Baba de Baba is one of Nigeria`s fast rising comedians no doubt. The fragile comic act has created a niche of uniqueness for himself through his style of comedy. He was a guest in Enquirer`s corporate office last Tuesday, April 2nd, 2012 where News Editor, Faith Irabor interviewed him on issues bothering on comedy in Nigeria.
Looking back, how would you want to remember your journey into the industry?
God has been faithful. I have experienced growth in the industry like being to place I never dreamt of going to. Apart from that, I now have the acceptance unlike when I started that people did not really appreciate me because the face wasn’t known then but now the face and the name are there. Even most people have not seen the face, they know the name. People no longer go to ask for my number, they easily go to facebook, YouTube and search for me and what I have done. So God has been faithful.
How and when did you start comedy?
I started comedy professionally in 2007 but before then I have worked with Alarm Blow on his comedy show on Galaxy TV; that time it was like a child’s play going to play on TV. At a time we had issues then after some time I went solo and I did my major show which was a church programme I was paid one thousand naira and that was in 2007. That was when I started earning money making people laugh.
What job gave you that break into the league of accepted comedians?
I will say it was Standup Nigeria produced by Bunmi Davies and that was two years ago, although when I was on TV then with Alarm Blow the name was there but because I was a kid people didn’t want to work with me. Standup Comedy is a big comedy show in Nigeria right now; when you feature on that show people believe that you have arrived professionally so that was how it all started. Before then I have done Comedy Club with Mnet, I did Lagos and Kenya. And last year I worked with Ben Concept UK where we did a show in Gambia, Miss West Africa International. I have done a couple of shows; it is no longer an only Nigerian thing now because people get my contacts through the internet and laugh to my jokes too.
The first time you traveled out of Nigeria what was the opportunity like and how did they get in touch with you for the UK deal?
It happened on a weekend like that where I went to hang out and I asked some guys that are there any show around; I was told that there is a big show on the Island but there is also one small show in Ikeja. So I decided that instead of driving from my house to the Island it will be a long journey so I decided to chill at the show in Ikeja. And when I got to Ikeja it was a fashion show with just 7 people, I was like pissed off no artiste, the makeup artiste for the girls was also the MC. So when I got into the hall somebody recognized me, called and begged that I should bail them out by doing the MC. They said they paid someone online to manage the event because they were based overseas but they found out that the person duped them; so they just picked girls from the street so they could do the show. So after the show the man liked my performance and he said he will take me abroad and stuff, I thought it was a joke. After the show he took me to the ATM, he withdrew 50k and gave me just two thousand naira I said to myself that this guy cannot take me anywhere jo so I just overlooked it. But my satisfaction was that that night I made people happy. So like two months later he called me that he was sending me mails but I didn’t reply and my email had problem then and I had to change my email address. So we reconnected and I send him my new email so that was how the new business started. All the agreement was online and he paid for my fees and sent me ticket and I traveled, it was fun. I was in Gambia for like two weeks I went to the state house; I was in Gambia for like two weeks and I was treated like a god.
What was that experience like for you?
It was fun because it wasn’t really a Gambia thing; it was a show that involved different people from different countries. They came to represent their various countries and watch their contestants. So performing for different kinds of people in that show was fun; it was no long a Nigerian thing because I couldn’t talk about Ikeja, VI. It was a different audience entirely; it was a challenging experience but I had fun because after everything they all enjoyed it and the news spread all over that I stole the show. Even last week I got a call that the president wants to see me so I will be going to Gambia in June to perform for the President.
How did you come about the name Baba de Baba?
It’s a name given to me by my mum. My mum is a funny woman she doesn’t call us by our names; she gave my dad and all of us nicknames. She gave me Baba de Baba because she said I used to behave like an old person and that I looked older when she gave birth to me.
What’s your real name and where are you from?
My name is Chidi Uzomar and I am from Imo state.
All comedians seem to be having radio programmes, at your level why did you not join the trend or is it that you didn’t get an offer?
