CLASSIC INTERVIEW: ‘Mediocrity, bane of Nigeria’s comedy industry’ -Bovi Ugboma

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WITH the fast pace the comedy industry in Nigeria is growing, it is now a goldmine for the talented ones. But the problem is that those who should not have any business in comedy are into it, making money out of intellectual theft with reckless abandon.  In an exclusive interview withENCOMIUM Weekly, comedian Bovi Ugboma, better known as Bovi enumerated these problems and the efforts of top comedians led by Basketmouth to export Nigerian comedy to the United Kingdom and beyond starting from February, 2012.bovi-001What has kept Bovi busy through this period?There is nothing much, just working hard in preparation for next year.  We are preparing a show we are taking to London as a way to sell Nigerian comedy.  The concept of the show is originally owned by Basketmouth and packaged by Barons World and Coco Bar.  The essence of taking our comedy show to the United Kingdom and involving top Nigerian comedians like Buchi, I Go Dye, I Go Save, myself and Basketmouth is starting next year to make Nigerian comedy an international brand.  If you remember Basketmouth’s Barons World started by packaging Basketmouth and Friends, then last year we had Lord of the Rings, in February 2012, we are trying to package Nigerian comedy and sell to the international audience too.  The world is now a global village.  In the UK, we are having two shows on February 13 and 14, in Manchester and London.

Does this make Nigerian comedy better placed locally and internationally?

The comedy industry is growing but wildly.  There are those who have the intention of giving it a structure, there are those who do not have any business in the industry.  I think there are more fakes than original.  There are people who buy comedy shows, memorise them and come out to say they are comedians.  That doesn’t jell, it’s just like in music.  There are so many people who do not have any business in music.  Every trade has its own bad eggs, these type of people are comedy’s bad eggs and hazards.

How can you describe the issue of plagiarism plaguing the comedy industry?

This is serious.  I can’t even find words to describe it (laughs).  Stealing is stealing no matter how you put it, there are people who have no business in comedy.  Having said that, there is a thin line.  As a friend of Basketmouth and I Go Dye, I can pinch from their stuff if I am doing a private gig and vice versa.  But I would not go to where cameras are rolling or a big show and do other people’s stuff which is the problem we are having in this industry.  There are people who do not know anybody or those who even know people in the industry and without any remorse, go ahead to do people’s stuffs and it goes into the market and sells in the name of another person without the consent of the real owner.

So, this brings up the issue of getting copyright for comedy as an intellectual property?

That would be a step in the right direction, but comedy, to a large extent is an individualistic stuff.  But the likes of Ali Baba, Gbenga Adeyinka 1st, try to bring comedians together under one umbrella.  But it’s still in progress.

What are the qualities that separate those comedians you feel should be in the business and those who should not be?

I feel it should come naturally.  Again, I believe anything one sets his mind to do, whether you are born with it or not, as long as you work hard you can achieve it, you may not get to the zenith.  I believe a comedian needs to be natural.  It has to be your calling, assume it is not but you want to do it, then it has to be hard work.  If you are aware of your environment, read voraciously and get proper training because whether you like it or not it involves a lot of techniques.

As a comedian, what do you enjoy most about the profession?

The fact that I can make people happy, not just laugh all the time.  Even when I am not on stage, some people just start laughing, the fact that I can put smiles on people’s faces at different times gives me satisfaction.

Does musical comedy also appeal to you and what is your plan to incorporate new stuff into your style?

You never can tell, I am very versatile. I started off as an actor, studied Theatre Arts.  So, I have my hands on almost every aspect. I think every comedian has the ability to do several other things including music, so let’s just keep our fingers crossed. I don’t want to get into different things at a go, so when I now come out bad, people would start eating me raw just like they ate Genevieve when she ventured into music.

What don’t you like about being a comedian?

What I don’t like is the inability of people to know when it’s no more a joke.  You tend to see people come to you on the street and they start laughing, they tend to mistake reality for performance.  Some people just go overboard, they get very careless about how they deal with you.

What is the best way to tell a joke?

Everybody has his own style.  For me I do reality jokes, using story telling, so everybody’s style is what distinguishes their delivery.

What was the best reaction you ever received after a comedy show?

I can’t remember any particular show, but after every show I go back and ensure I improve on what I have done.  Like RMD used to tell me, you are always as good as your last show.  So as long as I get reaction from the audience, whether it is 50 or 100, I ensure I go back to ensure I improve on what I did last.

What do you like to use as the buff of your joke?

I use a variety of issues but if there is anyone I am used to, it is relationship and women.  Women fascinate me a lot.  I grew up in the midst of women, I never run out of stock when talking about women because they never stop coming up with something new.

What distinguishes you as a comedian?

To be honest with you, I really can’t tell what distinguishes me because I watch every comedian and as  long as that comedian is funny it makes me laugh. I get satisfaction from what other comedians do, I work at doing my best rather than being the best.

What is the least amount you can be paid to do a show?

I can do a show for free, I do charity shows. Apart from that, I have friends who are CEOs, so if the situation presents itself I can do it, even my friends’ wedding ceremonies too.

How best can a comedian market himself this period?

For me, the most important way is to be good at what you do, talent is like light, if its good it would shine.  The way I market myself is to score high points at any event, there are times when there are no opportunity, times when you just feel down but when the opportunity rears its head again, I take it and make the best use of it.

How high have you been paid throughout your career?

I have been paid several thousands of naira.  Okay, I have been paid N7,000 (laughs) by a friend, Jibade, he gave me money to fuel my car after the show.

Who are those comedians that you admire?

I admire Ali Baba for his creative depth over the years, for being the forerunner of comedy in Nigeria.  He more or less commercialized comedy in the country.  I admire Basketmouth a lot, for almost everything, his delivery, style, intellectual depth.  There are others I admire, even the upcoming ones. I know all of them, there is something I like about everybody.

How can you describe your relationship with other comedians?

To a large extent it is cordial, comedians are the kind of people who do not really know how to pretend.  So, those comedians who are not comedians know themselves, so they avoid those comedians who are comedians.

What about acting, you came into limelight through it?

I didn’t stop acting, everything has its season.  For now comedy is the big thing, it’s more visible than what you see on TV.  It’s more structured and also individualistic.  But I have a show I have been shooting since 2009, hopefully, it would start airing from next year on DSTV.  It is a show to be called The Bovi Ugboma Show (TBS).  I am going to diversify into other areas because I am a Theatre Arts graduate.

Tell us about your family.

I am happily married with a son and I am also expecting another child soon.

Tell us more about yourself.

I am from Delta, I did my secondary in three schools in Delta State and studied Theatre Arts at the Delta State University.  I am married with a son.

-SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN

This story was first published in Encomium Weekly on Tuesday, December 27, 2011

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