30 September 2012

Nigeria: The Joke Is On the Nation!

Photo: Vanguard
Julius Agwu

Another show from Julius Agwu in Abuja today marks the completion of a three-continent tour. Adewole Ajao and Adaeze Anaekwe spoke to the comedian recently

The relief on Julius Agwu's face was mixed with some fatigue. A month of travelling across notable cities in Europe and North America with other comedians for shows was not a tea party, he revealed.

The pains did have immense gains. Endless planning had crystallised into a first show in Glasgow, Scotland for his Crack Ya Ribs brand. There was also a London appearance that gave way to performances in New York, Dallas and Houston. At some point, Ghanaian comedians were also involved in a three-continent road show that has its African leg coming up in Abuja today. This FCT edition of Crack Ya Ribs holds at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel.

"Most of the shows we do abroad are not done because of money," Agwu revealed with his usual sense of humour. "If it has to do with that, we will make more back here. We just do shows to bridge the fan base. When I started doing this, I took it upon myself to play my role as an ambassador who is part of the Nigerian project, and it is my own little way of adding to it. We will use entertainment as a vehicle."

Today's event will be followed by another edition of Laff for Christ's Sake, Crack Ya Ribs Port Harcourt and a Lagos show. These annual performances continue his drive to stamp his presence in entertainment circles as an entertainer of repute. He is not alone on stage though. After his Okombo style gave way to musicomedy (a fusion of music and comedy), a current trend is Agwu's leg up for upcoming comedians. For him, this sustained practice is not a distraction.

"The roll call is too long," he said concerning comedians he has mentored. "The music thing is still there and there was some challenge so we had to repackage it. We are repackaging the last album as the Genius Reloaded. After that I will release another one."

His TV show is also poised for its first season. After spending so much to put a studio up to standard in Lagos, a dearth of required experience meant he had to train capable hands to man the equipment. This has not stalled the business side of things for the Surulere venue with Agwu spreading his tentacles to other sides of the studio business.

"After we opened, we had an audition but discovered the standard was too high for most of the young producers. So we are training a few people who will use it. However, it is still open for business."

His brands have definitely kept him busy, but against popular views, he still accepts calls to perform at private and public functions. After working so hard to get where he is, Agwu said the job still comes with the usual apprehension from prospective clients and some weird offers from fans.

"For instance, I could be walking on the street and people [would] start laughing. So I should be able to hand them an invoice," quipped the comedian.

Society also continues to be the fount of his inspiration and he said the London Olympics had fed his inspiration immensely after the able-bodied Nigerian team was outshone by the Paralympics team.

"Around Stadium Road (Western Avenue), it takes a disabled person to bring peace to the chaos there," he argued. "We had able-bodied men and women at the Olympics coming back without a medal but the Paralympians came back with gold. It means the problem of this country is heavy and we are all disabled in this country."

To this end, he said today's show, which heralds the independence celebrations, will have jokes addressing the numerous issues that have bedevilled the country for the past decades.

"Nigeria is going to be 52 and I want to see if I can do 52 jokes on the problems of the country. I try to be as didactic as possible with my jokes."

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