Leadership (Abuja)

25 April 2014

Nigeria's Joke Merchants and Their Earning Power

Photo: BasketmouthComedy
Basketmouth

People funny by nature often offend others with the things they say and do in an attempt to be humorous and then have to apologise and explain that it was just meant to be a joke when people misunderstand their behaviour. But then there are those who are successfully raking in millions from displaying the same humorous disposition, even when it offends people. When they stand to talk, people from all walks of life laugh profusely, even when they are the butt of their jokes.

They are known as professional comedians; people who have learnt the art of packaging and rolling out their jokes in a manner palatable to all and people pay handsomely to hear them. Joke merchandising has, therefore, become a lucrative business all around the world and Nigerian joke merchants are also fast tapping the benefits. In Nigeria, contemporary comedians rake in millions from their comedy skits and shows, with audiences ever ready to patronise them. LEADERSHIP Friday, in this edition, focuses on Nigeria's joke merchants and, in some cases, their earning power.

Chief Zebrudaya

Chief Chika Okpala, known as Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo alias '4:30' is among the foremost Nigerian comedians. He was popular on a Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) comedy series in the early 80s, Masquerade. He acted with the late James Iruoha, better known as 'Giringory Akabogu', who led a radio show that was very popular on the defunct Central State Broadcasting Service. Other famous actors on the show were Davis Offor known as Clarus; Claude Ake alias Jegede Sokoya, Christy Essien-Igbokwe known as Apena and Okoro Maduekwe, among others.

Ali Baba

Only a few of those who pay big to watch and listen to ace comedian Ali Baba know his real name. Atuyota Akporobomeriere started comedy in 1988 during his days in the then Bendel State University, now known as Edo State University, Ekpoma. What started then as a mere display of a strong sense of humour has since brought him into fame and fortune in the money-spinning comedy business.

In 1999, Ali Baba's hook caught a big fish. Chief Olubode George, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, got him to perform at a birthday party organised in honour of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. He earned Obasanjo's admiration and has remained very close to the former president. Whether his performance at the event paid him handsomely or not is left for anyone to guess.

Ali Baba is now the highest paid comedian among Nigeria's joke merchants, earning between N2million and N10million a show, depending on where it is taking place and who the organisers are.

Basket Mouth

Bright Okpocha, popularly known as Basket Mouth, is reaping heavily from the entertainment industry. Basket Mouth is Nigeria's second highest paid comedian. When he takes to the stage, his fans laugh without stopping, even when his jokes are directly making fun of them.

Basket Mouth started stand-up comedy in 1990. The Ajegunle-born comedian from Isiukwuato, Abia State charges a minimum of N2million per show, as he told LEADERSHIP Friday. The business of comedy keeps him busy as he is regularly engaged to function as a compere or comedian at events within and outside the country. He once closed an endorsement deal with Malta Guinness, which fetched him a whopping N15m. He earned higher from a Globacom ambassadorial endorsement.

AY

The extremely talented Ayo Richard Makun, popularly known as AY, is popular with the rich and the poor, the old and the young. AY started out by mimicking pastor of the Household of God church Chris Okotie in his jokes.

Today, AY has firmly planted himself as a stand-up comedian par excellence in the entertainment industry. His popular AY Show is aired on several television stations. The show taped before a live audience features other bright stand-up comedians. AY also contributes to a number of publications as a guest writer for entertainment columns.

I Go Die

Francis Agoda, better known as I Go Die, is no doubt one of the most admired contemporary joke merchants in Nigeria today. His ability to make people laugh is so intense that he has even those who have no sense of humour at all in tears of laughter in no time with his jokes. One of such persons is Olusegun Obasanjo, who was forced to break his shell of no laughter at an event where this young comedian had the stage.

