I Started Stand-up Comedy in the Church

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He lessens tension and anxiety as he incorporates humour in his delivery, subtly choosing metaphors and words that make an audience wriggle with laughter. At age six, he was sent to Bauchi State to live with his grandmother. Some years after, having completed his primary and secondary education and unable to go to a higher institution due to, he returned home to his parents. For seven years, he had to wait, taking up a teaching job years to save up for University education. Fortunes shone on him in 2002 as he took interests in his local church drama group where his Hausa accent earned him attention as a potential comedian. Meeting with ‘Holy Mallam’, he saw possibilities; redefined his focus and interests in the rib-cracking business. Today, Olusesi Adebesin is a self-proclaimed tenth richest man on earth. Waxing philosophical, the five-inch, eight-foot tall and stand-up comedian tells Adedayo Adejobi, how much he is worth, why he owes his success to God, the rigour behind his booming growl and his search for a marriage mate

• I Am Single and Seriously Searching..

• Joking Apart, I’m 10th Richest Man in the World

Can you tell us about your childhood?

I was born in Lagos to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Elijah Olusesi Adebesin, on the 15th day of April. I have three brothers. At age 6, I was taken by my grandmother to the northern part of this country to stay with her and there I started my primary education at the famous Army Children School, Azare in Bauchi State, where I got my first school leaving certificate. Thereafter, I was admitted to Pilot Junior Secondary School, Azare, where I did my Junior Secondary School Certificate Exam, and then I proceeded to Demonstration Secondary School, where I obtained my Secondary School Certificate. After my secondary school education I returned to my parents in Lagos but due to financial constraints I couldn’t proceed to a higher institution immediately. So, I moved to Idiroko in Ogun state where I took up a teaching job in a primary school. I taught there for about seven years before I secured admission into The University of Calabar to study Social Work between 2007 and 2012.

How did you start as a stand-up comedian?

Stand-up comedy began like a joke for me. I used to be in a drama unit in my church (Winners’ Chapel Idiroko), and each time I acted no matter the role given, it was always funny because I used the Hausa accent. One day, I attended a programme at our church headquarters in Ota, there I saw a comedian named ‘Holy Mallam’ performing and he was doing clean family-friendly jokes with a Hausa accent. So I said to myself I can do what this guy is doing. And when I got back to my local assembly anytime we had youth programmes or other special programmes in the church I asked the pastor to spare me five minutes to do jokes and he obliged me once after which he kept giving me more opportunities. That was around 2002 and 2003.

After I eventually got admission to the University of Calabar, I continued doing my comedy in church and some petty programmes ranging from birthdays, child dedication and the rest of it until December 2007 when my name was included among comedians that were to perform in a stadium during the popular Calabar Carnival during former Governor Donald Duke’s administration. After performing that night I was handed the sum of N25, 000. That was surprising to me because at that time I was riding a motorbike, popularly known as ‘Okada,’ as a student in year one and I know for how long I will have to work to be able to gather such an amount. So, I said to myself that I would have to take this comedy thing seriously. And since then I have travelled to at least seven countries. I have also been privileged toperform on major platforms like the Nite of a Thousand Laughs, AY Live, Akpororo Vs Akpororo, Comedy Goes to Church by Acapella, to mention but a few. I also have an annual comedy event I host in Port Harcourt.

How hard is it to be funny?

It’s very hard, but creativity, spontaneity and boldness is all that’s required to break through the funny bone of the audience.

When you started doing stand-up comedy, how quickly did you realise what kinds of things you were going to talk about?

The person who inspired me was doing clean and family-friendly comedy. His kind of comedy is the type that all members of the family can sit together and listen to. Not the type you are listening to and you tell your children to go and sleep because you don’t want them to hear certain things being said. So I knew early enough that I was never going to be vulgar, insulting or deliberately provoke my listeners.

What was the stuff that made you seem unappealing?

The worst moment I had was one of my performances in Covenant University during one of the school’s convocation variety nights where I arrived very late, tired and famished because of the delay I had at the airport. I got to the venue and immediately I was called up to the stage. I was psychologically in the state of disequilibrium and when I got up stage almost all the jokes I did didn’t appeal to my audience at all it got so bad that the students had to dismiss me by clapping for me. That was not funny at all.

Was it fun to talk about that? Or was it really uncomfortable, and worth doing?

It wasn’t funny at all at that time because it was very embarrassing. But I learnt my lessons that day and it had helped me a whole lot. Now I can comfortably talk about it. I can even make joke out of it.

How much planning goes into a comedy rendering?

So much planning; so much thinking, reading, observing and writing.

As a comedian, what is your definition of success?

To me, success is not about the wealth and luxury that I have amassed for myself, but about how many lives I am able to touch even with the little that I have.

What life principles are you guided by?

God first, and then other things follow.

What is your comparison of the comedian types?

The spontaneous: this set of comedians is naturally funny. They need not much time to prepare because they can make instant jokes out of anything and everything. The creatively funny: this set may require more time to think and imagine things, write and rewrite before coming up with funny stuffs. Some can be funny when they do stand-up comedy but may not be funny as actors, whereas some comedians are funny as actors but not as stand-up comedians.

