By Pamela Echemunor
The native of Isoko in Delta state took on the entertainment industry when he starred in a sitcom: “Extended Family” which he wrote, produced, and packaged in 2007. Since then, the entertainer has been leading comedy shows and events in Nigeria.
Where do you get the inspiration for your jokes?
(Laughs) I don’t know. Comedy comes to me naturally. One thing I do know is, right from when I was a child, I always wanted to be an entertainer. I guess, either my persistence paid off or by nature this is what God wanted for me but I think it’s more of the latter.
How do you execute your jokes?
I try my best to study life; look at it from the other side of the mirror. I see things people don’t normally see with the ordinary eyes. I do a lot of research. I read a lot. I watch TV. I travel and meet people. Now that it’s a job, I deliberately try to look out for what’s funny.
What made you decide to do comedy?
I’m an actor. I’m a writer but I have always enjoyed doing standup comedy and it’s a very demanding job. I started off on TV as an actor and I’m definitely going back to acting. Of course, I will also keep on writing. It’s just that there are so many distractions now and it takes a lot of concentration and discipline on my part.
How would you describe your style of standup comedy?
If I should rate it as a plant, it would be aloe vera (laughs). It is very natural and it is very potent. It can be used to sort so many things. I try to keep it really basic; that’s my style. But you must create a balance because you can keep it real; sometimes, you have to be animated as well.
How did your family react to your career choice?
They had their fears initially but, eventually, they gave me their support. I come from a family that supports you once they believe in you. I was able to get the support I desired eventually after their initial reluctance.
Aside from comedy, do you have any other business venture?
Like I said earlier, I’m an actor and I’m a writer as well. I believe in focusing on your passion and this is my passion. I do get tired doing any other kind of business besides entertainment. That’s not to say I can’t have other businesses outside this field but this is the one I like to run.
What would you say is the highlight of your career?
I would say my last show was the highlight. I don’t dwell on the previous ones – because, if I do well in the last show and I have a bad show next, that’s the one people will judge me by. So, it’s a-per-second billing kind of thing.
How has married life been treating you?
Very well! Awesome! I have been very lucky.
Who is your role model in the comedy industry; someone you admire and is your inspiration?
I don’t have a role model but I have people I admire and people I look up to. And, they are so many. I even learn from people that started after me. That’s just it.
There has been some criticism about adult content in your jokes. What’s your take on that?
Which people? (laughs) Well, comedy is life. Comedy is just a means by which we talk about life and there are certain things you can’t shy away from. My material may have some adult content, that doesn’t make it vulgar. That is why I wanted to know which people felt that way.
Comedy has suddenly become bankable. Did you ever think you’ll be making money from it?
Who told you I’m making money from this? (laughs) I just wanted to entertain people. The fact that it’s paying is an added bonus; money is never priority in anything I do. If I die today, I’m not going to take the money with me. I take my life one day at a time and I do things that make me happy. Entertainment makes me happy.
Have you ever experienced a scenario where people didn’t find your jokes funny? How did you remedy the situation?
I never take my audience for granted so, it’s going to be difficult for such a scenario to arise. But if that should ever happen, the best thing to do is to move on to the next joke. “You are only as good as your last show”. That is what RMD always used to tell me. Every show comes with its challenges; it’s fresh and every audience is different. They are diversified and there’s no template to say this is what I said in this show and I’m carrying everything I said in the last to this show.
Do you have any grey areas – like people and issues you can never joke about?
No, I don’t.
How do you balance your work with your family life?
Well, when I’m not working, I’m at home. (laughs) It’s as simple as that. I keep it real and because my life is entertainment, basically, I just can’t wait to go home. This is because I know there’s more entertainment waiting for me when I’m home. There’s no point going out to have the time of my life. I feel it’s equally balanced.
Are you funny all the time, even at home with family or are you strict?
You will have to come home to find out. (laughs) I’m good when it comes to running my home. I try to be as real as possible. The truth is that once I’m off the stage, I become a totally different person because it’s not now a fun thing; it’s a very professional job.
You don’t expect me to be as stupid as I am on stage when I get off the stage do you?
Do you find any other comedian funny and if so who is your favourite?
There are so many of them – we have many copy cats in the business, which the world doesn’t know about yet, and they are funny. Some comedians I enjoy watching are Gandoki, Basket Mouth, Buchi, I Go Die and I Go Save. These guys make me laugh even if they are saying the same things.
What projects do you have lined up for the rest of the year?
More comedy, more entertainment. I try not to let out too much because I like taking people by surprise. By God’s grace, this year will be a good year when it comes to content for me.
You often tell jokes about growing up in extreme poverty, was this the case? Tell us a bit about your family life.
That’s not true. I’ve told a couple of jokes relating to poverty but that was in my formative years as a stand up comic. The reason I did that was to capture the attention of the audience as they find such stories pretty interesting.
When I defined my style, such jokes became hard to come by and that’s because most of a my jokes are based on experiences and real life situations. Having said that, I can tell you for free that I didn’t grow up poor neither was I born with a silver spoon. But credit to my parents, I never lacked. I’m happily married now. So my wife and kids are my immediate constituency.
What challenges did you face breaking into the big league?
To be honest, looking back now, I don’t see them as challenges. I was so passionate I never took no as an answer. If one door closes, it was only a matter of time before I’d knock again. I started off with my sitcom extended family. My challenge was on the flip side. Fame hit me earlier than expected. Dealing with it was huge because I couldn’t even afford three square meals and good clothes or a car at the time, either did I have the energy to fake it. The love from the streets was intense. So all I could do was watch and pray for my brand to be born. Another major challenge I faced was resisting the industry practice of being stereotyped.
I know I’m capable of many things. So I vehemently resisted being put in a box. Greedy people tried to promote me as a slap stick, rustic, village,native, bush and garage comedian. It made me livid. I saw it as an insult and a limitation. And I saw through them. This wasn’t love for me. It was love for their commercial success. I was working towards swimming in the sea and they were offering me a fish pond.
Do you have situations where people don’t take you serious because of your profession?
People don’t take me serious most of the time. While I recognize the fact that it’s the love of what I do that triggers it, sometimes it’s just depressing especially when you are having a bad day. You want to get on to something serious and people just see you and think it’s a joke. I guess it’s the sacrifice that comes with the job.
What advice do you have for up and coming comedians?
Do what you have to do, work hard and practice because practice makes perfect. So, keep practicing.