BY ADERONKE ADEYERI
Only a handful of Nigerians know that the stage name known as ‘Basketmouth’ used to belong to another comedian other than Bright Okpocha, the comedian popularly known as ‘Basketmouth’. The first comedian to bear the name was Ernest Essien, an Akwa Ibom State-born humour merchant who was on the scene before Bright Akpocha.
He had to change the name ‘Basketmouth’ to ‘MC Miracle’, to avoid clash of identities with Bright Okpocha. Though MC Miracle hit stardom with his landmark mind-blowing joke ‘“Mfon-obong, itoro-obong, ima-obong, ekom-obong, dem go dey bobong bobong bong bong”, but his life has never been the same since changing his name ‘Basketmouth’ to ‘MC Miracle’. Hear his story:
When did you start comedy professionally?
Professionally, I started comedy in 1996 but I have been into comedy for a long time that I cannot even recollect the year.
What brought about your choice of name “Basketmouth”?
Back then, I used to perform at a place called ‘Tag’ in Apapa with the Frontliners Band led by Jah Hanson. So any time we went on recess, I will pick up the microphone to showcase my talent. On one fateful day, when I started cracking jokes a guy just shouted “this guy you be Basketmouth o,”! That was how the name stuck.
Since you started with the name ‘Basketmouth’ but now known as MC Miracle, will you say Basketmouth stole the name from you?
No, he didn’t steal the name. Sometime in 2000-2001, Basketmouth approached me during one of the Plantashun Boiz’s concert at D Den on Isaac John in Ikeja and he introduced himself to me as ‘Basketmouth’ and told me he heard I was also using the name. I was already an established entertainer then so what I saw was a younger brother from Benin with hunger for success in his eyes. There and then, I asked him if he liked the name and his response was in the affirmative. I told him to keep the name so I changed mine. Most of my friends including my wife did not approve of this. They said I sold my birthright to him. Till date, some of my colleagues still call me MC
Did the change in name affect you?
Definitely yes, because I had to begin a rebuilding process, getting to let my clients and fans know about it . It took a lot of time, money and conviction. But since they got used to it, it has been great.
So what is your relationship with Basketmouth?
He is my younger brother who is doing very well for himself. In fact, I feel proud that I allowed him use the name and he has always shown me respect whenever we meet. Way back, we cover up shows for each other. I remember one particular incident when he had to go for an interview at the America embassy to get visa and also had to perform at Pall Mall in Calabar. He called on me and I went to cover up for him. We have a cordial relationship though we hardly see often because of our busy schedules.
Some comedians are making it big while others are not. Why is it so?
Hard work, dedication, tenacity and originality are the secrets to making it. Also the element of God’s favour cannot be overruled. . So there is just a thin line between making it and not making it.
Is being a good comedian all about being funny or is there more to it?
There is more to it. Your character and professionalism counts in this business. You need to see it as a proper profession like a 9-5 job. A comedian has to update him or her self . Above all, you need to be extremely funny with a good delivery skill and stage craftsmanship.
What is your unique selling point?
Spontaneity and music-comedy. I can turn anything I see into a funny song. And that is really my selling point.
What is your relationship like with other comedians?
I have a fantastic relationship with all my colleagues, be it senior or junior. Most of them are all my good friends.
Would you say girls like comedians?
Girls generally love entertainers, the girls and entertainment go hand in hand.
What has been your experience with the opposite sex?
I have a very good and cordial relationship with the opposite sex and I also have a lot of respect for my boundaries. Anyway, everything comes with its territories (laughs).
What has been your most awkward experience as a comedian?
2006, when I got the franchise for ‘Nite of a Thousand Laughs’ in Uyo. We had a full hall that made even Opa Williams embrace me. After the show and it was time to count our gate-takings, we found we realized only N720, 000 after spending over N2.5m to package the show. It was then I realised that the security guys at the gate fed on my ignorance because that was my first major show .
Have you ever gone blank on stage?
Yes, in fact severally.
So how did you manage it?
When it happened , I had to pick on someone among the audience to do some wisecracks and I was fine. Once you can get laughter from the audience as a comedian, your confidence returns and soars. But no matter what, a professional comedian will not just stop or act blank in front of his audience.
Is it true that comedians make more money than other entertainers?
We all make money but I can’t say who makes more money. Comedy is a one-man show with few expenses but musicians have to pay their band, dancers etc. So it depends on who the client is and how much he is willing to pay.
Anything new for your fans?
Yes, I am working on a 3 in 1 album tagged “Me, Myself n I”. It will showcase me as a full entertainer. A singer, stand-up comedian and a music-comedian. It will be an all-round package. Also I am currently working on a movie with Joke Silva, and a soap opera in the making. Many things in my plate.
How would you rate yourself ?
I am the best there is, the originator and no imitator.