The Warri, Delta State-born stand-up comedian has a penchant for poking popular politicians in his jokes, but always quickly makes it clear that he means no harm. He once referred to Edo State governor, Adams Oshiohmole, as a chicken-hearted person despite his bulldozing stance on national issues. It obviously elicited no offence though, as they celebrated their birthday together on April 4, 2013, where they laughed and dined together.

Teju Babyface

Boyish looking Teju Babyface is a Nigerian actor-turned comedian and talk show host of the syndicated Teju BabyFace Show, which has hosted prominent individuals and artistes such as King Sunny Ade.

Born Gbadewonuola Olateju Oyelakin in 1979, Teju started out as a member of Theatre 15, an outfit that put on plays in school theatres. During one of such performances, he caught the attention of award-winning director, Tade Ogidan, who was shopping for who to play the protagonist in the movie Diamond Ring. It, however, took another year for him to nab another role after that, this time as Des in Amaka Igwe's TV series Solitaire. Following cancellation of the series, he discovered that stand-up comedy could bring him much more fame, fortune and freedom than acting. He earns about N600, 000 per show.

Bovi

Ugboma Bovi, from Delta State, is unarguably one of the most sought-after comedians in this evolving industry. The Lagos State University graduate of Theatre Arts is an actor, scriptwriter and producer, all of which have contributed to his success. He began his foray into entertainment in 2004, subbing as Richard Mofe Damijo's (RMD) personal assistant at the same time.

Bovi had several opportunities to display his comic talent on stage in shows like the Opa Williams' Nite of a Thousand Laughs and the AY Show. However, it was with Basket Mouth's premium shows, such as Rhythm Unplugged, that he had his initial international outings as a stand-up comedian. Today, Bovi earns between N300, 000 and N1million per show, depending on the organisers and/or audience.

Tee A

This comedian, real name Tunde Adewale is one of Nigeria's foremost stand-up comedians and masters of ceremonies, whose humour demonstrates the depth of a well-informed mind. He anchors a syndicated show entitled Tyme Out with Tee A. He has demonstrated great skills in anchoring street shows as well.

He was the first Nigerian to perform at the Hackney Empire Theatre Bullion Room and was the first African comedian to receive an invitation to the California Comedy Conference in Palm Springs, California.

Although his exact fee rate is not confirmed, his Mercedes collection, which includes a Mercedes Benz ML estimated to cost N9million and a 2011 C-class, gives us an idea.

Julius Agwu

Julius Agwu is one of Nigeria's most successful entertainers. Agwu, whose success story chronicles the rise of a child born with no spoon at all, certainly not to talk of a silver one, hails from the Chobain Obio/Akpor local government area of Rivers State.

His combined success in the movie, music, and comedy industries is unrivalled. He founded a genre of music in Nigeria known as 'Musicomedy', in addition to being the first comedian in the country to release a comedy album - a work that earned him various awards and nominations.

Agwu has taken his comedy to different parts of the world. Foremost amongst his annual comedy shows are Crack Ya Ribs and Laff for Christ's Sake.

Okey Bakassi

Chukwu Anthony Onyegbule, better known as Okey Bakassi, became a professional movie actor in 1994, after his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) year with Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB, now Bank of Industry). His unique talent and high level of professionalism has clearly distinguished him in the movie and show biz industry.

As an actor and stand-up comedian, Okey has played comic roles that brought laughter and happiness to many homes in Nigeria and beyond. This witty comedian, who holds a Bachelor's degree in Agricultural Engineering from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, has won several awards and recognitions as an entertainer and quality service provider.

Gbenga Adeyinka

Gbenga Adeyinka, popularly called the first Comedian of the Federal Republic (CFR), appeared on the scene as a stand-up comedian in grand style about a decade ago. A graduate of English from the University of Lagos, he entertains through his laughter-invoking programmes aired on a number of TV stations, which include AIT, Galaxy TV and Africa Magic on DSTV.

Fluent in several languages, his presentations are usually done in English and the three major Nigerian languages, as well as some foreign languages.

