Vanessa Obioha writes that at 27, comedian and singer Kenny Blaq has gained popularity for his unique style of delivering rib-cracking jokes through popular songs, and is still delivering humour to his numerous fans despite the pandemic impeding his well laid-out plans for the year
TThere are two ways to view situations for the young comedian Kenny Blaq. It could be positive or negative, bitter, or sweet. Take for instance, the comedian was on his ‘Kenny Blaq: State of Mind’ tour when the capricious coronavirus reared its ugly head, crippling social gatherings and shutting him indoors like the rest of the world. Blaq found himself wishing like the rest of us that the virus would vanish and normalcy would return.
The unexpected pandemic is a bittersweet experience for him. On one hand, he has the luxury of time to bond with family and partake in chores such as filling the air-conditioning gas and making very good use of his internet. On the other hand, is the grave impact of Covid-19 on the comedy business. As a stand-up comedian, Blaq had his calendar full with weddings, birthdays and concerts. All of these are now shrouded in uncertainty.
“It’s a bad market for the comedy industry,” he says in a WhatsApp chat. “The pandemic is really affecting business for us. No bookings, no event, no money. All my prior engagements have been postponed till further notice. I have an America tour scheduled for May and June, but at this moment, we are not sure if it is going to happen again.”
Since Nigeria recorded its first case of Covid-19 in February, the creative sector which the comedy industry is part of has been severely affected.
Theatres, clubs, parks, hotels, lounges which serve as venues for entertainment were ordered to shut down as a means of curbing the spread of the virus. Also, with the ban on inter-state travels and flights, creatives like Blaq are forced to adopt new strategies to entertain their fans.
For Blaq, this means creating new content for his thousands of fans on social media.
“The pandemic has opened our eyes to other opportunities and new ways to what we enjoy doing, and the internet is one of them. I have a series I do on social media called ‘Freestyle Something’ where I convert some crazy direct messages to songs and share my own view on what’s trending online. I also have a project online called ‘Kenny Blaq Laugh and Sing Along’. It is a compilation of some of my crazy covers and funny original compositions. The relevance of this type of project to musicomedy and comedy as a whole can’t be over-emphasized because of the way it travels and its possible effects with the help of social media. It helps us and our work cross more borders even when physical borders are closed.”
The compilation which is available on Audiomack was released on May 10 and within hours of posting the link online, the 10-track album fetched over 4,000 plays. Recently, he did a mashup of himself and the viral Prophet Chukwueme Odumeje titled ‘Anamansiginsaga’. In the video, he talked about the lives lost to the virus and prayed for his friends, especially those owing him money, and interjected it with clips of Odumeje’s popular gaffes. As at the time of this report, the video has been viewed over 12,000 times on YouTube.
Music has always been part of the 27-year-old comedian career. In fact, at the mention of his name, the description that easily comes to many minds is “that comedian that sings”.
He calls his style ‘musicomedy’ which sees him weaving funny story through popular songs. For instance, in one of his shows, he acted a story about his relationship with a lady using foremost musician 2Baba songs.
Born Otolorin Kehinde Peter, the comedian disclosed that his proclivities run from music to comedy. He described the former as his talent while comedy is a gift.
“I didn’t even know what I was doing was comedy at the time. I was just being me. If I like a song, I find myself singing it till I find myself remixing it to a funny version.”
Blaq forayed into the comedy industry in 2008 as a stand-up comedian. Occasionally, he would deliver the jokes with funny songs. With time, he noticed that people loved to hear him sing more. When he finally decided to build a career in comedy, he tagged his style musicomedy.
The style is not entirely neoteric. Blaq recognized veterans in the industry like Julius Agwu, Klint Da Drunk, the late Gbenga Adeboye, and Omobaba who are known for performing music alongside their jokes. He acknowledged that they inspired his craft. His uncanny trait can be traced to his secondary school days when he used to play the game of converting love songs to words and ending his letters with “pick my pen from the basket of love.”
He noted that musicians like the Nigerian trio Styl Plus and American band Boyz II Men made it easier to write love letters through their lyrics.
However, what sets Blaq apart is perhaps his unique voice and the brilliant way in which he plots his jokes with songs. He does it so seamlessly and effortlessly that one can easily conclude that he was born to do this. That ingenuity has fetched him admiration from well-heeled personalities in the society. He revealed that he writes all his jokes.
“Some jokes take less than an hour, some take sleepless nights, some take weeks, some take minutes to put together. But I have amazing producers like Bashbeat, Shabba Producer, Mr. Soul, Tiwezi, Jazz Priest and my elder brother Taiwo who are always supporting me with studio productions to have it ready to perform on stage.”
After performing in a couple of shows including Gbenga Adeyinka’s Laffmattaz, Blaq’s eventually had his big break in 2010 at the annual Calabar Carnival.
“That event on my C.V made a lot of people pay attention to my craft which paved the way for other career-shaping events,” he notes.
The rest, they say is history. He was the preferred choice for Zenith Bank Plc, when they launched their Aspire Music Festival last year. Many notable brands have also sought his service. The humour merchant has also pooled crowds at his own shows, travelling from Ejigbo — where he was raised and still resides — to London to sell humour.
Blaq likes to see himself as an oxymoron (one of his shows is titled ‘The Oxymoron of Kenny Blaq’). He puts it this way: “The oxymoron of Kenny Blaq is in me ‘Can-ing’ all the ‘Can’ts’ I was told when I started my career, such as ‘you can’t do music and comedy, just stick to singing’; ‘you are not ready for such a big move yet’, etc. Basically, it is looking at the ‘Impossibilities’ and bringing out ‘I’m Possibilities’. People say I leave an amazing impression in their minds with my act.”
Indeed, even with the lockdown, quite a number of his fans troop to his page for content. Presently, he is being nudged into having a live session on Instagram. He pointed out that he and his team are working arduously to give fans an experience that will blow their minds. But for an act that depends on live audience, performing without the crowd can be mentally challenging.
“Mentally, it’s crazy,” he says, “Because I don’t get to hear them laugh. I only see their emojis when I’m live on social media, and comments when I post some of these contents. But the doctors around the world have confirmed that laughter Is one of the best medicines to stay healthy. So, despite this challenge, I feel like the best way I can give back to society in times like this is to do what I know how to do best, with the help of social media. Though laughter is not the cure for Covid-19, a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”