soon. It will be a travelling show, a kind of campaign resulting in making people to drink responsibly.  I’m the face of who you are, that person you are not meant to be.

My face as a drunk on stage represents the faces of so many drunks that are not supposed to be drunks. Whenever you see a drunk, he’s always staggering and talking carelessly. The message is: don’t drink to be like Klint da Drunk. I’m a drunk personified. I’m not a drunk per see, but I’m a representation of who a drunk is.

Drunkenness  is a feeling that lasts for a while. I’m the only person who’s in a better position to preach against drunkenness. That’s why I want to use my act to preach against drunkenness and its essences. The campaign will start off very soon. We are planning it big, and perhaps, before the first quarter of next year runs out, we would have kicked off the campaign.

I don’t have any regrets whatsoever for acting the drunk man on stage. It’s an act that has given me leverage over my contemporaries in the business. A drunk can walk up to you  and called you names, and get away with it. But a sensible man who dares it will not be spared. That’s why each time I’m on stage, I tend to attack people who seat on the front row because a drunk by nature does not attack the people who are far from his reach but those people close to him.

Would you say acting a drunk gave you a wife?

God gave me my wife.

How?

I had known my wife for a long time. As a young man, I chased my wife, and before we become very close to each other, we were good friends. I met her while she was sojourning in Jos with her parents. Before proposing to her, I remember going on my kneel with one of my legs, and asking her to marry me. But one funny thing about us is that I was not really attracted to her then.

We were just good friends. But after so many years, I realised she was always there for me. Then, I started developing serious interest in her. I love my wife very much, and we have been married for years now.

What gift have you received from her?

God, through her, gave me a handsome boy. What can be more wonderful than that? When I met her, I thought she was a Hausa lady, without knowing that she came from the same state with me. Initially, I didn’t want to marry an Igbo woman because of my past experience with them.

Any nasty experience you have had so far?

A lot of them. Some people do not know how to express themselves. I recall an ugly incident that happened in Abuja when I went to eat in a restaurant with one of my ex-soldier friends. Unknown to me, there was this guy that was standing directly in front of me.

As soon as the food was served us, and I was about to drop the first spoon in my mouth, the guy gave me a hot slap across my forehead and the whole plate of rice splashed on my clothes. I was highly infuriated as a human being but I managed to control my temper. At that point, my ex-soldier friend could not stand the insult as he attacked the guy, beating him black and blue.

Later, the guy muted, “you think you want to chop, you must go and get drunk first before you can chop.” I intervened and pleaded with my friend to spare the guy. The following week, I read an article about the incident where it was reported that I attacked a fan who came to greet me somewhere in Port-Harcourt, while the incident happened in Abuja.

You have tried your hands in acting and music, featuring in Nigga Raw’s first album. Why the diversion?

I am a comedian but that does not mean that I cannot do other things. I am an adventurous person and highly so. So the music and acting part of me are part of the adventure. But with acting, the type-casting discouraged me. Must I act the drunk in all movies? So I simply moved on to other things.

Would you, someday, consider being a full fledged musician?

I am working on my album, and by the time my album comes out, it’s going to be a whole new ball game.

And the drunken comic character of yours is that part of the adventurous streak?

Yes. But it has now become my unique selling point.

I’m my husband’s number one fan—Lilien, wife of Klink da Drunk

How long you have known your husband?

I have known him for about three to four years now. I’m attracted to him because of the fact that as a man, he has a very kind spirit, soft heart and above all, he’s a very good man.

At the time he approached you, what was at the back of your mind?

I can’t tell but I have always loved  him as a comedian. I have always liked and admired him. He has been my best comedian ever before I actually met him. I happened to be first fan, and was looking forward to meeting him someday.

So, when I met him, I was not disappointed at all. I liked him as a person. We were actually friends before we started dating and finally got married. At the time we were dating, we did not know that we came from the same state-Enugu State, and the knowledge of it made it easy for us to agree to marry each other.

What is it that you don’t like about your husband?

I love everything about him. I’m still trying to find out what I don’t really like about him.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.