Vanguard (Lagos)

28 December 2012

Nigeria: Comedy Puts Food On My Table - Helen Paul

Photo: File Photo
Helen Paul

interview

Helen Paul Bamisile Is a Stand up comedienne, singer and actress of great repute. Her style is quirky and spontaneous, and her petite stature and voice range make her childlike. A co-presenter on Africa Magic Channel 114's "JARA", Helen broke out as a naughty comic character on a critically acclaimed radio programme known as "Wetin Dey" on Radio Continental, 102.3FM, Lagos.

She is known on the programme as "Tatafo", a witty kid who addresses and lampoons societal issues in a satirical manner. In this interview, she talks about her career, her love for children and what she wants to be remembered for, when she bows out of the stage among other issues raised by FLORENCE AMAGIYA

What comes to your mind whenever you set out to make people laugh?

For me, comedy is fun. It's a way to let off stress and anxiety. And when I am on stage, I think about life, people, environment and all there is to think about. I would say all these thoughts of mine enable me to put smile on people's face. Comedy is a job I enjoy doing and I get paid for it.

Did you take after your parents?

Well, my parents were not into the comedy business. Not even my siblings or any member of my extended family. I am from a very strict and disciplined background and we all know that Nigerian parents are very strict people.

So how did comedy discover you?

I grew up in Nigeria and living in Nigeria is comical. Each time, I think about our country and all the happenings therein, it is enough to turn one into a comedian. I get inspired when I infused all these things together. For instance, if you visit Victoria Garden City (VGC) and Mushin, Lagos. You would notice that apart from being in two different areas, and lifestyles, life in Mushin which is seen as one of the ghetto areas in Lagos, is considered comical because of the funny happenings there.

Sometimes, you mimic the voice of a child while on stage?

I love children so much. I also enjoy listening and playing with them. I get a lot of inspiration from the Nigerian child. It gives me great joy being around children; they are open, innocent, easy to love and ready to learn. Moreover, my best movies are cartoons.

How has the journey been so far?

I started as a stand-up comedian, then I went for Jara audition and got the job. I'm co- hosting the programme with Uti Nwachukwu, the winner of BBA, 2010. Presently I am trying my hands on screen plays.

Tell us the role you played in the movie, A wish which premiered recently in the cinemas?

The role I played in "A Wish" is a comical character, yet a serious one. Kemi was diagnosed of breast cancer. The story is how she was abandoned by her husband because of her sickness and how she struggled to travel to Lagos with her only child because she wanted help and she succeeded at the end.

Have you ever played a serious role in a movie?

Yes! I acted a serious role in Funke Akindele's "Return of Jenifer' and I believe, it wasn't a funny role. As a good actor, you should be able to interprete any role very well. If you are known to typecasted, then something is wrong with your skills.

Do you put up funny characters when you are at home?

Comedy is my job; it puts food on my table. But it is not my life. At home, I am a disciplined person, but I am more or less a sanguine outside my home. I am a professional actress; I studied Creative Arts in the University and went further to obtain a Masters degree in it. But like I said, it is a profession. One should be seen differently in one's home.

What are we expecting from you; do you have in mind to own Helen's show?

Please expect so much by the grace of God, but at the moment, I do not have plans to have my own show. I am enjoying working for other people. Perhaps in future l may reconsider it.

You have a unique sense of dressing. Are you planning to become a designer?

I am not branching into designing at all, but I have a shop where I sell fabrics. It is called Matte , I sell fabrics for wedding gowns, Aso oke and others. I love fabrics and I sell all kinds of fabrics.

You had a baby more than a year ago, yet you look this fabulous. What's the secret?

I had my baby more than a year ago and yes, I am yet to burn all the telltale signs of the pregnancy. My tummy is still big, but perhaps I look this way because I am a careful person. Meanwhile, I think getting help from family after the birth of a child is very important and as it is, my mum is still around to help me out and I am forever grateful to her.

What's your form of exercise and your fashion statement?

I dance a lot, that's the only exercise I do. As for fashion statement, I am an actor, hence I can wear anything. But the only thing, I cannot be caught wearing on stage is a napkin or what we call pampers

Your advice to would-be entertainers

Keep doing what you enjoy doing. Do not mind what anybody say to you or about you. Get mentors and the sky is the beginning. It is really difficult to get someone who would mentor you especially when you are about going into the business. I met someone who mentored me when I was about starting my own business and I am grateful to her.

What would you be remembered for?

I want to be remembered for having so many children who are not necessarily related to me. Children who are not my biological and adopted children, but they should be people I have affected their lives in one way or the other. I want to have wonderful children all over the world. I want my children to affect lives everywhere in the world.

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