I had thought UNILAG girls were loose... - Koffi, comedian
One of the forces to be reckoned with in Nigeria's comedy scene, Koffi Idowu, 33, who is also an actor and musician, tells NKARENYI UKONU about what he knows how to do best
YOU are a comedian, an actor, a musician, a master of ceremonies etc; you seem to be doing
everything all at once.
I am a workaholic; I work a lot and it just comes naturally to me to do all these things. Also because I write a lot it is easy for me to just spin off any idea in any of these areas. I did not purposely set out to be a jack of all trades. My main trade and main income comes from stand-up comedy and being a master of ceremonies. I don't make music except when I feel the absolute need to and I would only perform at probably my own show. I am also not your main stream actor, I do my own movie productions to satisfy my fan base and maintain my stay in the industry as a comedian. The movies I do are strictly humorous movies.
Don't you think you might end up confusing your audience about what you really do?
At some point, if you haven't followed the brand judiciously, you may get confused. I don't vigorously pursue my music on the same platform as D'Banj or P-Square. The same show Tu-Face will perform in, they will see me cracking jokes but when they switch on their TV at home, they will see me doing my musical video my own way, not trying to do it like them. I'm not ranked alongside Nollywood stars, I'm not anywhere near them. Having said that, some still get confused, thinking I'm a hard core musician but fortunately, they are in the minority; the majority know which is which. I don't like to overdo things, I know myself and my strength, comedy is my main occupation, which is what I pursue more vigorously.
Your movies and songs are laced with humour; is this deliberate?
Yes. Indeed, my strength is in humour and I can't do otherwise but my responsible part is being able to disseminate information through all the things I do. So whether or not I'm trying to be funny, I like to pass information but the best way I pass and make information work is to pass it subliminally. Nigerians don't like it when you are too serious, so while being funny, I am subtly passing my information. If you listen to the lyrics of my songs, I'm usually quite serious, I'm passing serious thought but when you see the videos, they are quite funny and that is to basically get your attention first. When we have that, you can then begin to decipher that I am making sense with the things I am saying. I don't like to do commercial music as is the norm; my music is usually thoughts for the future. All my songs have a cogent message point; I try to balance both worlds.
Which was your first music and which has been your biggest in terms of commercial success?
Mumu. It was about advising young guys to be careful about making breakthroughs and spending it unwisely. Thus far, none has been my biggest commercially. But Green and Aroma stand out; people still refer to those two a lot. Before Green is My Home, a lot of young Nigerians were singing anti-Nigerian songs, but when I released the song, everyone started to sing positive Nigerian songs. So it was more or less like a revolutionary song, people started to change. So if you notice, everyone has been singing pro-Nigerian songs; they have realised that it isn't the country that is the problem but the politicians and the ruling class.
You aren't a professional when it comes to movie production so how were you able to pull off making not just one but two movies?
Well, maybe not, but I did Two Black Birds in six days. I slaved myself to do the movie. I wrote the script, produced, directed, and did the sound tracking. While on location I was running off to go do a comedy job in between. The movie was shot within the confines of the hustle and bustle called Lagos. It was shot in a way people didn't think was possible. So when people watch Two Black Birds, they find a reference point to it.
You are obviously passionate about Two Black Birds.
It is my best movie so far and I can beat my chest and say it is the best comedy movie ever made in this country. It is the original full movie of the first song I ever did, it was showing on DSTV for a year and a half and the billboard for the movie was in Victoria Island for almost a year. We took the movie to a marketer who refused to market the movie because there were no Nollywood known faces in it. I had to re-produce the movie, market it myself and did all the works. And two years later, I still can't meet up with the demands for it. Because I am in the humour department and not the Nollywood department, I'm not under any obligation to pursue anything or meet any deadline, so I take my time to do my thing. By the grace of God, we plan to shoot four movies this year. It is a series of funny movies with different story lines for each movie; depicting things that you find around in a funny way. But I'm more at home and more prominent with stage productions because I grew up as a stage actor. I have done more stage plays than annual comedy shows.
How do you source financial support?
There is no financial support from anywhere, all I spend is from my pocket but it still doesn't dampen my spirit. I don't go borrowing money.
What did you read in school?
I read chemistry at the University of Lagos.
Where lies the correlation between chemistry and what you do now?
I was advised by my friend when I was in my second semester (year one) to join Theatre 15, a drama group in school because I was always cracking them up. l heeded the advice and joined. We would always tell jokes before acting and even singing. Gradually, I just blended music and comedy. Chemistry was initially my first reason to be in school but later became the second reason.
You are always with fellow comedian, Owen G. What is the relationship between you two?
It is a partnership that works. He is the me that I am not. When I met him, I barely knew him but after hanging out together for two weeks, I found out that our interest were far beyond the normal friendship. We found out that we both had resources upstairs that we wanted the world to know about and we had almost the same habits. We both don't drink, smoke, we are introverted and both crazy. We focus more on the work. We have an understanding that is deeper than what most brothers have. When we hang out together for say an hour, we spend 55 minutes discussing work. We have only been friends for seven years but it seems like forever.
Why did you decide to join the bandwagon of comedians who stage annual comedy shows?
I didn't set out to follow after anyone's footsteps in that regard. I just felt that my brand needed some elevation and really, it isn't the show that makes the brand. You notice that if the promotions for my comedy show start today, runs for about four weeks on air, I'm consciously in your mind, that is what it is basically about. Then when the video compact disc comes out, seeing my name on the VCD is more than enough promotion, not necessarily the contents of the VCD but to have the brand continuously in your mind. It is the cheapest way to garner publicity, especially if you do not have the funds to be on TV and newspapers regularly. Nigerians have the mentality of finding relevant only those who they see and hear about constantly. Ironically, more money is expended doing stage plays than all the other projects I am involved in that are even far reaching.
What goes through your mind when you mount a stage to deliver jokes?
Customer satisfaction. They must laugh, get entertained. Whichever way it happens, they must go home satisfied. I don't always plan to say jokes in a particular way, sometimes I just turn it into a discussion between the audience and I. It isn't about having the loudest ovation but about getting the job done.
How did you meet your wife?
Kofo and I attended the same school. I never liked girls from school. I had the notion that UNILAG girls were loose, but by the time I met my wife, I knew differently.
Where are you from?
I am a Nigerian: my dad is from Ibeju-Lekki, here in Lagos while my mum is from Togo although she was born and bred in Lafiaji, Lagos. So she is a full Lagos girl.