The Basketmouth Interview: ‘Why my performances irritate me’
By Victor Enengedi
Basketmouth and his kids. Photo: Baron’s World
He is no doubt one of the most celebrated comedians in Nigeria. Bright Okpocha a.k.a. Basketmouth has become a household name all over Africa featuring in most of the biggest comedy shows both in Africa and in Europe.
The 35-year old Glo Ambassador and host of MTV Base’s Big Friday Show talks to NET about how comedy has paid off and what he has been up to lately.
As at the time you started did you think you were going to become this big?
Honestly no. I just wanted to make people laugh. I just wanted to show the world what I had. I never knew it was going to be this big, but with time, I now realised that I can actually do this thing and that was when I started projecting. What I projected then is something bigger than what I am right now. What I will become is still a dream and I’m working towards that dream right now but from the onset I never knew I was going to get this far.
You now have a fan base all across Africa and basically the entire world, how does that make you feel as a comedian?
It makes me feel like I’m doing something right. Like I said I never knew I was going to make it this far. The first time I did an international thing was in Ghana. It was my first gig then which was like eight years ago. I did that and I never knew they were going to buy into my art and I had to deliver in English more which was more or less like the first time then. When I pulled it off I was impressed with myself and that gave birth to a lot of other gigs. I did some gigs in the UK and that gave birth to a lot of other gigs internationally too. One of the first major international gigs that I did was the Choice FM comedy club in the UK, dominantly white people all through and I pulled it off too. I think whatever I get now is what they call the best of all. It’s a great thing for your brand to sell, not just in Nigeria or Africa but even beyond the continent.
A lot of people will like to know how you landed the Comedy Central gig.
What happened was that, the first show I did in South Africa was called ‘Blacks Only’, in front of a massive four thousand people hosted by David Carl. It was a massive show. I did that and he called me back again because of how I did and he wanted me to headline the show. When I did the two shows people started paying attention to the name and the brand. Eventually I got called for a comedy festival in Pretoria. Everybody had their own days and I did mine which was awesome as well and that was how Stand Up Africa called me. I did the first one last year and a second one in February this year. When I was doing this one, I never knew the President of Comedy Central was there in the crowd. When I was done, I saw a white guy walk backstage and walked up to me, apparently someone had introduced me to him but I didn’t really get the details and he was like, will you like to do Comedy Central? And I was like, hell yeah man. That was a month ago and eventually I got the email and then this. No string was pulled, it was based on merit. If I had not done well in Blacks Only festival and the Stand Up Africa, I won’t be where I am.
So what’s Basketmouth bringing to the table for Comedy Central?
The Nigerian flavour; my kind of comedy is different. It’s different from other kinds of comedians because I have always wanted to be me, original and myself on stage. I have worked on my brand for years to get to where I am right now. What I’m going to be bringing on stage is going to be different from what I have even done before. I want to give it my best; I want to make Nigerians proud. I am not just doing this for myself or career; I’m doing it for ‘Naija’. The same way the Super Eagles went to the Nations Cup, that’s the same way I’m going to the Comedy Central because I have to keep the flag flying and trust me, it’s beyond me. This is the first time something this massive is happening to my career and on a platform like Comedy Central which I have been dying to be part of. Like I have always said it, that when I start doing comedy Central, that’s when I know I have arrived. So, trust me, this is more or less like the beginning of Basketmouth. Honestly, all I have been doing before has been rehearsals and warming up for what’s about to happen now because I believe that doing this gig is going to give birth to more. This time, I need to do my best and make Nigerians proud. I need to just get it right, so I’m bringing everything that I have to that table.
There’s been a lot of media buzz around your new car, so how customized is it?
I went to visit my friend, Bayo Adegeye, who was my first manager ever. I went to see him and his family in Belgium. His wife is white and the mother is the General Manager of Insignia and all Opel products. When we went to say hi to her, she wasn’t in the office so I went to the shop and I saw this car laying there and I was like, which car is this, and they told me and I said I like it and asked how much it cost. They told me they don’t sell it that way, that you’d have to order it and I said Okay, I want to order it. They took me to the office, they brought out the computer and they asked what colour I wanted. I was like, are you guys serious, anything I want you will put in this car? That was how it started, I told them everything I wanted, so they loaded the car as much as they could to my own satisfaction.
I didn’t go out of my way to buy a car neither did I fly all the way to Belgium to buy a car, it was just a coincidence that I just bumped into the car. It was also coincidental that I was the only person that ordered it from this region. When they told me, I was scared and asked what’s up with the servicing of the car? They told me that with the kind of engine that I have ordered, I cannot service it for the next three years and I said okay then give it to me because by three years’ time, definitely I go don change motor. It was just a coincidence and please don’t ask me how much the car costs.
I was just about doing that.
Fashola might be reading this, I don’t want him to start asking me for my tax but it’s quite expensive, let’s leave it at that. Trust me, it’s quite expensive.
Why do some comedians steal other people’s jokes?
I don’t agree with any comedian that will steal another comedian’s joke or jokes. I won’t support that because writing a joke is not as easy as it seems. When someone puts in everything; mind, time and punch lines to create a joke, you should respect that person’s creativity because you do not know how many they come up with weekly. I always tell people, do not bite from other comedians because that’s the only way we can all grow. When you start biting, the people you’re selling these jokes to, that is, the audience or clients, start seeing that this person said this joke and they have heard it before, automatically it kills the value of comedy.
What happens is, if I crack a joke and you go to an event and crack the same joke, the next client will then come to me because I’m more expensive than you are and in a situation where they have to go to the other comedian since he’s always cracking the same joke Basketmouth cracks then you are killing the business. So right now, for me even if you want to steal a material just take the idea and do something different with it because trust me, one joke can have ten different punch lines.
