I Get Rejected As A Comedian Because I’m Female---Lepacious Bose
The name, Bosede Olufunke Oseyemi Ogunkoye, may not ring any bell; but when you say Lepacious Bose almost everybody would remember the 'voluminous' stand up comedienne, who in her few years in the comedy business has carved a niche for herself. Not many know that Lepacious Bose is a trained theatre arts practitioner and lawyer. In this interview with Temitope David-Adegboye, she spoke about how she combines the wig and gown job with comedy business, why comedians prefer to anchor corporate events rather than hosting their own shows and why there are fewer comediennes compared to their male counterparts.
Your name, Bosede Oseyemi, reflects that you were born on Sunday. Does that translate to you going to church?
I wan die for church? I de go church well well. I like church die? Na me and God. I dey go vigil during the week self. But seriously, God is an important factor to my existence and without Him I will not be alive to whom I am and even be what I want to be. I need Him every step of the way and so I can't do without Him.
How did you come into the comedy business?
I don't know. I just know that you are growing and you are the mischievous one in class. You are the one that is always saying funny things and everybody is always laughing and you are there wondering what have I said that is making all of them laugh? When I got into the university there was this group called Dapomanian group. They were into funny drama sketches and they needed an anchor, and I was called to do it. Prior to that, my brother was their compere. I told them I couldn't. They said my brother used to do it and since he is of the same blood with me, madness runs in our family! I thought I wouldn't be able to do it because there was no script, they urged me on. Funny enough, I got on stage and it turned out well. I didn't know where all that came from. The audience were wowed and they enjoyed themselves. After the event, I felt high!
When did you go professional?
Which would you say was the show that launched you into limelight?
Around that time I had just returned to Lagos fully and there were many shows happening at that time. So, I can't really say this was the actual show that launched me. In fact, I'll say the show that started this whole thing is one very inconsequential show. It was one church event where I performed and something just led on to something and from there I was on a Night of a Thousand Laughs 2006, I was at Basket Mouth's Laff & Jamz around that time and so on. By 2007, I was already popular.
What else do you do aside comedy?
I work with a government parastatal that I will not mention here so that they don't come and carry me because I'm always yabbing government so that they won't know where to find me.
Is comedy what you've always wanted to do?
I don't think there is anything I wanted to do apart from being in the entertainment industry. And that is the truth. But what I wanted to do when I got out of the university was to act. I didn't like most of the movies that were been churned out, I didn't think they were acting well but I wanted to act. That was what I liked to do, but I found out when I got to Lagos that the movie industry is not like the comedy industry. In the comedy industry, somebody would always give you a chance to climb the stage. But what you do with that chance is your business. If you perform well, good. If you don't, nobody remembers you the next day. But in the movie industry, you have to know somebody, who will know somebody, who will know somebody and on and on. There is so much pretence and hypocrisy, which were enough to put me off. I couldn't just handle it.
Did you study anything to prepare you for this?
I studied theater arts at the University of Ibadan after which I went back to study law.
Why go back to study law?
It is because I come from an academic family and my parents expect that you study something that is academic whether you work with it or not. In my own case, I still work with my certificate in a government parastatal because I'm in the legal department. I do get to go to court and when I have to go it's always on my status on Facebook. Even if all I have to do is sit down and say nothing, I'm always miserable in court. But that's part of me.
Don't you think it's good for you to be making money from the comedy scene and legal profession?
No, I'm not making any money from the legal profession. I'm just fulfilling all righteousness. I feel like they sent me to school and I shouldn't just waste the money. There is no money in the legal profession for my level. The people that are making the money are making the money. Like I usually tell people, if you want to make money as a lawyer; then your father must own a chambers or your uncle or you are related to one person who has one. My parents are teachers and who do we know? We try to avoid wahala.
What about going into entertainment law?
When I dabbled into it initially, my friends, Owen Gee and Koffi, were always on my case asking that I go into it. But I found out that in Nigeria, we are not really ready for it. It is a process. The Nigerian market is not ripe for it. If I want to do it out of passion, good. But if I want to put food on my table, I shouldn't be going there.
Why not start it?
Like I always tell people, it's good to know your weakness and strength. I am not a starter.
