Most Nigerian comedians are not original –De Don

De Don

De Don

Many comedians usually tell stories of how rough their beginning was. In your case, there was a time you also hawked tomatoes. Is there any connection between rough beginning and comedy? It is like the popular saying that hunger begets talent. For me, I wanted to make a name for myself in spite of the hardship, and comedy was something I was doing effortlessly. I felt if it could put money in my hands and food on my table, I had to take it seriously. For other comedians, I think because of their background, they needed to earn a living and they found it easy through the use of their talents. So, from a very humble background, you have the chance to display your talent, it’s not like the very rich people who have access to good education at all levels. How did you discover your talent? I was already funny in my house and when it was time for riddles and jokes in my school, I used to perform very well. There was a time in my secondary school when I gathered people for an end of the year party, I organised the show and they sat for about an hour to listen to me. Then, I used to sing too. I never knew there was a profession called comedy until I came to Lagos and I saw the likes of Alibaba and some other comedians doing it as a profession. That was when I knew it could be a profession and that some people were called comedians. What was your ambition? When I was young, my dream or aspiration depended on my mood. Sometimes, I thought of being a pilot, some other time, an architect or any other profession. However, when I came to Lagos and saw the likes of Alibaba, I thought to myself that I could make money from the comedy I did almost for free back home. I was mentored by people like Alibaba, Basorge and for few times, Basketmouth. If you were not a comedian, what profession would you have opted for? Actually, I came to Lagos to continue my education and I attended Lagos State University. However, if comedy was not a profession or it wasn’t this big that I could see a future in it, I could have used my certificate to work or opt for the business I have always wanted to do, which is car wash. Since you discovered your talent early, why did you choose to study Economics and not a course relating to entertainment? I have always liked business and I had aspired to go into business while I was younger. It was either that or I work in a bank because banking was big as at that time. Even when I was in school, I was already a known comedian, and I knew that I might not earn a living with my certificate. But I continued studying because I knew I was going to do the business part of entertainment. I was serious with my studies because I didn’t want to get an economist to manage my business; I wanted to manage it myself. There was a time you had F9 in all your O’level subjects before your brother-in-law brought you to Lagos to write it again. Why did you perform that bad? Well, I attended a public school where we had two classes in a whole day and maybe one of the classes would last for 30 minutes and the teacher for the other one could come and just drop the notes. There was actually no monitoring then because my mother was busy with business, and there wasn’t enough monitoring in the school. Let me just say I was distracted. But when I came to Lagos, my brother-in-law who understood the importance of education made me to be serious and there was proper monitoring. He paid a huge amount of money to enroll me in a school and I knew I must not waste the money. But you were sneaking out of the house to go for shows? That was after I made my GCE. Then, I learnt Alibaba was charging about N300, 000 per show, so I got fascinated. I thought if I grew my own brand, I could earn that kind of money. The first show I went for was at Lekki Beach when my brother-in-law and his wife travelled. For my first performance, I earned about N350. I was not really bothered about the fee. For me, I was shocked that doing what I loved to do would bring money. We did another show and I was given N3, 000. I was surprised so I decided to take it seriously. What was your most embarrassing moment? There is one that has refused to leave my memory. I can never forget it and it happened at the University of Lagos. I went for a show there and immediately I stepped on the stage, maybe they were expecting someone else to come, the students started screaming. Why? It might be they were expecting somebody else. They said all sorts of things like, ‘get out from there.’ Even when I managed to say excuse me, they shouted ‘shut up!’ They kept asking ‘Who is this?’ I felt really embarrassed. Immediately I went on my knees to beg them, I told them I had not been given advance payment not to talk of balance, so I pleaded with them to please allow me say one joke. And they laughed; I performed one joke and left the stage. I felt really bad that day because I had planned to be on the stage for about ten minutes but there was no opportunity. In fact, everything on my head disappeared. So, I struggled to tell one. What really broke my heart was that I didn’t understand what caused it. Do you still remember your most joyful moment on stage? There are many of them. One happened recently. I was on a tour in North America in June and close to the end of the tour, we were at the Nigerian embassy and the Nigerian Ambassador to the US hosted us, and I was the first to perform and he found my performance interesting. He said he would like to see us every year to perform at the embassy, so I felt really fulfilled. In your rating, would you say you are one of the A-list comedians? The way Nigerians rate comedians is not based on originality. It’s based on fame, which is a big challenge. By originality, you can say I’m one of the A-list comedians, but by Nigerian rating, I’m not there yet. What don’t you like about the comedy industry in Nigeria? Mediocrity. I can boldly say that 90 per cent of the comedians that are celebrated today are not original. They don’t have their own jokes; they pick materials from other comedians because they can display loyalty to those that have the big platforms to push their brands. They go there and deliver other people’s jokes. It breaks my heart each time I see that Nigerians don’t celebrate the original owners of these materials that these mediocrities deliver at big shows. I was invited to an event recently and I challenged the comedians telling them that any comedian there that did not have his own joke was a wicked person. In fact, I said if I checked the dictionary with pictures, I was sure I would see the person’s picture right at the word, wicked.

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