‘I Can Only Thank God’
With the glitz, glamour and success now associated with his comedy enterprise, Bright Okpocha’s failed attempt to build a career in music is now firmly behind him. Vanessa Obioha reports on how the comedian is laughing all the way to the bank…
The grass keeps getting greener for Comedian Bright Okpocha, better known as Basketmouth. It’s part of his rising profile that Okpocha recently hosted Comedy Central in South Africa. Known for his witty retorts and rib-cracking jokes, it wasn't difficult to single him out in the award-winning list of entertainers as the first Nigerian comedian to host this high-profile comedy show in South Africa. Coming shortly after he became anchor for MTV’s The Big Friday Show, this is incontrovertible evidence that Basketmouth is on the brighter side of life.
Road to Fame Rough
Not born into wealth, the road to fame was hardly a smooth one for the Abia State indigene. After several failed attempts in music as a drummer and rapper, Bright deployed his funny antics as a means of livelihood. Though, his first stage performance in 1999 was a total flop, it didn't deter the young comedian who was then a protégé of renowned comedian Ali Baba.
Undeterred, he kept scratching the surface of his comic potential until the ingrained talent for comedy was brought out. From then, his journey to fame and wealth recorded one landmark success after another. Though, modesty (and perhaps fear of the taxman) would not allow him to admit, he is rumoured to be one of the richest comedians in the country. One of the loudest statements affirming this notion is his newly acquired customized 2013 Opel Insignia automobile.
The Journey Has Been Great
Describing his voyage on the Nigerian comedy train, he said, "I can only thank God for everything, the journey has been great. It may not be at the same pace as I thought I would be, (but) I’m happy. I’m grateful. It has been awesome.”
With two children in three years of marriage to his longtime heartthrob, it is clear that Bright definitely does not bring his comic sense home. Particularly in the bedroom, he discharges his marital duties with clinical finish. And the corresponding show of love from his wife can be seen in his emerging rosy cheeks and protruding belly. Not minding his demanding career, Bright has found a way to keep an even keel on the domestic waters, never rocking the boat at all. This is how he describes it: “Family life is great; they are pushing me to do all I can. I’m doing my best to be a good father and a husband.”
Admitting that he has been invited too often to play on the broad way of life, he confessed that there might be pressure on his marital fidelity. “Even Jesus Christ was tempted. It’s all about discipline and self-control. It’s not easy I can tell you. Whenever I’m in or out of town, I restrict myself to what I’m there for. I try not to expose myself. The moment you expose yourself, you are likely to fall.”
He refused to say categorically if he has found himself in that moment of weakness. With a skilled parry, he sidestepped the question. “By the Grace of God,” was all he offered.
‘Everyday is Valentine for Me and My Wife’
Early in his career, he learnt to separate work from home. This followed a conviction that interference from fans and the media can put pressure on the marriage of persons in the public eye. He found a way around it keeping his sweetheart away from the public glare as much as possible. Though he had no issues with disclosing his ability to keep his wife happy all the time, he would not divulge the most expensive gift he had bought for her. All he volunteered was that the gifts are guaranteed to produce his expected results. “They melt her heart and make her insides bubble. I don’t like making noise about such things but I know I make her happy. Every day is Valentine for us. I don’t believe I should pick out one day to celebrate love with my wife. Every time I travel or even when I’m in town, I buy things for my wife.”
Regarding his children’s career choice, Basketmouth promised to support them as much as he can.
As many are not likely to find the truth about his self-professed culinary skills, Basketmouth had a free reign exalting himself. “I enjoy cooking more than movies. Cooking is more like comedy to me. As a creative person, I love been creative in my cooking. In fact, I can make Chinese food, so Nigerian food na small thing,” he said.
Criticisms on Twitter
While his witty narratives and enthusiastic jabs may have left some in stitches, it may have hit others below the belt. An example is his viral joke on President Goodluck Jonathan and the displeasure of members of the public at his endorsement of the DANA Air celebrity flight. Also on Twitter, it was rumoured that he got on the wrong side of popular comedian AY over the latter’s beautiful car gift to his wife. Clearing the air on this issue, the comedian said it was a misunderstanding that has been resolved. “In fact, we were together two days ago; there is no rift between us.”
Another viral joke that got the public talking was his attack on single ladies. According to him, it’s a fake statement made by a proxy account, which has been creating a lot of trouble for him. “That statement was not made by me. It was a fake Twitter account. My twitter handle is @basket_mouth. Apparently it’s a proxy account @basketmouth. Recently, the person has been saying a lot of stuffs about Globacom. Right now I’m being verified by Twitter and once it’s official, we will eliminate all these proxy accounts.”
Despite the Twitter mania that has rubbed off on Nigerian celebrities, Basketmouth revealed that he is not a tweet bird. “I’m not very active on twitter because of the way people throw jabs at one another. It’s a faceless forum where people from anywhere who have had a rough day come to unleash their anger. I don’t operate like that. I try as much as I can to stay away from Twitter. I'd rather have someone say it to my face. Once people say anything negative about me on Twitter, I find my way out. I don’t respond to such.”
Nigeria’s Comedy Rules Africa
Call him aloof or arrogant, Basketmouth has a humble streak and will always remain on top of his game. He understands that no man is an island and we all learn from one another, which is why he takes time out to watch other comedians. Like any other being, he has favourites, even among the rising stars.
“The upcoming ones are really doing well but there is still room for improvement, even I need to work on myself as well. Everyone needs to improve on his act every single day. Unfortunately, we do not have that platform to really go that far. But they are all good in their own capacity. They inspire me to do more. I learn from them as well.”
Like other arms of the entertainment industry, the comedy industry is ridden with piracy. The ace comedian pointed out that it is one of the major problems that has wrecked havoc on the industry and, in a way, halted its growth. He urged the government to implement a law that can eliminate this cankerworm and help the industry grow. To him, Nigerian comedy rules West Africa and Africa as a whole, (but) there is still work to be done. “We don’t have sufficient platforms to push comedy to the next level,” he said.
Music Still in the Mix
Basketmouth started out as a drummer and a member of church choir. Later, he discovered his flair for rap music but as fate would have it, he never made it there. However, the passion never died as can be seen at his shows where he occasionally raps.
Determined to achieve his music dream, the comedian hinted on plans to release an album later in the year. According to him, “I had a choice back then to either go into music or do comedy. I chose standup comedy because I knew I will be doing it for the rest of my life and I have never regretted it. I think I made the right choice. Maybe if I had been a musician, I would have faded long ago. What I’m trying to do with this album is to continue that journey which I started a few years ago. I’m not doing music to become a full-fledged musician, going on stage and all that. I just want to complete that dream and close that chapter.”
One would expect the GLO Ambassador to live the life of Riley with his achievements but this is not the case. As the first Nigerian comedian to headline the Comedy Central show ‘Live at Parker,’ Basketmouth sees it as another starting point. To him, the journey has just started.
“This is more or less a (new) beginning for me. Now I’m ready to do standup comedy. All I’ve been doing these past years was to get to this point and blow out. I have done gigs outside the country but this was a very huge platform for me. I’m so excited about this. I have maximized the opportunity and will use it well.”
What to expect from him at the show, the ace comedian promised something different and unique.
Over the years, Basketmouth has put his unique signature on big shows like Basketmouth Uncensored, African Kings of Comedy and Lord of the Ribs.