Bethel Njoku popularly known as Senator is a comedian and actor who has built for himself a unique style. He is also a father of one. At the University of Jos where he studied theatre arts, he won many showbiz awards at different levels which paved the way for him into the entertainment inustry. Bethel Njoku is one of the fast rising comedians Nigeria has produced and in this intriguing interview, he talks about many issues you will not want to miss.
By ADERONKE ADEYERI
How has the journey been since 2006?
The road has not been too smooth just like many roads in Lagos (smiles) but I will get to my destination just like other Lagosians. Nevertheless, I thank God because there are many people in the industry who are just hovering in a place.
How did you come about your stage name?
The name Senator was inspired by my desire to be a representative of humor and laughter. I coined the name at a time Nigeria was leaving the military era for democracy. Senators were seen everywhere representing different constituencies. My own constituency is comedy. My brand of comedy is analytical and intellectual. I work with a lot of corporate brands,and I need a name that will have a corporate outlook, hence I chose Senator. My brand is simple yet sophisticated.
What is the difference between a comedian and a joker?
A joker is someone who says something and people around at that time laughs but a comedian is someone who has the responsibility to say reasonable things that will make people laugh. A joker only has a sense of humor which is God given but a comedian has to be trained and well groomed. The major thing that differentiates a comedian from a joker is the level of consciousness. Comedy is a conscious act while a joker says something on impulse.
You once tongue lashed your colleagues over recycling your jokes. Don’t you think some may feel you are being pompous ?
I am not pompous but I was only being myself. I have suffered this injustice for a long time and kept mute about it. I never meant my jokes should not be used by other comedians but I think they should make reference to me while using it. Most times when I use these jokes some people feel I am copying those who used the jokes I created and I can not continue like that. Many of them use these jokes and even put them on CDs. There was a time Ali Baba gave me a joke and after using the joke on stage, I told the audience who the originator was. I did the same thing when Emeka Smith gave me a joke in America. That does not mean I was short of jokes or I was not funny. It also did not stop the joke from been hilarious, in fact, it was one of the most applauded jokes of the night.
Did the issue affect your relationship with other colleagues?
To the best of my knowledge, no, but personal opinions differ. I am a blunt person and care less when I am saying how I feel.
What brought about your comedy skit, “I am a painter”?
I was in America when a group of Nigerian boys called wawwaw boys who were comedians and also see me as a mentor called me to see their skit. I worked on the skit and it came out very good. After this, I also invited them to help me shoot my own skit too in America and I came back to release it here in Nigeria. “I am a painter” was a skit I intended giving to television stations to use as programme fillers but has opened many doors for me. At the moment, I have a contract with one of the leading companies in Nigeria but I am still keeping this in the dark .
Almost every profession has an organization. Why is comedy different and as an ambassador of humor, what are you doing about it?
It’s a two-way thing. It could be an advantage if the comedy industry has an association to guide its activities. It could help curtail the emergence of marabouts in the business and possibly create some more attention from the government and society at large. But then, again, we know the history of associations in Nigeria, where everyone wants to be relevant, or protect their own interests. I don’t want to mention names, but “people wey dey act film go explain better”. So, having an association might not just be ideal for now. At least, comedians have respect for Ali Baba, who has always played the fatherly role of correcting situations, so also do comedians have respect for Ay, Gbenga Adeyinka, Julius Agwu, Tee A, Basketmouth and others. This has made it easy for all of us.
What has been the worst thing ever written about you?
It was a gossip that was never close to the truth. It was when I did Star Trek with Nigeria Breweries in 2010. And shortly after the show, I bought a car and it went viral that Nigeria Breweries gave me N10 million. So I am still wondering where I kept the money.
So, how much were you given?
It was not more than N2 million and most times is like the media forgets that armed robbers too read these stories. I do not like that side of the media, “you people” blow things beyond proportion.
So,what measure did you take to correct the ill information?
Ah !If I am to do that I will become the media’s enemy and you know entertainers and the media should maintain a good relationship for showbiz to grow.
You don’t appear much on stand-up comedy concerts, except the ones organized by Julius Agwu. Why?
That’s not true. Certain shows do not meet up with my demand or expectation so I just bow out of the agreement. I will not grace an event that does not add value to me in any form. It was such shows that I use to attend in the past where my jokes were hijacked. I was on the bill of the last AY Live but I couldn’t make it because I was in the States to unite with my wife who just delivered a baby boy. So, I wasn’t in the state of mind to perform. However, I can’t be on every show, that will again make me valueless.
Has there been anytime you went blank on stage, if yes. what did you do?
Yes. It happened to me at the University of Abuja in 2002. I was invited to be an MC for their event and the sound system was faulty. When I moved to the right, some people would hear me and when I moved to the left, some people would not hear me. The students went mad and started stoning me with cans of drinks and pure water. To cover my shame, I called the next thing on the agenda and left the stage. Years later, I went to that school and I took pictures like I have never done before. I was so much celebrated.