When you ventured into comedy, did you know it was a lucrative venture?

Honestly, I didn’t even know that people paid for it. I just was catching fun until I got my first pay in 2005.

How much are you worth?

I am the 10th richest man in the world; I am worth $42.9m.

What is your viewpoint on ethical issues in an unstructured comedy industry?

A lot of things are actually unstructured in Nigeria not just comedy, but that notwithstanding, I believe personal self-discipline should guide people on what they do. For instance, in developed societies the comedy industry has well-defined structures. Like comedy central, The Apostles of comedy and the rest of it. These bodies regulate activities of members. But since we have no such structure, we are only guided by our societal norms and respect for senior colleagues. But I strongly believe that things will get better because the industry is getting bigger by the day.

In view of patronage Nigerian comedians get, do you reckon that comedy space has harnessed its full potential?

Not yet; but we are getting better as the days go by. More talented young ones are coming up with great act and stage performances. I am sure if given support by the government and private sector, the comedy industry is a gold mine not just for the comedians but for the nation as a whole.

You’ve got a strong sense of fashion. What influences that?

Honestly, my sense of fashion has no special influence whatsoever. I just want to look good enough to be addressed well. For they say ‘you should dress the way you want to be addressed.’ I dress to suit the event or occasion I am attending.

What fashion brands make the top list for you?

Gucci, Mondo, LV, Calvin Klein, etcetera.

As a charming celebrity, how do you manage female fans?

One great man said to me long before I became a comedian that every plant has the potential of attracting insects but the one  whose flower has bloomed attract them more and easily. So, he said as I grow in life when the fame comes, the girls will automatically come but I should never let them distract me from my goal. Because if I am distracted, I’ll lose focus and may not attain my goal; then these same girls will stand afar off to mock your failure. So I will say it has not been easy but with self-discipline and God on my side I am able and capable.

Have you ever been sexually harassed by a female fan?

No; not at all.

Are you single, searching or in a relationship?

I am single and seriously searching.

What are the challenges you face as a celebrity comedian?

A lot of people just assume because you are a celebrity you must always have enough money to cater for all of their needs and requests as if you are God. By my little knowledge, its only God that supplies all people’s need. When they make request they don’t expect you to ever say No, forgetting that you are also human and you have your needs too. Another major challenge is making the choice of a life partner. It is very challenging when you are a celebrity.

Can you marry a celebrity like yourself?

Why not? Of course! I can marry a celebrity as long as she knows and carries out her responsibilities as a wife alongside her career. The home front must not suffer simply because you are a celebrity. We both have our responsibilities and we should be able to discharge our duties one to each other and also to our children. Though, some female celebrities allow their ego to rise above their moral sense because they are famous and rich. But no matter how famous or wealthy a lady is, as long as she can be submissive enough I will go for her.

Who is your ideal woman?

My ideal woman must have the ‘God factor.’ By that, I mean she must love God and things that pertain to the kingdom. Other factors are secondary.

Many Nigerian comedians have to contend with striking a balance between professionalism and patriotism. How have you been able to meander this loop?

If I understood your question, I think in discharging your duties as a comedian you also have responsibilities towards nation-building. Your voice on the microphone is being heard by both the high and the mighty; I mean the people at the corridor of power. We can jokingly drive home important matters, advise our policy makers and even criticise them. But because a lot of us think if we so do, they may not invite us for their events.

What motivates you?

Vision, goals, aspirations and passion.

How do you generate new ideas for your jokes?

I do that through reading, observation, movies and deep imaginative thinking.

How far are you willing to go to succeed?

Success itself is not a destination. It is a continuous adventure; so I will go as far as my mind can be stretched. Success is not a destination it is an adventure. It is making progressive progress. Success is the fulfillment of purpose; I have not succeeded until my purpose on earth is fulfilled. Also, if all you think of success is to drive a good car, live in a good house and have a family, you are of all men most miserable. True success is not measured by the size of wealth you have amassed but by the number of people your life, your wealth and your existence have impacted.

What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

Honestly, I am not sure I have any fear.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Bishop David Oyedepo, Lt. Dr. Myles Munroe, Apostle Johnson Suleiman and Gordons. These men have impacted on my life and living.

What five books have inspired you the most?

Hidden Covenants of Blessing by Dr. David Oyedepo; Maximising your Potentials by  Dr Myles Munroe; Why I act the way I do  by Tim Lahaye; and 9 steps to financial freedom, authored by Suzie Orman.

To what do you most attribute your success?

I attribute that to God, diligence and focus.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

That will be when my clients are overwhelmed by my delivery and their satisfaction which is value for their money.

What do you feel is a major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

There are a lot of differences that space will not be enough for me to enumerate. But one major difference is that you can never fully maximise your potential working for somebody else. Also, it is worthy of note that nobody employs you because he wants you to be rich but because he wants to use you to enrich himself the more. I can go on and on.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?

I can’t remember any right now.

What are your hobbies?

I watch movies and read.

What makes you happy?

I don’t really wait for things to make me happy. I consciously generate my happiness and sustain it, come what may.