Popular Nigerian comedian Omobaba speaks about the stand-up comedy industry in the country.
Comedy has evidently evolved in Nigeria. Now, we are experiencing the birth of comedy clubs in Nigeria. What’s your thought on this development?
I think we jumped the gun in the Nigerian stand-up comedy industry because it is actually from discovering the raw talent, that is, finding out that you are funny but still trying to put your act together. Then the next place you have to be, which can take you as much as five to ten years, is the comedy club. You have to go there regularly to gather experience and have the opportunity to meet those who have done extremely well in the stand-up comedy industry wherever in the world. With comedy clubs, a comedian has the chance to meet his role model at the backstage and interact.
Once you have honed your skills at the comedy club, then you would start hosting or having your own shows because by that time, you have studied what to say, how to say it and when to say it, as well as what not to say; which is important. You will be aware of your audience and know your style. It is just like going to school and receiving your certificate. You are now a graduate and know that you are qualified to apply for certain jobs and on that job, you will get a promotion. So, comedy club was meant to be the next thing that a stand-up comedian should go to and continue practising but the way it is, I would say we jumped the gun in the stand-up comedy in Nigeria where a talent is discovered today and tomorrow, the person is at a big show in Eko Hotel performing.
That is where people would see some things that are wrong with a stand-up comedian and they generalise the error and attribute it to all comedians. A few colleagues have tried to run comedy clubs in the past and I give credit to the first person that started it which is Gbenga Adeyinka. Ali Baba also had his own at a particular point. During my time, we had Lagbaja’s Motherland. When he finishes his show around 3.30am, comedians would mount the stage to perform. This is why the first and second generations of comedians can do virtually everything. They are comperes, musicians, and actors, this is because of how rigorous it was to get the attention of people to listen to jokes. Due to that, my comedy club, Unknot Your Tie, has been around for over a decade.
Taking a trip down memory lane, you studied Industrial Relations and Personal Management at the Lagos State University. How did you get into comedy?
I am the last of five children so every other person has done so well in their field. I thank God for my family because the only monitoring you get is to keep a good name and that is why you would not see any scandal about me. My parents were about us lifting the name of the family and adding value to whatever we do. In my family, we have a successful banker, a journalist who is also a publisher, and others who are doing several businesses and doing well. We all started from a humble beginning. I have a supportive family. The kind of family that I have is the type that if you want to disgrace yourself outside, they will help you inside which I am grateful for.
If you check what is happening, people don’t know what God is doing for them if none of your family members is disgracing you online. You don’t know the testimony that you have to share because God is doing something wonderful in your life. Due to my job, I am supposed to be in that space where we have all these issues and controversies and you want to talk, but I am glad that I am not in that position. My family is not disgracing me in anyway but their support from the onset is what has made me who I am today because when I crack a joke for them, they would tell me outrightly that it is not funny. These are people older than me so I know that their capacity is ahead of me and I chose my mentors first from my family before having external mentors. Till now, they are very supportive. The most important thing is to get an education and then go out there and fly.
People ask me why I ventured into comedy instead of what I studied in school and some feel that it is not a profession but I tell them that the industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry all over the world and has employed millions of people, so it is an industry that they should focus on, and not to be seen as a substitute for other professions. It is a major profession on its own.
A good comedian is the one that is vast in virtually everything, at least he knows something about virtually everything because you have to keep up with time, they keep reading, doing research about recent happenings. Every serious news has a joke in it so if you do not know what is happening in the world, you cannot tell a funny story about what is happening in the world.
How have you been able to avoid scandals, especially when it involves ladies?
Before you become famous and have a career you are a person. Based on my personality I am not a lousy ‘you must notice me’ type. I can easily walk behind cameras on the red carpet and you might hardly notice me and I do not want to grant interviews. It is just an intentional way of living and doing things the way you want to do it.
Nowadays, especially with the emergence of social media, people look for stories that are not true and in the process of responding to some comments, they get themselves messed up. We no longer talk about how good one performed in a particular project, we instead discuss what is majorly irrelevant in our day-to-day lives, like people making a big deal about a business proposition that did not go well. Another example is: assuming someone hits your car, and you come down to check and the person is probably claiming that he was right. Before you know it, someone is somewhere recording and the whole nation says ‘Why are you angry? You are a public figure’. Will my being a public figure pay the bills at the mechanic workshop? These are the regular issues that we all face but because we appear on screen, everybody thinks you have to be perfect.
The more you make your personal issues private, the better for your health and the best for you. I can create a controversy right now but what is the need for that? I don’t want to. If we keep putting out bad publicity, how would the younger ones come in and feel they can have a better life without negative news?
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