A man of many firsts, Gbenga is the first stand-up comedian to have worked in Ghana. He is also the publisher of Nigeria's first comedy magazine, called Laffmattaz.

Gordons

Some few years ago, the name Godwin Komone a.k.a Gordons was little known, but when the controversy about who the original writer of the song Welu Welu came up, the Warri-born songwriter, singer, comedian, and tailor shot to fame. The dust settled only after he was finally credited as the copyright owner of the work.

Today, the Integrated Science graduate of the Delta State University has since stepped up his profile, both as a musician and as a comedian. He has performed at many A-list events across the country. To make a difference in comedy, he decided to bring a little bit of education into entertainment, thereby creating "psycho-comedy", a brand that makes the listener laugh, but think and learn as well.

Klint da Drunk

Afamefuna Clinton Igwemba, popularly known as Klint da Drunk, needs little introduction in the Nigerian entertainment industry. Igwemba is a talented but humble comedian. At a time when many successful comedians flaunt affluent lifestyles, this funny man, whose unique style of comedy has earned him the affection of many Nigerians, appears to have chosen to lead a quieter life, leaving some of his fans at a point wondering whether he had left the comedy scene.

Klint da Drunk now prefers to be addressed simply as Klint. He became popular after performing during the 2000 edition of Opa Williams' Nite of a Thousand Laughs show in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He collects from N250, 000 as fee for a show.

Lepacious Bose

Bose Olufunke Osayemi is an ace comedienne. With a stage name that is an irony of her size, Lepacious Bose has been able to create a niche for herself in an industry that is invariably male-dominated; she has an imposing stature and quick tongue that forces recognition!

Bose abandoned the sobriety of the Law profession for the excitement of the entertainment industry. Today, she is one of the foremost female comedians and has distinctively packaged her brand in Nigeria's entertainment industry.

Princess

This comedian and actress, whose real name is Damilola Adekoya, has kept her head held high over the years in the entertainment industry.

She started acting at the tender age of seven. Her first experience on stage came when she starred in a play titled Half-Human, Half-Animal.

The turning point, however, came in 2001 when she met an actor, Kayode Peter and their meeting set the stage for a career that would later see her make a detour into comedy. Her foray into comedy was also fine-tuned when she met producer of the popular television series Papa Ajasco, Wale Adenuga. Adenuga saw the comical side of her and advised her to take to comedy.

Helen Paul Bamisile

Helen Paul Bamisile is a comedienne, singer and actress. She is best known as a stand-up comedian and popularly known as Tatafo. Her petite stature and ability to mimic the voice of a child stand her out as a unique brand.

She broke out as a comic character on the critically acclaimed radio programme Wetin Dey. She is known on the programme as "Tatafo" - a witty kid who addresses and lampoons societal issues in a satirical manner.

As a comedian, her first professional performance happened while she was still an undergraduate at the University of Lagos. She attended an event with a group of friends where the stand-up comedian billed to perform failed to show up. Her friends, knowing she could probably do better than whoever was originally invited, nudged her to the stage. Her superlative performance elicited thunderous applause from the crowd, the organisers were relieved and the rest, as they say, is history.

Senator

Senator is another popular Nigerian comedian, who has paid his dues in the entertainment industry.

Bethel Njoku, a University of Jos graduate who was nominated for the Nigeria Entertainment Awardslast year, once said that comedians in Nigeria were overpriced. He said that this was the reason for the frequent comedy shows in Nigeria as against in the US and Europe, where comedians do not make as much.

He earns between N200, 000 and N500, 000 per show, but makes mega bucks when he hosts his own show.

Buchi

Onyebuchi Ojieh, also known as Buchi, is one of the Nigerian comedians who have stood the test of time in the entertainment industry. The Delta State-born comedian is also a writer and an actor and has been on the entertainment scene since 2008, after he was introduced to Tee A's Live 'n' Naked show.

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