As one of Nigeria’s most celebrated comedians, it came as no surprise when I heard the news that Bright “Basketmouth”Okpocha was going to be the first Nigerian to host the prestigious comedy gig and TV showComedy Central Presents… Live at Parker’s in South Africa this year. He has an impressive profile, both home and internationally, and has risen to become one of Nigeria’s biggest names in the comedy industry.
He started off his career in entertainment as a rapper while studying at the University of Benin, and stumbled upon comedy by accident when he and his rap group went to perform at a school. “I thought it was a normal thing for people to be funny because most of my friends around me then were funny,” he said. Although his first attempt wasn’t categorized as standup comedy; it was called “wording” in other words “yabbing”, it opened the doors to his comedy career. His big break came in 2001 when he met the renowed comedian, Ali Baba, who invited him down to Lagos.
Basketmouth is one of Nigeria’s most sought after event hosts. He has succesfully staged several comedy shows including ‘Basketmouth Uncensored’, ‘Lord Of The Ribs’ and ‘African Kings of Comedy’.
I didn’t know what to expect from my interview with him. It was my first interview with a comedian and naturally, I was excited. Would he just be straight faced, or would he he infuse jokes into his replies? He ended up being a mix of the two. Serious, when he needed to be serious and funny when he wanted to be. I definitely had a good laugh with him.
In a few weeks from now, you would be the first Nigerian comedian hosting Comedy Central Presents… in South Africa. How do you feel about it?
I’m excited, it’s like a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to do something that big. I never knew it was going to come this soon and I’m happy about it.
You’d be entertaining a large number of people, on a wider platform than the Nigerian audience. How are you going to pass across your jokes to people from other cultures?
When I perform outside Nigeria, my material is universal which is the why I was called to do this gig. They saw me perform somewhere and liked what I did which was purely universal. I don’t have any problem communicating with people of mixed race. The jokes are not only based on culture but also on the power of communication. As long as you’re funny and people understand you, you’re good to go.
Some comedians have been criticized for repeating their jokes too often. Do you repeat jokes?
It’s impossible for any comedian not to repeat a joke. Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, they all repeat jokes. I’ve seen them do it. Because Comedy Central is a new platform, I will try as much as possible to stay fresh. I’d just like to tell anybody reading that there is no comedian that does not repeat jokes. It’s impossible, never done.
Trending Stories about Basketmouth
There is a video currently going viral on a joke you cracked about President Goodluck Jonathan but some people seem not to like it. What was the motive behind that joke?
The motive behind the joke is a joke. I was paid to make people laugh. If yabbing Goodluck was the only way they would laugh, I’ll yab Goodluck. I’ve been paid, I’ve said the joke, keep crying!
After the DANA Airways crash, you were one of the celebrities that went on their re-launch flight. This implies to many Nigerians that you endorse the airline even though a lot of people are still grieving their loved ones and this has directed some negative comments towards you.
DANA Airline endorsed me three years ago as their brand face. This was close to two years before the plane crash. If after all they went through, they got back their license and asked me as the brand face of DANA to be part of the re-launch flight and I said I cannot do it, what is loyalty? If I’m going to support anything, it has to be from the beginning to the end. With all due respect to the people who lost their family and friends, a plane crash is inevitable. When Air France crashed, they didn’t sieze their license, Nigerians didn’t stop flying Air France. After DANA crashed, a plane also crashed in Russia. But people just show bitterness. Anybody can be in his or her home and say whatever he or she feels like. I’m not prophesying death but accidents are inevitable and we just have to thank God for the life we have. My deepest heartfelt condolences goes to the families of the departed.
Probably these people making such comments have lost their loved ones on that flight and are angry with you for taking sides with DANA.
It’s a lie, trust me. I understand Nigerians, I understand people in general; I read Psychology. There are some people that are naturally bitter and Linda Ikeji has given them an opportunity to express their bitterness. And trust me, there is nothing I would do that you would not see three or four bad comments on. If you hear that a plane wanted to crash and Basketmouth got out of his seat, went to the cockpit, pulled the pilot out and landed the plane like Denzel Washington, people would say why him do am, na only him dey the plane?. But I love the fact that they talk. It makes me know that I’m doing something right.
But you can’t narrow down the people that post such comments to readers of Linda’s Blog.
Nigeriafilms.com and Lindaikeji.blogspot.com are the hub of haters, the chief haters.
You also trend on Twitter often and sometimes, I find such hateful comments directed at you.
I’m on Twitter because it’s the only way my fans out there reach out to me. But sometimes, you just see some negative stories that kills your spirit and that’s the reason why sometimes I don’t like reading comments. It’s depressing. I have blocked over 3000 people on Twitter so just in case you can’t get access to me, know that you’ve said something negative to me before. It’s not all about fighting and insults, let us love each other. The beef is just too much, and I don’t really eat beef too much I prefer fish.
Still talking about some buzzing topics, I read somewhere that you recently purchased a car that costs N10 million. Is that true?
About the price, I’m not even going to admit to that one.
How much did it cost?
I can’t even say it. I didn’t go out of my way to get a custom made car. I was in Belgium visiting my friend and we went to a car shop where I saw it and I loved it. When I said I wanted to buy it, they told me they had to build it. They took me to their computer and told me I could design it as I wanted it. So they built everything from scratch and it took them about three months to deliver the car. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m the only person that has ordered the car from this region.