I don’t really think that I must own a radio programme but I am always on air because people always want to interview me because of my style of comedy. But I don’t really have a radio programme right now and I don’t think I can cope because I have been invited several times; going to resume at somebody’s office every morning is something I can’t do. I like my freedom; I was on radio like 2 years ago on Unilag FM for like 2 years so I had to go to studio every Tuesday morning. Staying at Ikorodu, driving down to Unilag, the traffic is not easy and if I don’t come they will be complaining. My one day show can pay four times of what they pay me a month on radio so I had to resign and let me just be on my own.
What is different in your style of comedy?
That is what they will say because they see me mostly at corporate gatherings and church programmes. I won’t agree that I am a gospel comedian because if you say gospel you have tied yourself to a particular stuff. I do clean and mature comedy.
So who are your mentors; who contributed to your growth in the industry?
I will say the person that discovered me is Alarm Blow, and then later I worked with Gbenga Adeyinka. Then I have other comedians that I respect, it is not as if we really worked together.
What are the challenges in this job?
The challenge we have right now is that there are people who spoil the business. People used to beg comedians but situation are tight now because some hungry comedians do shows for free. And at the end of the day people who do these shows are people you respect and don’t think they can do a free show. Somebody had called me for a show and I said 100k and a bigger comedian did it for 10k, I was shocked. So that is some of the challenges we have right now.
Why do you think they accept cheap money?
Maybe they are broke at the time and don’t know that when you do that you are spoiling the image of the business and your own image; people will no longer think you have value. And there is what they do now in the club; they invite comedians and they give comedians 3,000 naira to come and make people laugh. And at times comedians do it because a certain comedian might be the host and he hires other colleagues. There are so many comedy clubs now I don’t want to mention names. When they go they give them three thousand naira while some don’t take the money and perform for free because the host is their friend.
Have you done this before?
I did it like two or three times because the guy that invited me was my friend but I had to stop it. I had to stop because if you do that show for 3k the guy that owns the club will not know that you did it because of your friend; he believes that he has paid you. By the time the person will now call you for something else entirely and you tell him your fee is 200k; he will now say haha you that we used to give 3k then, I tell them that if it is that 3k thing I am not taking the job.
Why is it that comedians steal each others’ jokes?
There are comedians that don’t have jokes at all and those ones that don’t have jokes are even the ones making more money because all they do is pick this person’s best jokes and combine all the best jokes of other comedians and do it. So they have enough time to rehearse these jokes instead of their own and if they go for shows they talk like 5 jokes and they are all funny. But for the real owner of the joke you might be going for a show and you prepare like 5 jokes, 3 might be very funny and the other 2 are dry. Now people will prefer that person that cracked 5 jokes that are all funny. Apart from that people who don’t have jokes are people that were forced into comedy because they have connections, they have people that organize events and all. There are so many comedians that you have not seen on TV and they are rich; they anchor big events and crack our jokes there. So that is the major problem we are facing now.
What is this thing about GCFR; is it a clique?
Okay Comedians of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; it is not really a clique. It is a comedy association founded by Ali Baba. We were going for meetings but later some people were fighting for power like people who are rich will now say how can this guy call me for meeting and I will go. There are still comedians that are big that don’t even respect the biggest comedians. They say if he is rich nko why will he call me for meeting and I must go. Now there are times when someone calls for a meeting another big comedian will call for another meeting, so there is problem; everybody wants to form his own clique like a king.
So who is the king of comedy?
That is what we don’t know right now but I think it is Ali Baba.
Is there anybody that is also claiming the throne?
Haven’t you seen the advert of a king of comedy that is not Ali Baba? I don’t want to mention name, so we are fighting for who is the king right now. It’s everywhere in the industry right now. In Nigeria we call somebody the king but outside Nigeria they call another person the king.
So why are they having this tussle?
I don’t know.
What is your projection; in the next few years where do you see yourself?
I want to be recognized abroad and not by Nigerian things. Like most Nigerians when they travel they go to perform in one Yoruba party or one Nigerian show there. I thank God for the kind of shows I have done, it has never been Nigerian thing. I want to make name abroad for those who are not Nigerians to know me.
What other opportunity has being a comedian offered you?
I have gotten the opportunity of knowing reputable people, making good friends and apart from comedy I manage events.
What was the biggest fee you were ever paid that you didn’t expect?
It was when a guy called me and said there was no money and I accepted to do the job, but to my greatest surprise at the end of the show he paid me good money.
It has been nice chatting with you