Men Mistake Me For A Lady---Bunmi Davies
Bunmi Davies, 36, is one of the biggest names you can find in Nigerian comedy. Though, he is most times at the back stage, making the events and comedy shows glamorous, he has earned the trust and respect of several comedians. This son of a retired military personnel, who enjoys the music of late Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, attended the Nigerian Navy Primary School and Federal Government College, Ijanikin before settling for banking and finance at the University of Lagos. He graduated and has cut his teeth in the world of comedy. In this interview with Reporter, Gbenga Bada, he explained why many men mistake him for a lady, his love for Fela and his relationship with top comedians in the country.
Why is it that many find it difficult linking the name with the face despite your success?
This is simply because I'm a producer and a behind the stage person. I'm not supposed to be in the face of the people, I'm an entertainment producer and not an entertainer. I don't want to be an entertainer because I have always learnt to be the producer and not the entertainer.
When did you get into the entertainment world to have been able to build such strong relationship with some of the big fish in the comedy world?
Well, I would say it started as far back as 1973, when Sub Lieutenant Davies and Mrs. Titilayo Davies had a boy and named him Bunmi Davies. The boy grew up and did entertainment for fun until 1992 when he realised there is money in it if it is well planned and packaged and later decided to tap into the business with my banking and finance knowledge to look at the business side of what is a passion. It's not as if the entire thing had been finally tapped into but that was when I realised it could be tapped into.
Despite the diverse nature of the entertainment industry, why did you stick with comedy?
Entertainment is so diverse that no matter how financially sound or passionate you are about it, you just can't practice in all the fields. If you want to be known for everything, you end up doing nothing. As such, my decision to take the front seat of the comedy business is simply as a result of my passion. I can't go into music because my knowledge of music is very vague because aside Fela, Femi Kuti, Sunny Ade, Bob Marley and a few others, I have little knowledge about the field. When you talk about drama, I have a little knowledge but I had a stint with it because it has a lot of humour in it. So, why can't I just be truthful to myself and do what I know best? I have always loved comedy and knew that is what I can make greater opportunity from.
How do you manage your personal business even with the rigours of staging comedy shows for some of these top comedians?
When you have products that complement, I can tell you that expansion is better managed. Stand Up Nigeria is in three various spheres and this include Stand Up Nigeria show for TV and radio. Stand Up Nigeria live gives content for the Stand Up Nigeria TV while Stand Up Nigeria radio gives content to Stand Up Nigeria TV. The programmes complement each other because they are products, which have one common goal and aim and that is humour.
You have been able to stage several comedy shows with some of the big fish in the industry, what has been working for you?
Just one thing is all you need to know and this thing has been working for me. That is honesty. Be truthful with them and don't tell them lies just to win their heart because it would definitely bounce back. Don't say good morning at night time and don't tell them what they want to hear but tell them the truth because it might at that point not go down well with them, but you can't hide the truth because it's like pregnancy and would definitely show when the time comes. So, always tell them the truth irrespective of what they want to hear or what you feel they should know.
Which of these comedians would you say is hardest working with and which of the shows was most tasking?
I really don't have difficulties with these comedians because even before I accept to work with a comedian I must have a strong relationship with that comedian, so it becomes easy working with the comedian. And thank God so far I have not had issues with any of the comedians. In terms of shows, I would say the tasking thing about them all is that they tell you that there is no money and with the economy crunch, there is definitely no money anywhere at the moment.
So what is your relationship with many of these comedians?
I have known many of them for a very long time and as such, we have a long-standing relationship. I relate very well with the up and coming ones too. You see, the comedy world is like a big family, there is this untold and unseen unity, which we all enjoy and we all have fun without inhibitions.
Judging from the increasing wealth status of the comedians-some of which you have worked with-how lucrative has it been for you staging several comedy shows?
It is simply lucrative enough for you to stay in it and not to look elsewhere. Many people would tell you, forget it, I would do entertainment till I die and six months later you would get to know that the guy is working in an oil company! That means it wasn't lucrative enough to keep him or her there, that's simply it. For me, the passion, the honesty and, God have made the comedy business so lucrative for me.
Why do you think a lot of people have misconceptions about your sex?
I don't know why, maybe because many of them just choose to see me as a lady. Bunmi Davies is a guy and I know this is a bad one for many of those trying to woo me or get too close to me for a relationship. Many people think I'm a lady and this is so bad that they call me and I pick up my calls and they say can I please speak with Bunmi Davies and when say I'm the one talking, they say, 'can I please talk to your madam' and I laugh. I'm a guy and physically I'm not the big sized fellow many would have expected because I know there have been occasions when people meet me and they say, 'so you are the Bunmi Davies' surprisingly. I'm of an easygoing personality and I attach no airs around my person, I'm just Bunmi Davies.
How do you manage the hordes of ladies that come for you?
It's just a matter of having priorities. I'm married and I know my priorities in life. Entertainment aside, this is something most men go through even when they are in other fields and the same thing happens to ladies too. Thank God I cope well and if you have a very understanding partner, it'd never be an issue. You get some text messages that could turn things upside down but you just have to be in control to know what is going on. You can imagine having a show and the next morning a lady sends a text message thanking you for last night and I look forward to having another. The person might just be thanking you for the show you had the previous night but because she is female, you read several meanings to it. But just like I said, it's all about you, your partner and your priorities.
How true is the statement that you are a night crawler?
I hardly go out at night except when I'm working because I got used to this since I was in school. If I were not in school, I'd be at home sleeping or at Fela's shrine. I'm not the club-loving kind of person because even my choice of TV programmes are documentaries. I sometimes don't even listen to the story but just look at the visuals.
Would it be correct to say that your passion and love for entertainment was derived from your constant visits to Fela's shrine?
To an extent, you get ideas from everywhere and if you are creative. Also, you cannot limit yourself to one particular place or thing because you can't be sure of where or when the ideas would come from. So, to an extent, I got some things from Fela's shrine because even my upbringing on its own was interesting. This is because I come from a family that is very well embracing and I grew up with my grandmother, uncle and all. For my family, they always have two questions for what ever you intend doing and those questions are firstly, is it legal and can it sustain you? If these two questions are answered they would no doubt support you all the way.
As a son of a military man, how convenient was it for you to visit Fela's shrine then?
You need to understand my family to know these things. My father is a nice father and the dream father many would have wanted. He would give you enough time to do what you want but he would still guide you. He won't let you go into things that are illegal from the first instance and entertainment is a legal business in Nigeria. To start with, I don't smoke or drink and as such, my reasons for going to Fela's shrine was not as a result of those vices but because Fela's music is good music. I can credibly say that Fela's music helps you know who you are and gets you acquainted with your culture. In fact, there is a part of Fela's music that helped me pass geography in my secondary school exams with an A3!