I’m A Very Shy Person, I Only Do Comedy To Make People Laugh – Basketmouth

Popular comedian, Basketmouth has been nominated among the top 5 comedians in Africa for the Annual South African Savanna Comics’ Choice Awards (SCCA).

Basketmouth, who won the maiden edition of the Savanna Pan-African Comic of the Year award last year, has once again been nominated in 2018.

The Annual South African Savanna Comics’ Choice Awards (SCCA) which used to be for only South African comedians has since 2017 extended one of its categories to other parts of Africa and the competition is very tough as there are so many strong acts from various countries, it is called the Savanna Pan-African Comic of the Year.

This category features 54 comedians from 53 countries, and this comedians are later cut to just 5 nominees.

This year’s event will take place on Saturday 8th of September, at The Lyric Theatre, Gold Reef City. And it is themed theRhythm of Funny.

Gistreel had a sit down with Basketmouth to talk on life as a comedian and his expectations from his fans, comedy industry, Nigeria and from himself.

First of all, I know you are a very busy man and I consider it quite a privilege that you granted us this interview.

As a young man, Basket did you aspire to be a comedian or is it something that you stumbled along the way?

Basketmouth: I’ve always wanted to be a comedian since I coincidentally bumped into… I think it was Eddie Murphy’s delirious performance, this was in… I think 1994, yeah 94.

I saw the tape… the VHS tape so I was like thrilling some of my friends, just making fun, cracking jokes and my elder brother’s friend was watching me and called me and was like dude have you seen Eddie Murphy’s performance? Then, I did not know Eddie Murphy was a standup comedian I thought he was just an actor cause the only thing I had seen then was coming to America.

I knew this is what I wanted to do and everything then just started… you know, The path just opened, and I just started the journey.

That’s wonderful, that means you were doing comedy when you were in Uniben yes?

Basketmouth: Way before I started… before I even got to Uniben

How was it like performing then at a time when comedy wasn’t really as big as it now in Nigeria?

Basketmouth: it was… the same thing, comedy gives you that same feeling of satisfaction the fact that you create an idea or a story in your head and you bring it to life and you tell people…

You know whether it’s from your experience or stories you’ve heard, and you make it a joke and you tell them and they actually you know laugh.

It’s that satisfaction that you’ve delivered the goods but the only difference between then and now is the fact that then it was a little bit tougher because it was a new act and people were just beginning to accept so… unlike now that’s it is now like a life style everyone wants to be funny everyone is now making skits.

The difference was, it wasn’t really embraced by that many people support wasn’t that much so the hustle was different, yeah the hustle was different but it’s still the same satisfactory feeling you get whenever you drop that joke or get that laughter.

So last year you had a sold out concert at the famous wembley arena, would you term that as the biggest highlight in your career?

Basketmouth: Err…. no not necessarily there were other things that had happened that were major highlights like when I hosted the This Day music festival hosting the gig with Busta Rhymes, Beyonce and all of that [laughs] that was a different kind of feeling you know because these were guys I was looking up to uno, guys that I grew up watching so being backstage you know [laughs] it was just amazing so that one, there are so many things, small gigs that I did..

I just don’t really talk much about it. Like when I did the Montreux’s comedy festival in Switzerland, that was big major but we just you know try to keep all these things low key until we strike that big one.

It was a different thing that happened… the Wembley one was different because it wasn’t the fact that I was listed to perform on someone else’s bill whether it was the montreux festival or just for laughs comedy festival, those are peoples bills, so the feeling the happiness you know that accomplishment you feel is beyond your delivery on stage is the fact they came out to see your own product unlike you going to perform at someone else’s stuff.

They were going to be there anyways, they didn’t come out for you know so those were highlights as well but this one the wembley one is different because it was all attributed to me and my team when I say my team I’m talking about the crew and the comedians that blessed the stage with me so yeah wembley was massive but trust me there were other things [laughs]

So many things, like there was one time I did a gig in L.A at the comedy store which was the same place Richard Prior used to perform so I was headlining and I walked backstage and they pointed to me that’s the same seat that Richard Prior used to sit down on when he was performing so I sat down there but you know all those things to take picture and put it on instagram… those things cause this is me a young man born in ajegunle sitting down on Richard Prior seat do you understand? [Laughs] so those are things that I see and I go like mehn God has really blessed me on my hustle.

How has your career aspiration been shaped since your debut cause obviously now you’re into acting so what has really shaped your career decision since you came out?

