Nigeria yet to experience real comedy -Gbenga Adeyinka
Perceived as one of the finest comedians of the moment, an entrepreneur extraordinary and TV Presenter to boot, Gbenga Adeyinka, has over the years been described with many names. In an interview with REPORTER, Darlington Abuda, the comedian, who is synonymous with the popular slogan 'shine shine bobo' talks about the comedy industry and his uniqueness among peers. Excerpts:
Who really is Gbenga Adeyinka the first?
My name is Gbenga, while the other part is Adeyinka. The one I added is 'the first,' and also CFR, which means the 'Comedian of the Federal Republic.' Sometime in the past, the Nigerian Navy gave me CNN, 'Comedian of the Nigerian Navy' and the list goes on like that, but it is just Gbenga Adeyinka the first for short.
How did you acquire the peculiar name you bear?
When I actually started, what I wanted was something that would make me different from my colleagues. I realised that everybody was using acronyms and aliases, Ali Baba, Tee A, Okey Bakkasi and so on. So I decided to use my own name because it sounded better. Again, I wanted to make it different, something that would remind me of what I wanted to be in the industry. So I decided to add 'the first.' So, that was how the name came about. A lot of people fought me initially. They were like saying, it is either I am Gbenga Adeyinka or the second, but I refused. Sometimes it takes a determined person to start something and since I did that other people have towed the line; Omo Baba, No 1 and so many others are still coming out with such names.
As an educated man doing comedy, how do you see the issue of mediocre joining the fold?
Well, like I always say, out of every twelve, there will always be a Judas. I believe we all have different reasons for what we do. I, most often, do not like to be called a standup comedian because I believe I am what I call a modern day MC, who can do a little of both. Some people just want to be seen as comedians. You invite them for a show and give them five minutes and they are ok. But as for me I see this as a career. I won't mind handing over to my son but he has to get to a certain level of education first. I am happy that more people are coming into the industry. Then no matter how educated and otherwise that you might be, what you must have is talent and nobody creates that except God. The level you now want to take it is dependent on you. So when I see a lot of people coming in, I am happy but when I see a lot of them without the talent, I feel bad. But I feel that you also have journalists who don't write well, just as you have quack doctors so there is really nothing wrong in having some quack comedians but we will get there. The most important thing is for the industry to stabilise. Once it does, it will grow. Someone once said that the comedy industry is full of cliques, that you have those that are established and the ones that are not and I said it's a lie. If you are good, you will break in. Look at people like Omo Baba, Koffi, Igodye, Igosave, they are all there. If you are not good, you won't make it, just like it appears in every sphere of life.
When did you formally start comedy?
I left UNILAG in 1990/91 session, and I had always done comedy on campus. I had always done MC in a different way. Being a member of Theater 15 and due to many comic roles that I did then, I was always called upon as MC at events and most time I liked to be serious and unserious when I compere at any event. I believe they go well together. So when I left UNILAG, I went to Benue. I was with Benue Radio and NTA Makurdi. When I came back to Lagos, some of my friends who knew me back in school would always call me for MC jobs but I never really took it serious. I met Ali Baba at an event just after I came back from Benue. I had this children outfit called Kiddies Incorporated; we did children parties, DJ and all that stuff. Then, I think, Fountain Trust Bank was having their end of the year and I supplied music, and one of my friends in the legal department introduced me to Ali, saying I was their local champion. Then and there, he asked me to hold the mic and prove myself. After the show, Ali asked what I do for living and I said I worked in a construction firm and he said I was just wasting away my talent. From then on everything seemed to change.
One of the problems comedians often encounter is that they are regarded as being unserious. Has it ever happened to you?
The fact is that even when I try to be serious, people find it surprising. They are like; you mean comedians can be serious? There are sometimes you go to the bank and you are like if this cheque bounces, I will cause trouble and you get there, the cashier is like asking you to tell her a joke. I think people generally believe that comedians cannot be serious even when I am telling the truth. I guess it's good, it comes with the turf.
Fame comes with all manner of temptations. When you go out of Lagos for a show, how do you ward off female fans who want more than being fans?
I have always said that it is only a stupid man who does not know how to manage women in his life. For example, my mother, my wife and my daughters are the women in my life, so it doesn't matter if I leave my responsibility to one and let the other take over. I can't sleep with my mother but I love her just as mad, the same way I can't sleep with my daughters but I love them so much. So I shouldn't sleep with my female fans because everyone has a role it plays in your life. The minute you let anyone run into the other, you will definitely lose control.
Crafting a joke has been described as tasking, how do you get inspiration for the jokes you do?
Like I always say, God is the source of all inspiration. He gave you the talent to work with, after then you begin to open your eyes. The Nigeria society is a veritable land of comic materials. Things happen everyday in Nigeria. When I started, I asked myself what I really wanted to do but no matter what you are doing, what you should think about is the USP, (Unique Selling Point). Then, one thing everybody was comfortable doing was that nobody wanted to be an area boy. But you see, area boys live with us every day. I came out with the area boy mannerism and it caught on faster than I expected. When I started I wanted to show people that I was a comedian and I just told jokes but maybe due to maturity, I realised that the best comedian in the world is the person that sits back and watches what goes on around him and gets materials from them.
In the course of your career, what would you describe as you biggest challenge and greatest moment?
How to be better on stage than I was the last time, anytime I want to go on stage I am still like 'let's go and kill them' and I think that is what helps me a lot. I hardly have to plan as I would have loved to. So sometimes when I am not working, I will always be grateful for enough time to prepare for the next show. About my greatest moments, when I started, I told God to give me a weekend job and I got it. Later I said Saturday, I got that and later Sunday and I got it too. And sometimes when I call some of my friends on a Monday, they always ask that I call them back because they are working. So I asked God to give Monday too and I also got that. Then I told God to give me the Governor and I will be okay and I got like seven governors and I went further to ask that he give me the President, which I later got. The next request was to travel out and that also happened. However my best was my first time as an unknown comedian in Ghana. So also was the London show. The show was wonderful and the crowd was great. I really thank God for all that. The Bible says, "It is not of him that willeth but of God that showeth mercy.
What will you say is the future of the comedy industry in Nigeria?
I think that the future is very bright. I saw my son's year book where they asked him what he would like to be in future and he answered, a comedian. Things like that gladden my heart. It means more people are coming and we will begin to see more talents just as we will still see more charlatans but I believe strongly that the future is bright. What we are doing in Nigeria now is just standup comedy. We've not started enough sitcoms. We are yet to start the real comedy. The future is very bright I hope to be a part of it.
What has been your greatest put off with the people you have worked with?
People who are telling lies to you but who still want to maintain that they are not dealing in lie. It hurts the more especially when I know that you are lying. Insincerity done with a bold face puts me off totally. In fact, I can kill for that. I am a liar myself. I think I tell people that I am the greatest liar that God created because when I was growing up, if I lied to you, fear would catch you. I am the king of lies and I don't think people should lie to me. I like people who don't have airs around them. It attracts me like magnet attracts iron. People like the former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. A lot of people I really like don't have airs around them.