I STARTED KEEPING DREADLOCKS BECAUSE I FORGOT MY CLIPPER AT HOME WHEN I TRAVELLED OVERSEAS —BASKET
How come you took up the name Basket Mouth when there was another Basket Mouth before then?
Everybody knows that there are four or five Basket Mouths. There is one in Warri; there is one in Jos; there is another one, who writes for Hints. But mine came after a show I did. I finished performing in the University of Benin, and a guy walked up to me and he was saying 'guy you get basket mouth.' So the name attracted my curiousity, and I just picked up the name. It wasn't as if I just woke up in the morning and I started to call myself Basket Mouth. It was given to me by someone that probably didn't even know he was the person that gave me the name. And since I started bearing the name, I have never regretted it.
So what did you read?
Well, I read sociology and that is all I have done so far.
What are the problems in the industry?
Quite a lot, you know. One of the problems is how to manage my fans, and the team. This, honestly, is not easy.
Is it problematic managing your fans?
Yes it is. This is because they have already painted different pictures of how they want you to live your life. In the minds of my fans, they already have a mind set of how I ought to be. So, when they see me, I try as much as possible to actually play the character of the kind of person that they want me to be. And at the same time, I try as much as possible to be original. Challenges also come from keeping it fresh. Being a comedian is very difficult anywhere in the world. Making people laugh is very difficult.
Yes, try it now; go on stage and perform and you see what I mean. It is very difficult coming up with new materials, coming up with new styles, being spontaneous. Those are the main challenges. The major challenge right now is the media.
What? The press? How do you mean?
Okay, please let's not go there.
How do you mean?
Alright, since you insist. When I said the press, I didn't mean all. You guys in Punch are trying, no doubt. But I'm talking about some other organisations that get stories, but they don't confirm (them) and they just publish them. And often, 90 per cent of the time, the stuff they publish is actually wrong and negative; false stories and all that.
You said it was not easy to make people laugh, so how do you get your jokes?
I get my jokes from life. If you listen to the kind of jokes I release, they are human angle stuffs. What I do is that I observe people when I'm in the street, when I'm at home with my friends, in the church and all that; I observe people a lot. When I see stuff that are serious, I look at the funny side of it and try to carve out a joke from it and have that story as the basis of my joke. So, I get my jokes from the society.
How do you remember them on the stage?
Well, I don't know, but all I know is that my jokes flow. It's like asking a musician how he maintains his voice or how he remembers his lines. Something that you know is in your mind. I don't recite my jokes. I have them in my head, and one joke leads to another. That is the way I do my own thing. I dwell on topics. So if I'm on stage, and I'm talking about politics for instance, there are a thousand issues about politics. So, I just bring out jokes around it. Sometimes, I could just cook up new jokes right there on the stage. I try as much as possible to be spontaneous at the same time. I don't know how I remember my jokes, but they just keep coming. I think it's God's work.
How do you feel when the audience fails to laugh to your joke?
It hardly happens to me. I'm not trying to say that I'm the best. But there are times I meet the tough crowd, one way or the other, there is always a way I escape. When I'm on stage, there are some jokes I release and I know that the response should be stronger than that. They laugh, but they don't laugh to that point I expect. In times like that, I always ask myself that the joke was supposed to be stronger than that. So what I usually do is that the next one that is coming in, I will put in a lot of wit into it. I try as much as possible to experiment since I have tried what was supposed to work and it didn't work. I would try some different skills until I get the particular kind of subject that would tickle them the more. Managing the crowd is really difficult. You don't know where they are from; you don't know what they have been through; you don't know the kind of problems they have been through; you don't know where they are going back to. So making people laugh is not easy. Nigerians have different problems; that is why some of them take some jokes personal, jokes that you don't know will relate to anybody. But when you drop it and it connects to something that had happened to a person and it is actually negative, the person may take it personal and take offence. So what I do is try my best to maintain such structures. So definitely, I won't say I feel bad when I drop a joke and people don't laugh. I would feel that that was not the kind of joke that they want to listen, so I go to the type that would make them laugh.
What is the most difficult aspect of your profession?
For me, comedy is a way of life. Whatever I do on stage is what I love doing. I love cracking jokes, I love making people laugh. That one is not difficult. But what is difficult is managing the crowd in the street when you are not on stage. Managing the crowd in the street is really difficult you know.
What was your childhood like? You seem to me like someone who is good at stepping on people's toes just for the fun of it.
Well, you are right somehow. But I wasn't that rascally. My childhood was like other people's childhood. There was no big deal about it. I was born in Ajegunle.
But were you cracking jokes then?
Yes, I used to. People used to pay me to crack jokes during birthday parties and all that. Or even in the classroom. They would tell me 'Bright come yab so so person in class.' And I would go boldly and when I walk, you would see all the crowd following me. That was actually what I was doing and it was really fun. I wish I could live that life again.
Did you have dreadlocks then?
No, I was strictly on low cut then. I started wearing dreads when I was trying to carve out an identity for myself. So I thought about it; I didn't want my looks to be conventional. And I didn't think about dreads. The dreadlocks came in when I was out of the country and I couldn't cut my hair because I didn't go with my clipper and I couldn't just go to any salon and cut my hair. So I was just there and the hair was growing. I was out for two months; I was on a tour then and the hair was growing. I was looking at it and the day it was actually rough and I was like, 'let me try dreads.' That was how I started. So when I returned, I just told my hair stylist that I would like to do dreads and that was how I started.
Does it not smell?
No, I try to take very good care of it. It doesn't. Initially I was uncomfortable in it until I became used to it. I have been known with this hairstyle. It is now an identity.
But you are not attaching some cowry shells on it?
No, I don't like that. You know I'm a Christian; I'm from a Christian family, so we don't do all that.
How does your dad feel about your dreads?
My dad happens to be a very free guy. Even when I was into music, he never disturbed me about anything. He knows that that is what I want to do and he supports me by not complaining about my looks. He knows the business. He knows that this is showbiz.
When will Bright Okpocha take someone to the altar.
I don't know yet, but I have a girlfriend.
What is that very habit you have been trying to curb?
I won't say it please.
Is it drugs?
No, I don't, please. But I'm sorry I won't say my habits on the pages of a newspaper. I can't expose my habits. There are some things that are better left unsaid.