Popular stand-up comedian, Koffi Idowu-Nuel, was not particularly in a bright mood when our correspondent called at his residence in the Somolu area of Lagos on Monday. He had a bad case of cold and the previous day, almost got mobbed by a group of hoodlums near his neighbourhood.
â€œThey wanted me to give them money. But I had not a single dime on me,â€ he says. The miscreants had unleashed their frustration on his car, smashing his side mirror in the process.
Koffi was sore afterwards. The incident was not a â€˜laughing matterâ€™ to him. It shows that even celebrities like himself, who make Nigerians laugh off the harsh realities of existence, are also vulnerable to attacks from street urchins (or â€˜area boysâ€™).
But irritants or not, the popular comedian would rather stick to his trade than anything else. Yet, he reveals that he would loved to be a teacher.
â€œI would have been a school teacher. When I tell people this, they find it amusing. But I think this is the only other profession that can give me the opportunity to impact meaningfully on other peopleâ€™s lives. I would have loved to be a teacher, write a few books and become famous like Wole Soyinka. I have always wanted to stand before a crowd and impart knowledge to them. That was what I always wanted to do. Anyway, I still do this whenever I perform on stage. It is the medium that has changed,â€ he says.
The comedian admits that he practically stumbled into comedy as an undergraduate at the University of Lagos.
â€œSome people are so lucky that life chooses for them what to do. I am one of such people. When I was in the University of Lagos, I got an opportunity to join Theatre 15, a leading theatre group in the university, and honed my skill as an entertainer.Â Tee A, Teju Babyface and Gbenga Adeyinka were also members of the group. Initially I was a stage actor. The comedian in me manifested later.
â€œBefore I even joined Theatre 15, I was already earning some money as a master of ceremonies on campus. By the time I left the university, I decided that there was no point looking for a job. As a matter of fact, I was surprised that I had to end up earning a living as a comedian. I had felt that I was only having fun until some of my fans convinced me to take up comedy as a career. It wasnâ€™t until I realised that I was paying my bills from what I earned as an MC that I decided to take it up as my profession,â€ he says.
Money was another factor that influenced his choice of career.Â He adds, â€œAs a stage actor, I was earning between N7,000 and N10,000, even after rehearsing for a month. But I got an average of N15,000 per wedding event as a master of ceremonies. Naturally I opted for the latter.â€
Koffi became a full-fledged comedian in 2001, shortly after he left UNILAG. His first engagement fetched him N18,000. For a starter, it was a lot of money. At the time, bigger artistes who were already household names earned an average of N30,000.
â€œI have been privileged in this line of duty to go places that I naturally wouldnâ€™t have been able to visit, unless I saved enough for it. But then, I canâ€™t say that life as a comedian has been all that rosy. I like to live like a normal person. I like to go broke like every other Nigerian. Of course, comedy has added value to my life and I am always happy each time I learn that my popularity as a comedian has rubbed off on my folk positively.Â So far, I have been able to outdo myself these past 10 years,â€ he says, describing his experience as a comedian.
Koffi is currently working on a comedy album meant for his audience in Togo â€“ his mum is Togolese. He wants to expand his horizon as an artiste and to explore the entertainment scenes in neighbouring Francophone countries. But, first, he has to start taking lessons in French language as a necessary step towards fulfilling this ambition.
Â â€œYou canâ€™t communicate well to the people if you are not fluent in French,â€ he says.
Unlike most other stand-up comedians, Koffi has a peculiar style of delivery that fascinates his fans. For him, the business is not just about clowning or churning out rib-cracking jokes; it is also about preaching soul-searching messages to his audience.
â€œI like to keep abreast with what is happening in the society at all times and the topical issues engaging the attention of most Nigerians. The moment you begin to talk about such issues, you are already speaking their minds. Of course, the emphasis should be on the humorous aspects of the issues. When you do this, your audience will begin to take you very seriously. They will no longer see you as somebody who makes jokes for the fun of it.â€
But the comedian is not happy with what is happening to the industry at present. He believes that comedy is losing its bite in Nigeria because most comedians hardly think about moving to the next level.
â€œJust grabbing the microphone and making jokes isnâ€™t enough. There have to be projections into the future. According to him, too many half-baked comedians are coming up nowadays.
Culled from Punch Newspaper