But for providence, he would have ended up as unknown talent. Known as Laff Doctor, Daniel Maduka was born in Ilaje, a ghetto neighbourhood to Ebute-Metta in Lagos State. Maduka is one of the few who defied the odds to carve out a niche for himself in comedy. On January 1, he emerged winner of the Spontaneity Comedy, a talent show organised by Atunyota Akporobomerere, popularly known as Alibaba to encourage young Nigerian comedians. In this interview with Ugo Aliogo, the Imo State-born comedian speaks about his career and the comedy industry
You won the best comedian in Alibaba Spontaneity Show. How did the journey start?
I contested last year. I made it to the semi-finals. But I decided that I would not participate in the show again. But this year, when the audition started, I participated. I scaled through from the preliminary rounds to the finals. The journey has not been easy, but I thank God. To win, I did what was required. The show is about being spontaneous. I was asked to do a one-liner on Donald Trump. It was spontaneous.
To prepare for the show, I researched on major events that had taken place in 2016. When I was asked to do a one-liner on Trump, I told the guy: “Be like say dem jus deport you?” and the audience was in awe. As the winner, I was given a brand new Hyundai Accent, one year salary from Alibaba, an opportunity to perform at his shows, work with him directly in comedy and mentorship as well.
Why did you decide to go into comedy?
I decided to go into comedy because of hardship. I lost my father at an early age. We were eight children in the family; catering for the family was left on the shoulders of my mother who was a cleaner. She could not meet the needs of everyone. We gained our independence early in order to cater for ourselves. In the neighbourhood, it was not easy for me; choosing comedy was the best option. It was something I have always wanted to do. At first, my mother was sceptical about my success in this venture. She insisted that I secured a paid job because comedy shows doesn’t come always. Though I secured a job, but I was sacked because I gave much of my work time to performing at comedy shows for free. I thank God I chose comedy. The environment didn’t influence my passion for comedy. However, the neighbourhood was like an inspiration to me. But it was not a major factor for going into comedy. The neighbourhood is a ghetto which offers a good comedian materials.
Who are your role models in the industry and what do you find unique about their style?
My role models are Alibaba, Basketmouth, AY, Buchi and Akpororo. These individuals have been able to carve their own line of creativity. For instance, Buchi has the ability to be spontaneous; Akpororo has a crazy grace which inspires me. For AY, his brand personality in the industry and the business acumen which he brings to bear are things that set him apart. Honestly, it is something to emulate. He is someone that knows what he wants.
Basketmouth is somebody I respect because of his international influence. He has brought it to bear in the industry. He has given the industry international recognition and I love his doggedness and passion. His style of comedy is also very stimulating because he talks about ladies, and his gesticulations are unique. He is one act I like watching because of his stage movements and the delivery.
Alibaba is a father in the industry. He has stood the test of time. He was responsible for the transformation of comedy to what it is today. He brought a corporate face to comedy. This has brought a lot of financial fortunes to the industry. Before now, comedians were known as jesters or jokers. Every successful comedian in Nigeria has gone through Alibaba. He has mentored many comedians.
Again, the winning of the Alibaba Spontaneity marks a new beginning in your comedy career. What specifically are you bringing to the table for fans and the industry?
Basically, I’m bringing new jokes. I want to have my own style of comedy and make sure I do very well at shows. Comedy is not about cracking jokes only but leaving something in the minds of the people. What stands you out as a comedian is your ability to be different; your jokes need to play up in the minds of people even after they have left your shows. I want to aim at originality because it stands you out in the industry. I want to do more reading, and gain more knowledge on different topical issues.
Can you say there is a sort of reformation in Nigerian comedy from 1999 to date? What is responsible for this?
Yes, I think there is a reformation in Nigerian comedy because the way Nigerian comedians are accepted and appreciated is quite different from the past. Factors responsible are new trends, endorsements, skits, and other things. Comedians of this age are very educated. We were seen as jesters, but due to education we are now respected. I’m optimistic that soon, comedy will be seen in every sphere of life; it will be an industry that others will lean on. I foresee a big growth in comedy already. Some of the individuals behind these transformations are Alibaba, Buchi, Basketmouth, and AY. If you monitor closely the efforts they are putting into the industry, you will realise that Nigerian comedy has come to stay.
Appearances and shows, how has it been for you?
It has not been easy for me. I attended shows where as young comedians we have to start off the show. Sometimes you attend shows uninvited, then you’re asked to start the show because the invited ones have not arrived. For now, I think that will change with the winning of the Alibaba Spontaneity. I believe this year has great plans for me because the perspective people viewed me from last year has actually changed. So events will not be a problem for me. In 2016, I was at Night of a Thousand Laughs, Akpororo vs Akpororo, Standup Nigeria and others. I anchored couple of weddings last year. I travelled to about six to eight states. As a comedian from another state, I was accorded much respect.
How would you rate the support of senior comedians to up-and-coming talents?
Honestly speaking, I think if you’re original and doing well, they will support you. They have always supported me. The senior comedians cannot do without the junior ones. Therefore, there is a sort of strong relationship and support between the two generations. The senior ones are really supportive in terms of getting younger ones to work with them in the aspect of mentorship.
What is the support of your mother towards your career?
My mother has been very supportive. She encourages you to chase whatever you think is your dream. In the areas of prayer and encouragement she has always been there.
Who provided the initial platform for you?
I started performing from my church and my school, but the major platform that brought me out was Nigeria’s Got Talent. It was after that show I gained a little recognition; a lot of people got to know me. It opened the door for me to start competing. I was the only comedian in the final though I didn’t win but people were rooting for me. I was in the top-ten list.
Where do you see the industry going in the next five years?
In the next five years, I foresee the comedy industry in that epicenter of entertainment; in other spheres of life. It will be an industry that will be reckoned with and the comedy acts in the industry will go beyond the level they are presently.
What are your challenges?
Well my challenges have been starting shows when the crème de la crème in the industry are not seated, most times when you perform, the camera is not ready. But I just keep pushing and remain original because I believe it will pay off some day.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I see myself becoming an established comedian, having my own television show and organising my own comedy shows. I want to mentor youngsters in the industry. I want to mingle with the best in the industry.