Basketmouth: Err the thing is… comedy is my career but I don’t want to be career based I want to be not even an entrepreneur, I want to be an investor. Because we have different categories you understand there are the apprentice, the jobs 30days -one pay, the career based one, you’re still doing something you like but you’re still an employee and you get to the point when you’re now an entrepreneur and from entrepreneur you become an investor

So since I’m still on that career level where my growth is dependent on the acceptance of people the acceptance of a client agreeing to book me for an event when they have about three hundred other options I’m not the one controlling that market per say cause I do well in my own field and so does all these guys they all do very well so I don’t want to be in that space whereby I have to be an option, I don’t want to be an option

So what I’m trying to do for myself is not just shaping my career, I should be beyond that point of trying to shaping my career because the career doesn’t go beyond what I have done because by the books I think I have down well the only thing that has restricted not just my growth but the growth of every other entertainer in Nigeria is the system and the structure yeah… the country itself it down plays your talent because the structure doesn’t give you the opportunity to have a management company, a marketing company to have a country that is fighting for your own interest as an artist and protect your talent, The copyright laws and make it exist and it’s just unfortunate.

For as long as people control the career of some people because you do things according to what they want, not what you want you want so you’re not actually shaping your career you’re letting the consumer shape it for you because there are some people that sing a certain kind of song but they have to bend because the market does not accept that kind of music and once you want to stick to that music that you love, that you’re comfortable with, that God has blessed you with, that you are supposed to shine with, and nobody is taking it because the consumers would say[ ehn make him dey sing rubbish] cause they want to listen to something they can dance to most times.

So back to your question what I’ve done.. I’ve done what needs to be done so right now since nothing can help me beyond this point I have to now help myself by becoming an investor so I can invest back in my brand instead of shapening the brand I’ll create opportunity that the already sharpened brand can now ride on.

To get to where you are, what is the major thing that you had to give up to get here?

Basketmouth: Everything, when I say everything it’s err… for you to become a comedian, comedy is not something that is a choice, it’s your life it becomes you everything you do is primarily targeted to creating materials, contents, working on your brand being relevant, everything, you’re just constantly redefining yourself

So when I started doing comedy I did not know I was going to be popular or famous, this is new to me I’m a very shy person, I was just doing it because I enjoy making people laugh, I was doing it for free, the first time I charged for a performance is because I was hungry and someone said that the people that brought would pay you. In my mind I was like oh them dey pay? {laughs} so when you enter into that space you realize that there are some things that you have to let go off you can’t start a full time comedy career and be doing other things on the side so you have to let go of everything and you have to just step in, if you fail you fail, if you win you win.

Some people can be doing some side jobs or other things but it will distract you, comedy should be the only thing you’d be doing. Now you have to sacrifice your privacy, your privacy is gone… you now have to live the way people want you to live and the unfortunate thing is I’m more or less like a deep person I look at people go like oh why did he do this? Or why did he do that?, the consumers your audience they judge us whatever you do whether it’s your jokes, they’ll judge your type of joke, they’ll judge your type of dressing, they’ll judge the way you talk, your family, your kids, your lifestyle, your religion, they just judge people cause that’s what they do and that doesn’t take out the fact that they are the ones who love you genuinely for what you are and who you are you understand, those are the ones that keep the brand fresh.

Now, if an artist is feeding off these things you won’t grow. Now you have to be able to understand what the people want from you and give them that without losing who you are, so it’s a bit…. I won’t lie to you the work hard { Laughs }.

I had to sacrifice my privacy, my other dreams that I had trust me comedy wasn’t the first thing I wanted to do, I thought I was going to be a rap artist, drummer, I thought I was going to be so many things uno so I was like you know what do this one so sacrificed everything and said it’s comedy next I was like okay Bright you’re sacrificing everything else which means you will not a have a life anymore, you cannot do anything anymore like and you will not be frowned upon you know when you have people giving you pass mark and failure mark constantly, sometimes I envy those people that can just do whatever they like and get away with it.

But beyond that the truth of the matter is yes I’ve been talking about the negatives but beyond all these things there’s no better feeling than that feeling of being appreciated if it’s not you as a person, your work being appreciated, some people might hate you as a person but they’ll love your song, they’ll dance to your song also some people may love you as a person but they can’t stand your song so we bless God and thank the people that love us for the people that we are and love our craft and support us because the truth of the matter is, without no consumer there is no artist.

If you’re leading and there’s no follower you’re only going for your walk na stroll you dey stroll so the bottom line is in as much as the negatives are there we can’t really run away from the fact that thess same people still made us to become who we are these are the things that we also appreciate so in as much as we sacrificed some of ourselves to these guys we got them too.

As one of the nominees for the savannah’s comic’s choice awards, what is the awards importance in lifting the comedy industry in Africa?

Basketmouth: Err… there was a time that we didn’t know that there were comedians in Ghana, in Kenya until instagram, you tube and all those things popped out {social media}, we never knew that we were so many even down to music, acting.

Back then you will not see a Ghanaian actor in a Nigerian movie, it was unheard of you will not hear a Ghanaian musician featuring a Nigerian musician so the thing… whether it’s the internet… the fact that we’ve started seeing ourselves as one, there was a time that the Grammy awards was just something we’d just sit at home and watch but right now Femi kuti is packing nominations these are things that you can’t help but appreciate.

