A lot of people have forgotten about him but the former comedian and the standard for interpreting ‘Mallam’ roles, Saeed Muhammed, succeeded in carving a niche for himself.
Fondly called Funky Mallam, the Mass Communication graduate of Bayero University, Kano in this interview with The Sun spoke about his acting and music career, marriage as well as challenges among others.
Read excerpts below: –
What is funky about Funky Mallam?
What is funky about me? Well, if you look at my appearance – the way I dress, the way I do things and the way I appear on stage, you will notice my funky side. So you may describe me as a new generation Mallam considering the fact that I am Hausa. I am partly Kano and partly Adamawa – Hausa-Fulani. But I was born in Auchi, Edo State.
That means you could be described as Wazobia?
I am actually a full-fledged Wazobia because though, I was born in Auchi, I started my primary education in Agbor, Delta State and finished in Umuahia, Abia State. I then worked in Port Harcourt for about three years, did my secondary school in Jos and then moved to Bayero University in Kano where I studied Mass Communication. After that, I moved to Lagos in late 1999. Soon after, I started with a TV sitcom called Paradise Park, which is my first outing in professional comedy. I was among the pioneer team of the series, alongside Julius Agwu. I also worked with a magazine outfit for a while, which I combined with my engagement in Paradise Park. So, you can see that I have crisscrossed all the major zones in the country. I also speak Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba fluently. What more can make one a complete Nigerian?
Apart from comedy, what else do you do?
Aside comedy, I anchor events. I also sing and perform. I do movies and TV soaps. I am involved in several things really.
What genre of music do you do?
I do inspirational songs. I have a single and I am also working on a project – a peace song. But I hope to finish it up soon. I also intend to start promoting the reggae version of one of my songs. It is also a kind of peace song that explains to people that true Muslims are not violent, evil or troublemakers. A lot of people paint Muslims as bad or evil especially considering the activities of Boko Haram. But the same Islam taught us to live in peace with our neighbours. It is only Him that knows why he created people with different colours, cultures, religions and all that. So, He asks us to appreciate one another and not fight; and allow Him to be the judge and do the battle.
Do you intend to release the songs as an album or single?
I intend to drop the videos as singles but the audio will be in album piece. I actually have a lot of tracks ready, but due to my tight schedules, I have not really been able to give music ample concentration.
How much are you worth per show?
No definite tag. Sometimes, we do things based on relationships or what we call special consideration. We also consider distance. There are also some clients that would not negotiate with you and you would not bother because of their antecedents. Such are the ones that usually make your account smile better.
How do your Muslim brothers perceive your ‘funky’ comedy, especially back home in the core north?
What I do is not against my religion. So, I do not have any problem with my people as regards my profession. I do not think that any Muslim perceives me negatively. Though, we have a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to culture and religion, but one has to work hard to earn a living as long as one does not hurt anybody’s feeling or go contrary to either the teaching of the Quran or our tradition. My kind of job is not in contrast with either my culture or religion because comedy is not just about making people laugh; it is also about making people to assimilate inherent messages in it. As people enjoy the comedy and laugh, they should also take in the message at the same time. That is why people view us differently as activists, preachers and the rest. What I am saying is that I do not do comedy just to make people laugh. My comedy must contain a vital message before I deliver them. Whenever I spot any societal ill, I look for a way to correct it through comedy, by making fun of it and throwing it back to the society. It is then left for people to either make use of it positively or otherwise. So, basically, I do my things in a Godly way.
Have you ever cracked expensive jokes that landed you into trouble?
I can’t remember experiencing such incident because I am always conscious of my lines whenever I am on stage. I also consider the kind of terrain I am in, the kind of audience I am dealing with and all that. I have featured in many shows such as Laugh Line, Humour on Eyes and I know the rules. I don’t use vulgar words and I don’t insult people on stage. That was the orientation I had when Ben Bruce was handling the Nigerian Television Authority as its Director General. It was at the NTA that I got tutorials about how to say what you want to say and how not to say what you shouldn’t say on stage. I have performed for governors, Senators and other personalities. When you know what such audience enjoy and what they like to hear, you would know how to package your jokes and still deliver your intended message at the end of the day. However, when I am in the midst of what we call ‘ordinary’ audience, I also know what they want. To succeed in comedy, you should know how to communicate with your audience in order not to deliver right messages to wrong people
Your once happy marriage hit the rocks. Are you now single and searching?
I am single but definitely not searching. I am trying to take my time because I have a lot of scripts and projects that are competing for attention on my desk. I have some projects that I am packaging for DSTV and others that I am planning for the cables. So, for now, it is business and nothing but business.
What happened to the marriage?
But you just said that it hit the rocks, didn’t you?
You said that you are taking your time; is it to give you enough time to do proper screening of available girls or to search for better ones?
You and I know that women are very delicate in nature. It is not safe to combine too many business engagements with a woman by your side because she could go gaga if her patience gets exhausted. What I am saying is that, at this stage of my career, I need a lot of concentration. So, don’t blame me if I choose to take my time because no man would wish to end up in the hands of a cantankerous wife. It would be a huge distraction to live with a woman that would feel insecure about your movement whenever you are out. That does not help in any business or relationship as the case may be.
Was suspicion, impatience or quarrelsomeness responsible for your marriage breakup?
I would say that it was a case of incompatibility. It is a big risk for two incompatible people to get married because it is usually a matter of time before such marriage dissipates. However, I have to say it was neither her fault nor mine that the marriage did not work. But the good thing is that we separated peacefully.
She had a son for you. How is he doing?
My son, Ayaz? He is doing so fine. His name is Ayaz and he is staying with his mother.
What has being a celebrity cost you?
Privacy! Fame has taken my privacy away.
What was your biggest show ever?
Do you mean in monetary terms or magnitude of the show? I think my biggest show was the day I performed for Queen Elizabeth of England. That was in Abuja during her last visit to Nigeria. BBC invited me alongside other artistes. I was the lead actor in a short comedy drama that we packaged to entertain the queen.
Did you make the Queen laugh?
Obviously, we did. I was surprised to see her stand for over seven minutes enjoying the show. She smiled and laughed all through. All the foreign journalists were there and it was an awesome experience. I have also performed before former President Olusegun Obasanjo as well as serving and former governors, Ministers and other dignitaries, either as anchor or guest comedian. For instance, the day Senator Grace Bent and her husband received awards in Abeokuta, I anchored the event, which was graced by former President Obasanjo and the who-is-who in the society. But in terms of cash, you may be surprised to hear that my biggest jobs were weddings. However, I will save you the details, even if you have the patience. At one of the events, I performed alongside Ali Baba, Basketmouth and Wizkid.
Some people believe that you are stereotyped. Have you played non-comedy roles before?
I don’t know why some people have such notion about me. Well, on the contrary, I have done several roles that are completely non-comedy. I played some parts in Kunle Afolayan’s October I and they were not comedy. I did some others alongside Desmond Elliot, Majid Michel, Jide Kososko and the rest, which were not comedy. The movie was produced for the NTA and I played a police detective, which was not a comedy role. So, such people are just stereotyping me.
As a committed Muslim, are you considering marrying more than one wife?
You have to understand that marrying many wives has its conditions in Islam. That you are allowed to marry more than one is not an excuse for you to marry more wives than you can cater for. It is not about being able to pay the bills but it also involves being able to withstand the crises or challenges involved.