“I Have Never Seen My Certificate”---Koffi Emmanuel Ayinde Idowu
“I Have Never Seen My Certificate”
Koffi Emmanuel Ayinde Idowu, one of Nigeria's top comedians who is also an actor and musician
—Koffi Emmanuel Ayinde Idowu, one of Nigeria's top comedians who is also an actor and musician
By Osamudiamen Ogbonmwan
You seem to be involved in a lot of professions.
I am indeed a comedian, an actor, a singer and a producer as well.
Your name “Koffi” kind of make people wonder where you really hail from. Where are you from? Tell me about your family.
I am actually the first born in my family. I am born to a Togolese mum, but a Nigerian father from Ibeju Lekki, Lagos. So I am more or less a Nigerianlese (laughs). The Koffi in my name is not a gimmick but a real name. I was christened Koffi Emmanuel Ayinde. I am from a family of four. Schooled in both Lagos and Ijebu-Igbo, I had my university education at the University of Lagos where I studied Chemistry. It was while studying this course that I joined Theatre 15 where I started as a stage actor and gradually became a stand-up comedian and a singer. Theatre 15 was a theatre group by students formally of the school's English department. It was formed by 15 of them. A couple of us went through that theatre, like Gbenga Adeyinka, Teju Baby Face, Tee-A. It was there that we were able to learn the rudiments of the stage, perfect our act as entertainers and so on. A lot of us were part of it, even Blackky and Esse Agesse.
This was how long ago?
Theatre 15 was born in 1983. I joined in 1997.
You were a Chemistry student, why join a theatre group, were you bored?
As part of your extra-curricular activities, you could join anything. It wasn't a school thing. Instead of going to the Lagoon front to watch boats sail and the likes, I spent that extra time to better myself by going to theatre practice and it paid off. I am an entertainer now. I can act and do anything theatre.
But you are better known as a comedian....
Yes. Comedy was born on that stage. But before school, I used to organise parties, do M.C for friends even when I entered school. So in my productions, I was known as that guy who often twisted characters in comical way and usually, before the show starts they needed someone who will open up with jokes. So after a while, I started doing my own routines, building my own jokes and mostly saying funny things without having to tell a joke – and a comedian is not necessarily telling jokes. It's about being relatively funny. So, the confidence came, the act grew and today I am who I am.
When did you graduate?
It was in 2001. It's true that I have never worked with my certificate. I have found solace and satisfaction in what I do now. If I had not done theatre, I probably would have stayed longer in school out of frustration. Some of my colleagues dropped out in school then because they didn't find any fulfillment in Chemistry. I found joy in doing theatre, so there was no distraction.
Why did you choose Chemistry then in the first instance?
I did not choose Chemistry. It was Pharmacy that I chose, but JAMB jammed me, saying young man would you rather stay home or come and do this course we have offered? So, I had little choice.
So, when did you get your big break in comedy?
I am yet to get my big break. In the scheme of things, the plans God have for me shows that I am yet to get my big break. But from my very first year in school, I think I was noticed. I was asked for at so many occasions. I was M.C for faculty dinners, orientations, department this or that and I was paid. By my final year in school, I was not collecting money from anybody, I was already taking care of myself. That was why when I finished school, I didn't go looking for any job. I have never seen my certificate before. I have not even gone to collect it. It's always been comedy. I got paid right from school.
Can one learn comedy?
You cannot learn comedy. You can learn to be a Master of Ceremony or a compere. Comedy is a gift, a talent you acquire on your own. It has to come from within you. The selfless people are usually comedians. Those who don't care or worry about much of the things around them. Well, lately, many people are learning comedy but after a while they fall by the wayside. But in Nigeria as it is, we always accept things, we accept them the way they come. That's why we still have a one-way traffic of comedy. Only stand up comedians are making money. Acting comedians like Baba Sala, Osuofia, Papiluwe kind of comedy don't bring much money. I cut across. I can act, sing or talk comedy. Nigerians need a few years to understand that there are different genres of comedy. Mr Bean does not say anything but he is funny. Frank Spencer in his own way is funny and they get big money too. Well, thank God that here in Nigeria, comedy is getting a face-lift because we have been able to a dress it appropriately and entered into the right sectors.
Now, can you say comedy has been a blessing to you.
Well, the talent and gift has been a blessing. I could have done something else with it; like acting without being funny.
Suddenly you delved into other areas like acting and singing. Why?
Well, let me just say I pushed the brand. Singing came naturally while acting and I love to sing. The character I was playing on Twilight zone then – one funny character–I used to remix people's song and I noticed people liked it. So I decided to move it a bit to remix songs and record them. After doing videos on it, I saw that people also liked it. Later, I decided to do my own original tune. It was a Yoruba tune entitled Aroma. The streets of Lagos loved it. So I decided to do a full album. Then again, I said I shouldn't just be funny, so coming from a rap background, I decided to do a serious song then and recorded Green is my Home. That was the song that really changed the perspective of a lot of young people when it comes to singing about Nigeria. People started singing positively about the country. Now I sing serious songs and record funny videos to balance it.
How many albums do you have in the market now?
Presently, I have four albums. The first was released in 2004. In 2005/2006 I released Abinibility Volume 1. It had a lot of collaborations. By 2008, we had Tradofun Hippy Soul Abinibility Volume 2. Presently, we have the Workerman Movement. It's not about me anymore but about the whole family. We do music for the young people but with message and orientation. The album just came out in August. We have four videos out. Next year, I will release my album. Three of them actually and they are all ready.
You kind of have a lot presently going on on your plate…?
That's why they call me a workaholic. But actually I am a workerman. I work a lot.
How's your family?
We are doing very well. As you know I am married and have a beautiful daughter who sings and dances on her own. We didn't teach her but she is very good at it. Whatever she wants to be in life, I'll allow her. Just like my parents, when I was crossing to SSI, I told my parents I was going into the sciences, they sat me down and asked, “Are you sure?” because they knew I was good in the arts, that I wrote well and so on. I told them I wanted to be a pharmacist because my Aunt had just died and I wanted to heal people, but today, I am healing people with laughter.
How old are you now?
I was born on March 11, 1977.
Don't you feel challenged whenever you see some of these up and coming comedians?
Challenged how? If you look around, we have more functions than comedians today. Everyday of the week, occasions happen. The only problem I think we have is that some of the young comedians are not being original enough. They poach on other people's job. We don't have enough comedians truly. The sky is wide enough for everyman, but if you are good enough in what you do, men will look for you. Osas, na you sit down here so. If I no sabi my work, you no go come interview me. You have to discover yourself. There are some of my colleagues who are doing better than me now, that's because they have discovered a pool of affluence. I am yet to discover it. But the pool that I can get my resources from now is fending for me, and I thank God because some of my colleagues at my level are not doing as well. God has his way of blessing people.
How expensive are you?
I don't charge much because I am a very reasonable human being. I charge according to my needs, and as you can see, I am not a very needy person. I am not passionate about anything besides God, my family and work. I am very modest. I leave my clients to it. When I say I want N500,000 and the client says he has N300,000 and I know I can be available for that occasion, of course I'll do it. I have done occasions for N1.5million before and for that same person I have done a job for N100,000. He said he didn't have that kind of money again but “fuel” money for me. I don't have a fixed rate and besides, I have to be reasonable