Omeke Chijioke a.k.a. Lastcard is a standup comedian, from Enugu State but based in Abuja. He holds a BSc. Degree in Geography and Environmental Management, and has been doing standup comedy wining the applauses of fans who love the genre. In this interview with Igho Oyoyo, he speaks on his voyage into this industry instead of becoming a professional in his chosen field of study. He speaks on the challenges many upcoming entertainers go through in trying to come to the limelight like their counterparts who have made big names in the trade.
Why venture into the comedy instead of practicing what you studied in school?
I always tell people that there is a big difference between profession and talent, in the sense that, your talent may take you anywhere, while your profession can limit you to a particular place. For example, Nkem Owoh studied Engineering, but, today he is not using that profession, rather, he is into fulltime acting.
So, those God-given talents can take you to where your profession cannot take you to. If you have a talent, I will advice that you do not study in that area of your talent, so that you can have an advantage. Whenever I am called for consultation, as an environmental consultant, a doctor of the environment, I give my best advice about it. The truth is that, the BSc. degree is not taking me any where for now, but my talent has taken me to places since I graduated. That is the basic reason I am concentrating on building up my talent.
There is the saying that hunger makes Nigerians to discover their talents, were you a victim?
For 50 per cent, it is true, but for me, I will not say that it was hunger that made me to discover my talent as a comedian. I just derived joy in making people happy, it was not hunger that pushed me into it. I started standup comedy immediately I left secondary school, so, at that point, it will be wrong for me to say that it was hunger that made me to discover it.
There were two things I despised from childhood, they were, where blood is shed and where tears are shed, so, with that I had to discover my talent to make people happy.
In the industry, it is easily noticed that most of the comedians are fond of recycling jokes; do you think that it is good for the industry?
That is not good, that is why I do not respect some of those established standup comedians, because most of them are not creative, they depend on recycled jokes. Most these 'big' names in the comedy industry have failed us that should be learning from them, by always recycling people's jokes and they do not want any upcoming comedian to grow.
They have been using people's desire to get established to get their own jokes. Somebody will just call for audition and after the audition, the jokes that were told during the audition will be stolen. At the end of the day, they will announce that one person won N100,000, when money was even collected from those upcoming comedians that went for the auditioning.
The most painful part is that during the auditioning, the jokes of all the participants will be recorded by the so called 'big' names in the industry, which they will later work on and use to make money for themselves. One thing I hate in my life is not been original and creative. Most of these comedians, when they start havingmoney, they relax, and when they are called to perform again, they keep repeating recycled jokes. I hate recycled jokes.
The truth is that I am ashamed to use somebody's jokes on stage. I have more than two hundred jokes and I do not make use of piece of paper to remember my jokes, any one that enters my head, I say it the way they come and God is my inspiration. My jokes come any time, I can be driving and it starts coming and what I do then, is to park somewhere and jot them done.
I thank God that the volume one of my CD is out, titled 'Lastcard on the loose.' So, as I am talking to you right now, if you push me into the studio, volume two will come out, but I do not want to rush it, I want people to appreciate the work, before I record the volume two.
If you do not make use of recycled jokes, how do you generate your jokes?
To be frank with you, if you take a good look at any good comedian, he probably must be from the ghetto, because jokes are gotten from that kind of environment. Most times, I stroll to the beer palour and where they play draft. In those places, there are some people that will be making funny statements, but they will not know that they are entertaining people with jokes.
When I hear some of them, I take them home to be refined. When they are refined and put into presentation, when the person that made that statement hears them, he will not believe that those were his jokes. So, the inspiration comes the way it comes.
In my car, I have a pen and a paper, once, I see a funny thing or hear any funny statement I write them down and later work on them. Even in my sleep, I see jokes and hear jokes, if it is a good joke; I wake up to write it down. I am always alert, because I must be current in my jokes and not rely on recycled jokes.
Comparing Nigerian entertainment industry to the western world, what will be your rating?
I must tell you the truth we are backward in terms of entertainment. Remember, I told you that the 'big' names are not allowing the upcoming comedians and musicians to come up. But if you go to the western world, everybody has the access to perform and showcase one or two things.
In most government functions or big programmes, the organizers always insist on the 'big' names that recycle jokes. We are backward, to be honest with you, most especially the movie industry, they are not doing us proud.
But if you come to the music industry, they are trying, because, an average Nigerian loves listening to Nigerian music, in that area we are really trying.