It takes me a while to get along. I have to be totally sold out to something. And that is why you'll never find me doing those down line marketing things. I can't introduce anybody to anything. By the time I tell you to buy something two to three times and you don't answer me, I leave the whole thing there and forget it. It took me a while before I found that was not my strength. When you discover your strength, it's always better. I don't have the gift of starting something. It takes me a while, but when I start the sky is the limit.
You said earlier that comedy industry is the only one that gives anyone chance.
Yes and I'll say it all over. The comedy industry is the only one that you don't have to know anybody to start. You don't have to have a godfather. Yes, if you have godfather; you may move faster, but that initial opportunity to be seen, somebody somewhere would give you the opportunity. It may not be a big show. It may be just a small show, but you can always get the opportunity.
There are so many comedians that do not know their onion nowadays, don't you see them as threat?
Well, painfully yes. They are so many out there these days. People come to me and say they want to go into the industry, and they want me to tutor them. But when I ask them to tell me two jokes, I can immediately tell it's Owen Gee's joke or Koffi's or Basket Mouth's. It's not original. You find that even for the established comedians, they tell each other's joke nowadays. There is no originality. We are not moving forward anymore.
Also, since it's an industry that does not need much education, you just find people come in and speak pigin English, and go. And though there are many people in the industry, we are beginning to differentiate the wheat from shaft. If you have an event, you know who and who can handle it.
It also boils down to packaging. We are differentiating ourselves and we now know those that know when to wear jeans for an event or when to wear skirt and blouse.
Though there are many people in the industry, it's your own duty to create that niche for yourself in such a way that you are still the preferred for an event. There is no need for bitterness or competition because the sky is big enough for all. We can all fly and everybody can make something good for him or herself.
Why do most comedians now prefer to anchor corporate events rather than host their own shows?
I can assure you that if you have any comedian that you've not been seeing around, that person has gone corporate in the sense that the shows don't pay the bills. This is because it is cost intensive. At the end of the day, the comedian that wants to have a show pays the musicians. It may be small money, but he or she pays. It's only the other comedians that he or she may not pay. By the time you pay for the hall, pay the musicians, pay for the instruments, you are choked. There's global recession and companies do not want to sponsor events again. They are cutting down their own staff so why would they want to sponsor your own event? So, it's wise not to go headstrong into anything and find out that you are stranded in it. That's why a lot of people are no longer doing shows. At the end of the day, you are doing a favour to your friend. If Koffi is having a show now and Lepacious Bose is performing there, is he going to pay me? If Ali Baba is hosting a show and I'm performing there, will I be paid? No, rather I'm honoured to even perform there. At the end of the day, those shows don't pay anything. They only give you leverage for the corporate world to see you and see that you can deliver. That is why people are more concerned about the corporate events because they are the ones that pay the bills.
Have you ever been rejected as comedian because you are a female?
It happens to me all the time, but kudos to people like Koffi and Owen; who will always say “forget that she is a woman. If she doesn't deliver, we will refund your money”. They do that if they have access to the organisers, but I tell you it has happened to me over and over again.
Can you recall anyone?
Recalling anyone of them would mean that I'll mention names and I don't want to. But I do remember one, it's actually annoying because it's a female product. They said “she can't deliver because she is a woman and it's a female product, don't let us use another woman. Let's use a man”. There was another one that was an alcoholic drink. What I heard was that I'm a woman and I don't drink. Another one was a wedding, again what I heard was “she is a woman, she can't be funny. She just can't be funny”. But it also has its plus, there are some shows that I get called for because I'm a woman. The need for the female touch is always there. So, like there are minuses, there are the positive sides too.
Is that why there aren't many females in the industry like their male counterparts?
No. We don't have many females in the industry because it is challenging. It's a man's world. You know you are single girl, you go for an event, you don't have a car and you're returning home at 12 a.m., it's not easy for a lot of women. Sometimes you are not called on stage until around 10 p.m. The guys can decide to leave an event at 1 a.m. and take a bike from MUSON to Ajegunle, it's not easy for a lady. And a whole lot of other things. A guy can perform badly, people boo him and he takes it in its stride, and goes home and sleep. For a lady, it's not easy on our emotions. Most women are not able to manage that. It's more of a confidence thing for the woman and the fear of failure. Not necessarily because they do not call us for events.