This region meaning the whole of Africa?
Yes, but it’s not my fault. I did not go and look for a car that is the only car in Africa.
What is happening to your music career?
I’m still working on it, I’m not done with music yet. I’m going to be releasing an album this year.
Growing Up, Marriage & Family
You crack a lot of jokes about your growing up years. What kind of childhood did you have? Was it rosy or was it that hard?
I won’t really say it was rosy but most of what I say about myself on stage is totally different from how I really grew up. I’m not from a poor family, let me correct that. But I had to lie in my jokes so it can be sweet. Yes I was born in Ajegunle, yes I suffered, yes I went through life but my Dad did everything possible to make sure that we lived a comfortable life. He provided everything, three square meals all the way. What I say on stage are all jokes. People would rather laugh at me than laugh at themselves that was why I used myself as a point of contact and made it worse so it can be funny. And I don’t see why the people that commented on what I said about Goodluck have not commented on what I said about my father.
Now that you are a father, what kind of upbringing are your children having?
Luckily for them, they were born as ajebutters so they are getting all the things they deserve. I’m giving them the best of education and the best of my time. I try as much as possible to make sure they are happy and get the best of everything. They are what I live for. I need to be alive for them, I need to be healthy for them, I need to work hard for them. Trust me, I didn’t use to work this hard. When I was a bachelor, all I needed to do was just one show and I am OK for a month. They are making me put more into my career which I love.
How did you spend the last Valentine’s day?
My wife was in Lagos while I was doing a show in Manchester. I don’t celebrate Valentine. As far as I’m concerned, I celebrated Valentine yesterday, I’m going to be celebrating it again today and tomorrow. I celebrate Valentine with my wife every day.
Awww, that’s so sweet. How long have you known your wife and how did you meet her?
I’ve known her for about 10 years. When I met her the first time, she was doing shakaraand when a girl does shakara for me, I love it. That is when I will even get more interested in her. She gave me a fake number and when I called, a guy picked up the phone and insulted me, and told me to never call him again. So I decided to go back to where I met her and went to the same spot for three nights until I saw her again and she gave me the right number. When I called her, she started giving me attitude. Out of anger one day when we were talking, I cut the call, deleted her number, cleared the call log and I now started looking for the number again (laughs). Then one day I bumped into her when her school was having a party. We started talking and that is how it began. She suffered me oh, so as her punishment, she must give me 8 children. But I love her so much and that is all that matters.
You don’t step out with your wife very often to public events. Why is that so?
The first day I did red carpet with my wife, they insulted her dress. I know she was looking good but people will always get angry at her, saying why she go fine like dat?. I am used to it but I don’t want her to get exposed to stuff like that so that is the last time you’re going to see her or me on the red carpet.
Tell me about your relationship with Bovi. You’re often seen together and you guys make quite a good team.
I’ve known Bovi for a while and we struck a relationship. I love his mind. He is a very brilliant person and I like what he is doing. Bovi is unarguably one of the best comedians. Apart from the fact that we are colleagues, we are very good friends. We’ve never had an argument before which is scary.
Looking back at the period you started off as a comedian when the comedy industry wasn’t this big, what kept you going in the midst of many challenges?
I’m still hustling but when I just started, what kept me going was the passion. I knew I could do it and I kept pushing. There was one day Alibaba came to perform in my school and I went to meet him backstage and told him I was a comedian. When I performed, Alibaba gave me a standing ovation and when he stood up, everybody stood up. After that he gave me his card and told me to come to Lagos so we could work together. Up until that time, it was the passion that kept me going and the thing about me is when I’m out for something, I never give up.
In those early years, what was the first big break you had and how much did you make from that job?
The first big money I got was N30,000. It was Tony Tetuila that hooked me up with that gig. We went to do a show for one of the directors of Shell. They didn’t know me but Tony vouched for me. Then they told me to bring an invoice for my payment, I didn’t have one so I went to a friend of mine and he drafted one for me and they paid me cash.
How did you spend the money?
I gave my mum N20,000 and I kept N10,000. Out of my N10,000, I went to the railway line at Tejuosho market and bought Okrika clothes with N2,000. Then I went to Lagos Island and bought a suit for N1,500. Men, I was hot!
With all that you’ve passed through, would you say you have achieved success?
No, I’ve not succeeded, I’ve not even started. The way I look at wealth is I’m going to say that I’m rich the day I’m sleeping and still making money. Right now, I have to hold a microphone and crack jokes to make money. Unlike someone like Mike Adenuga, since the time I started talking till now, he would have made N10million.
You’ve organized several comedy shows, from ‘Basketmouth Uncensored’, to ‘African Kings of Comedy’ and others. What should we be expecting from you this year?
‘Basketmouth Uncensored’ has been kept in the coffers for four years because I got bored. I had to do something else so I came out with ‘Lord Of The Ribs’ and ‘African Kings of Comedy’ and I’m also bored with those ones as well so I’m bringing new ones. I get bored easily and I like creating new stuff. Right now I want to go back to ‘Basketmouth Uncensored’ because I’m missing it so this year I’m hosting it in June.