Coming up with the idea is universal because people think alike which is the excuse of most of the comedians right now. It’s one thing we can’t stop so it’s impossible to stop. Even in South Africa and America it is going on like that, they do their own materials but not as much as we do it. In South Africa there was a time I saw a comedian doing another guy’s routine, I won’t mention names but whoever is reading it probably knows the story so the comedian went on stage and did another guy’s routine and the comedian that owns the joke went onstage and beat the hell out of this guy, so it’s not just a Nigerian problem it’s universal.
The comedians in Nigeria are all talented, it’s just that they’ve not been able to identify their strength and potentials. They are extremely funny because in America people write for these comedians, Richard Prior, as famous and as big as he is, people write for him. Nigerians, nobody writes for us. That is to show that we are even more talented than these guys. So, when you start identifying your strength and working on yourself, you will find out that you don’t even have to bite from other comedians.
A year ago you tried to resurrect your music career and all of a sudden nothing has been heard about it, what’s really happening?
Funny enough, last month we were close to shooting the video with Sesan. What stopped us from shooting it, I’m going to be honest, was money (laughs). When he told me how much I was going to be paying, I was like, what am I going to do with the video? Let the video thing just go. After I made that choice, I realized, I could have just done this video because it wasn’t going to hurt me in anyway. I’m doing it for the fun of it, it’s not like I really want to make a career out of it. I just want to complete that journey.
If I have five children I will not train only one, I will train the five of them, which is what I’m trying to do right now with my talents. I have the flair and passion for events management and all that, I’ve a flare for rap music, it’s something I started with and my first love I like to do that too, comedy as far as I’m concerned, I think I’m doing well so I’m not saying I’m done with comedy but I’ve reached that point where I will not lose my followers which is the reason why I waited this long 14 to 15years to do it.
The truth is this, we have released some singles in the past that was lost. I did a single in the past with Faze, it came out but nothing happened. I didn’t push it because I didn’t like it. I did one with Darey, I pushed it and I did another one with Eldee The Don. Until I did with Wizkid I almost didn’t want to release it so it was like let’s just try and see how it goes and we did two singles and people liked it and definitely some people hated it but I’m going to release the album regardless so I have to complete that part of my journey and by the grace of God it’s going to come to pass this year.
You have done television, music and everything, do you think about going into movies like some American comedians have?
Honestly, I’m thinking of moving into movies but if I’m going in, I’m going in big time. I have been offered quick cash to come to movies, I didn’t like them and I tell myself, look, ‘Bright if you’re going to do this you should do it well because you have gotten beyond that point where you want to do something that won’t be good enough. I have been offered to come to a lot of TV shows in the past, but until MTV Base came, I didn’t want to do anyone. when they came and they showed me what they wanted to do, I loved it and I agreed to do it and now people are loving it and its unarguably one of the best shows right now.
If I’m going to do a movie, it has to be right and that’s the reason why I have been doing a lot of skits, not just because I want to use it to entertain people but to use it to exercise my acting skills. I have played almost all the characters in my skits. I’m working on something which I cannot disclose right now. I can only give you hints. There’s a foreign comedian coming to Nigeria soon and he asked if I was interested in doing a Hollywood short movie with him but in Nigeria, and we will shoot some of it in America. We are working on that, and so with God, before the ending of this year, you might be able to see it and I’m praying that it is good enough to hit the box office.
You are one of the most consistent comedians in Nigeria right now, what do you think are some of the key virtues or factors that have kept you going all these years?
The main thing is, changing with time because there are a lot of guys right now that are on fire so you have to redefine yourself. I redefine myself almost every week you know even every day because these guys they are coming out like every second so the only way I can stay fresh and relevant in the mind of people is by redefining myself, give myself a brand that the consumer will like to have. That’s the key. A lot of people don’t know that my kind of jokes are jokes that you listen to and not forget. Jokes I crack are mainly things that people do in their everyday life and I make sure every time I come out with my materials it has to be something that people do so that way, whenever they do it they will be like, oh Basketmouth said this thing.
God is 100 percent behind everything because everything that I do especially comedy is not based on what you think you have, it’s what the crowd wants to have. So, your success and everything is actually in the hands of your consumers, if they don’t find you funny that’s it. I try as much as possible to be relevant, to be that person that they want to always listen to. Most importantly, I’m my own competition.
I do things at my own pace and trust me, I have done a lot of stuff which I’m still not impressed with so that means I have to automatically do more stuffs that has to impress me so I’m just constantly battling and fighting myself which is the reason why I don’t watch myself perform because I actually irritate myself when I watch my performances and anytime I watch it, I’m always like, Bright you could have done better than that because I’m my own critic so that’s one of the thing that I do that has been able to help me get where I am and I don’t think I’m even where I’m supposed to be so I’m fighting myself to that point where I think I can do better than this.
So what are some of the challenges of being a comedian in Nigeria.
Trust me it’s hard o! because everyone expects you to deliver. For music, the 2Face, Psquare or D banj can go on stage to play the same song you have heard over and over again like a million times. You pay them and they go there to sing the same song and people will be happy but with comedy you have to go with something fresh all the time. If you go and crack the same joke, they will just be looking at you which means you’re under more pressure than any other person. Actors may not come on stage and start acting, the best they can do is to present an award or MC an event but we have to be fresh and consistently redefined so as to give out more which is the challenge…
Source & Photo Credit: The NET Nigeria
About: Kelly Faisal
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