Then when it comes to the point whereby the comedy platform based in South Africa coming towards the world, they’ve be doing it for a very long time for them to have come up with the idea that they want to do something since Africa is now one, let us do something that will recognize not just the South African comedians but comedians across Africa, number one it creates that bridge apart from the fact that these comedians are coming together in the pool and we get to meet ourselves, the opportunities because you don’t know what these guys are coming with so it makes the industry.

And there is nothing better than a thank you like when you do a job and you’re supposed to be paid Ten thousand naira and you finished the job and you’re paid Ten thousand naira you feel yes I earned it but once you get paid and you’re leaving and they’re like guy guy you did very well you know what o boy take this watch you try, that is the one that you appreciate the most. So now my job specification is to crack jokes so people can laugh, I have executed that, they pay me I crack the joke I’m done, that trade is done so it’s done I worked for it but when I’m leaving and you say hello Bright for what you’ve done for this industry take this award you have tried, that is the one I appreciate the most and that’s what it does, it makes you work harder, makes you feel better about what you’re doing, it makes you feel that there’s something more for us as comedians not just about the booking but when there’s a comedy festival coming or comedy award, there’s this excitement, there’s this competition inside and there’s nothing better than a healthy competition in a market like ours.

This year’s theme of savannah comic’s choice award is the rhythm of funny’ as a comedian how important is it to have you there?

Basketmouth: When you say rhythm it depends on the angle you’re coming with but thing is this, with rhythm it doesn’t necessarily mean the sound for me I think it’s just how… because a music without rhythm is noise and to a large extent music is like poetry, rap music is like poetry, it’s even writing everything is just linked for me you need rhythm in everything even down to your car engine so it’s important you have a rhythm in everything you do

So again congratulations on your award as the savannah pan African comic of the year, so when you got news how did you feel?

Baskethmouth: It’s the second time {laughs}. So the first was good it was a good feeling, when I won it I didn’t expect to win to be honest, so when they announced me the winner… I won’t lie to you my heart… for the first time in my life… I was really like you know it would not be a bad one if I win this stuff, you know that kind of stuff, of all the awards I’ve nominated for apart from the Mtv Base, the MAMA’s, the comedian of the year that I lost to Trevor Noah that was there, I knew I was going to lose that one { Laughs }.

Then this one the competition was there it was stiff because we here in Nigeria, we think the whole Africa… but there are things happening outside. So when I went out there and saw other gifted comedians I knew it was a stiff category and I was excited when I won it, so when I was nominated the second time I was like oh which means I’m still busy, I’m still doing something good when you know that something is wrong is when you’re not nominated at all {laughs} when you’ve been nominated before and you’re not nominated the second time so for me it feels I’m still relevant so I feel humble and I appreciate what they’re doing

So is the nomination sort of like a further push for you to solidify your place in Africa?

Basketmouth: Err not necessarily, like if you win the academy awards, the Oscars, it gives you that… na level like a bragging right to some, but for me it’s not a bragging right, if I was that kind of person that believes it helps solidifies my position in the industry I would have been making noise with it but what it does it helps solidifies my own drive and my passion, it helps me as a person know and understand the fact that I am doing something good it gives me that energy to want to do more cause I don’t want this to stop. So it’s not the position publicly, it’s the position internally.

Lastly how different is the South African comedy industry to the one we have in Nigeria here?

Basketmouth: Ah it’s different, most people would say oh we have to be patriotic, I don’t believe in that crap, I’m not going to say what is not there, they are way ahead of us in terms of structure, ask yourself this question where is comedy central based? Then when Kevin Hart came where did he perform? South Africa, but we have more number here, but it’s not about the numbers it’s the structure, it’s the system, we don’t have any comedy club in Nigeria all we have are bars that they run a comedy night at certain and there some people wouldn’t even know that this night is for comedy because they know the place as a bar or lounge

So if a guy and his date or a group of friends want to chill out and they don’t want to listen to any comedian, they just want to listen to music and have drinks, these guys are not there for comedy so you don’t expect to get that laughter and that attention from those kind of people because they’re not there for comedy so we’re supposed to have a comedy club specifically for comedy that’s how you get the real fans so south Africa they have that, they have The Packers, they used to have the Blues room, I can count….

The Goliath and Goliath comedy club is there very nice place, there’s one they do Fire and Ice all in santin, there are so many… like the blues room Trevor Noah used to… there was a time I performed… he was hosting, myself Bovi, Buchi we all went there Bovi and I performed, and that place was just for comedy no music the DJ didn’t even play music apart from the intro song, I won’t lie when it comes to the comedy industry in Nigeria is the biggest, in terms of structure it’s nowhere and that is the truth, in terms of earnings we earn more but in terms of structure we’re nowhere, it’s not the money, it’s not numbers, we need to enjoy what we’re doing, okay how many theaters do we have in Lagos?

We are in a country of over one twenty million people where we have some of the wealthiest people and investing in comedy is not a bad investment because right now comedy is one thing that… even in horror movies there’s comedy even some pastors they try to crack jokes if they can’t they invite some comedians to perform, these are things we can’t just over look.