Saturday, 16 June 2012

Weekend special: My life as a rascal - Gbenga Adeyinka

Popularly called the CFR (Comedian of the Federal Republic) Gbenga Adeyinka will appeal to you as a natural anchor and Comedian. Some years ago, he did not see it like that. He was living his life as a regular worker at a construction firm. He got his first feel of MCing when he followed his friend, Akin Akindele , it did not take long for the bulky comic act to see he could do the same. A graduate of English from the University of Lagos now has three brands that works for him; Laffmattazz with Gbenga Adeyinka And Friends, Laffmattazz on TV and Gbamu Gbamu. He spoke with me recently.

You always put a lot of energy into your performance particularly on stage, where does all the energy come from?
The fact is that my desire to make people laugh anywhere gives me much energy to do what I know how to do. I don’t like to be in a place where people are not making noise or not shouting or generally making fun. I love to keep where I am as lively as I could. My performance is very natural and in fact, there is no amount of drugs that can induce the kind of excitement that I get when I am on stage. As a matter of fact, been on stage makes me high and the desire to have fun and crack joke make my performance so energetic. Even in the church; I like to make noise, not to talk of been on stage. Those who are saying things like that obviously don’t really know who I am.

Was this what you really planned for your life?
Honestly, when I started, I never knew what stand up comedy was. For me, what I care so much about was to make people laugh. Stand up comedy has been something I have done practically all my life. I belong to a theatre group then in school and virtually all the roles they gave me to act were comical, so I was doing comedy throughout my time in school. Eventually, people who knew what I could do back then would call me to anchor their programmes for them, end of the year faculty dinner and other events like that. It went on like that until I graduated from UNILAG. When I graduated, I worked at my uncle’s construction firm where I set up his corporate affairs department for a couple of years and after sometime, I decided to establish my own children entertainment outfit but I wasn’t content with what I was doing and I decided to pursue what I loved doing and people who knew me back in school would invite me to anchor their weddings, but nobody was
 paying anybody. Then I used to hang out with Akin Akindele a lot and I would tell him to tell me a joke and he would tell me one in return. I was very close to MITV and Funmi Farodoye, who I didn’t know was a presenter in MITV then, who used to be Funmi Davies. She called me one day and said she was starting a new programme and she wanted me to be part of it. I told her that I am not a comedian but she asked me to come and do what I usually do. So, after some time, I met Ali Baba. I had gone to supply music at an event during a bank’s end of the year party and somebody who knew me from UNILAG said, this was our own local champion when we were in school. That day, I told a couple of jokes and when I finished, he asked me, ‘’what do you do’’. I told him that I work with a construction firm because I was too embarrassed to say I had a children party. He said I was supposed to be a comedian. That day, I said God forbid!  So Ali Baba actually
 gave me a gig and they paid and I was very happy.
As your study in English added substance to your act?
The good thing about English is that it prepares you for the world. I majored in Grammar ; English prepared me for what I never knew I was going to become in the future because I learnt a lot of things. Left to me, I would have loved to be a teacher, only that they say the reward is in heaven. I don’t want to wait till I get to heaven to get the reward. If God had given me the opportunity, I would have become a footballer.

How will you describe your experience as a comedian?
It has been very interesting, tough, mad, annoying and fulfilling. In fact, the day people realise that I enjoy what I am doing, they will stop paying me, because I don’t know why people pay me to come and have fun or crack jokes. I like seeing people laugh, when I tell a joke and you laugh, I am so excited. If I was in London or America, I won’t be doing just one job; I will be washing dead bodies, sweeping ground or be a bouncer because I have big stomach. So why can’t I stay in my country and keep doing different things related to my passion and be good at it.

Is it true that you were a rascal growing up?
(Laughs). I grew up with my grandmother. Growing up for me was very rascally. I grew up in Surulere, like a lot of comedians will tell you that they were poor when they were young. In my own case, I won’t lie to you, we were not poor. In fact, I think I was too sheltered because I wanted to be on the street to know what was happening. So, a lot of times you find me where they are playing football because I wanted to be part of the whole fun. My parents will beat me like there is no tomorrow but I will always go out. I think I had a football addiction back in the days.
Tell us about some pranks you played as a rascal?
As I said, I am addicted to football and I support the best team in the world, Arsenal. I was sent to go and grind pepper one day, I dropped the pepper and started playing football and it was like a drug to me. So, when I was supposed to come back home and I didn’t turn up on time, they had to send somebody else to look for me. The person carried the bowl of pepper and took it home. After the match, before I got home, I had torn my clothes.  When I got home that day, I told my parents that I was attacked by some guys , they poured the pepper into a gutter and beat me. That day, I was given the beating of my life. My grandmother used to fast a lot during the lent period, but me, when I go to school I will eat but on coming back home, I will rub sand on my mouth so that it would be very dry. Basically, I would say I had fun while growing up. It was a constructive rascality that I had, not the kind of rascality that young ones imbibe these days.
 Will you say comedy is something one can learn?
My belief is that you can’t learn comedy. You must have it to develop it. It is just like football. If you like, start running from the old Toll Gate to Iwo Road every morning for the next four years, I tell you, you can be fit as hell, but can’t be skillful as Jay Jay Okocha. If Jay Jay Okocha does not run, he will still play football because he has it in him. So, it is something I have always had but I didn’t know what it was. So, you must have the comedy thing in you before you start to work on how to maximize it, not that you learn it.
You once said you didn’t like being called a comedian
In all fairness, I hated comedy at first. Why would you call me a comedian? I hate to hear that. Why we were starting, it wasn’t something I liked at all, it was rubbish because you can’t face your parents and say you want to be a comedian. But now, there is no other thing I would rather be apart from being a president.

Among comedians now, there is so much talk about joke piracy. What’s your take on it?
I always tell people, when I started, I used people’s jokes. The jokes I started with were the jokes of Gbenga Adeboye and others. I used the jokes of greats and I turned them into English. It is normal for young comedians to steal the jokes of a more accomplished comedian. One thing I always tell people is that if you steal my joke, do it better than I would have done it. Some of the best jokes I have told in my life are the jokes of people that would come to me and say you have done my joke very well. Those are some of the best jokes I have told in my life. So a young comedian is supposed to steal jokes to start with but when it gets to a certain level, he should start creating his own materials so that other young comedians coming will see him as a role model and steal his own jokes too. And what are we talking about, who has an original joke anyway? I read a lot of books and I know a lot of the most successful comedians in the world read a lot of  books. There is a book called the Bible of comedy. It tells you “read books, read joke books to get ideas.” To me, what is wrong is if you tell a joke, then I take it verbatim, you are there, I don’t credit you. I can just say let me tell you what Ali Baba told me one time, then I will tell the joke.
You have a TV programme called Gbamu Gbamu, what is this all about?
When we started shooting the newest Yoruba comedy program entitled Gbamu Gbamu, not many understood where I was coming from but I wanted to have a programme that would promote Yoruba culture and heritage in a comic way and which my children that go to schools where English are mostly taught can understand more about their culture. The program is actually a contemporary Yoruba program that has different segments such as Ijinle Pampam, where celebrities are being interviewed, Awuyari and Kilonsele, which is in form of a short drama segment that will analyze the societal issues in a comic way.

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