Oluwagbemigajuotalo Otaobayomi Adeyinka popularly known as Gbenga Adeyinka The First is an A-list comedian. Public Faces’ Bola Solate recently had a jaw jaw session with him and he spoke on his foray into the comedy business, his family and his political ambition. Enjoy
What is the difference between a Compere and a Comedian?
A Compere is that person who runs an event, he does the serious stuff and his job is to be professional, and stick to the programme while a Comedian is somebody who makes people laugh.
How do you combine the two?
Most times if I am working for you I charge you for MC and Comedy but if you want me to come and do MC, I would do it alone and if you want me to come and do Comedy, I would do it alone and where there is a Comedian at the event, I’d just do the MC part because that is what I am called for.
Can you take us through the journey of how you started your career?
Wow. Professionally I started over twenty years ago if not more because my son is about twenty years of age. I set up my company, I registered my business, the name is Laughter Incorporated and I made up my mind that this is what I wanted to do for a living, but unprofessionally, I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember, from secondary school to the higher institution because it’s something I’ve always loved doing.
Having started professional show business over twenty years ago, what was your first payment?
I think my very first payment was about fifteen thousand naira and they couldn’t pay the balance, they were LASU students so I asked them to use it to pay the band because I brought them, for me in the very beginning it was just to work, I enjoyed the work but I needed to build a name and a career to get people to know what I had.
When you were coming up, were you after fame or money?
Money was not my intention and that is why I always tell all my younger colleagues not to chase money because if you are faithful to your path and you do your job, money will automatically come. It’s just like a mechanic, if you are after making things up to make extra cash from clients it doesn’t help but if you build a name operate like a professional, they all know that there is one guy in Ikeja that does a very good job in servicing cars that when your clients would say I’ll give you extra cash to fix mine first before other cars and that’s where the cash flows in, but if your desire is to keep chasing money, ‘you keep chasing o’.
Tell us a little about your background?
I grew up with my grandmother and my mother, after sometime, my uncle came to take me because he thought I was becoming very stubborn, in fact when I see my children do the same thing, I just smile and say if only they knew how stubborn and mischievous I was when I was little. I grew up in Surulere, I attended Government College Eric More, International school Ibadan for my A-levels and then to the University Of Lagos where i studied English language. I was active on stage and in the Student Union, I was notoriously popular, I enjoyed being in school because I’m always on stage and I was in a group called
PR15, they used to call me to come MC their Presidential Dinner, Faculty Dinner, events and that was where I started building a career for myself. I’m from a very large family but my immediate family are just two boys and two girls, my parents are late. I am from Abeokuta, Ogun State, but I don’t like the idea of State because I think it’s one of the things that is tearing Nigerian apart, just being a Nigerian is enough so that if I am in Kano or other parts of the country, I am a Nigerian. I was a community child because I was brought up by my uncles and my aunty, I used to enjoy playing football, don’t look at my stomach (laughs), I was a good footballer but all they wanted me to do is read and read.
Tell us about your family and how you met your wife?
I am married and I have one wife with three children, a boy, his name is Gbenga Adeyinka the second, he is in Covenant University studying Engineering, my daughter, Adeola is in Covenant University too studying Human Resources and my last child, Oluwatobiloba, is still in secondary school getting into University this year. My wife is a lawyer with Lagos State Ministry of Justice and she has been with the Government for 15 years now and she’s my ‘Oga’ at the top. I met her while I was working with my uncle and she was with a Finance house. We got married the year after we met because I wanted to get
everything out of the way and it’s working for me now, my two kids will be out of the University in the next two years and another few years for the last one to finish then I can enjoy myself. What I have always wanted to do by the time I turn 55 is to tour the world, I would stop working that is if I don’t go into politics but I will take two years to travel everywhere and discover the world and enjoy myself and ‘chop my money alone’. (laughs)
Talking about politics, when did you start nurturing the idea?
I have always been playing around it while I was in UNILAG, I was in my hall executives, with my faculty executives and my departmental executives. There is a reason why God made you popular and for me, it’s to be an agent of change, to make life better for people and that is why I have always associated myself to people to make things and influence things in politics, go out of my way for people and get a reward in the future. I love politics and I hate when I see politicians doing wrong and it makes me feel like they gave politics a bad name. For me, it’s a lifelong ambition, although my wife doesn’t want to hear about it but she won’t mind because she has always been able to agree with me when I tell her the pros and cons, but if it does happen, I am going to do something that will help change people’s lives and I am happy that the country is witnessing change and things are moving in the right direction.
Where did you pick the comic trait from?
I think it’s from my grandfather. My grandfather was jovial, he likes to have a lot of people around him and he was a railway driver so he had the chance to tour the country. My family basically is a very jovial family, we are this up tempo kind of person and I grew in new Lagos too, Surulere Akerele, Ogunlana drive junction and my house was open to a lot of things and in Surulere we have the Hausas, Igbos, Calabars and Yorubas. So when I first started, majority of jokes are always about Nigeria and I think I’m one of the luckiest comedians to have come out of Nigeria because early in my career, I got to a part where I was able to move all over Nigeria and I think I am the only comedian that worked in all of the 36 States of the federation and with the ‘shine shine bobo’ program which gave me National fame and prominence. I am always grateful because I tell people that Nigeria is the best country in the world, if you are hardworking, tenacious, you believe in yourself and you don’t chase money first, then things will fall into place for you.
Talking about your contract with Nigerian Breweries which has run for close to 10 years now, is it going to be extended?
Everything is in the hands of God and I still work for Star. We stopped the TV game show but I still do Star Trek and I do a lot of events for Nigerian Breweries and I think it’s a relationship based on the fact that, they know everything I do, I do it passionately. There are other brands I work for and they salute my passion. I find it difficult to work for you if I don’t believe in what you do and what really attracts me to Star was, Star is the first Nigerian Beer, brewed in Nigeria. Star has always been there for us, during our independence, during our celebrations and for me it was a Nigerian thing that I had to put all my power in, I am happy and I thank God that people always appreciate that and the company appreciates that as well and we still have a long way to go with our relationship.
Do you take the brand yourself?
Yes I do.
I don’t drink any other beer apart from Star because I also believe in Loyalty.
Is it part of the contract?
No, it’s not, but it would be very stupid of me promoting a brand and I would be drinking something else coupled with the fact that, I like the brand. For me, it’s a matter of Loyalty, if I work with a Telecoms company; I won’t use any other network because I believe I can’t be using Paul’s money to pay Peter. Even when I have parties at home, all the drinks are from Nigerian Breweries, although we take spirits but every other drink must be from Nigerian Breweries.
What was the perception about comedians back in the days?
I will tell you that the perception was bad in the family. First of every year, we would have a meeting to review the year and my matter came up when I first started and they said we sent you to the best University in this country and you want to become Baba Sala, ‘Olorun oni je’ God forbids.
I then convinced them, we went back and forth, when they found out it was what I wanted to do, they supported me and one reason I am grateful to God Almighty is that I have not let them down and they are proud of what I have been able to achieve. I am happy that I changed the perception about comedians in my family and now I have a younger brother who is into music. Back then if you say you are a comedian, people would look at you in a funny way but nowadays, you would see parents that would come to you and say I have a son who is very funny, can you help me mentor him, but what I always tell all of them is “it’s all about money”, because they seem to have the impression that Comedians are very rich and yes, God has been good to us, but I don’t even count richness in terms of Naira but people who appreciate what you do and that for me is a form of greatness.
Back then, were there any competition or rivalry among comedians?
For me, I have a relationship with everybody in the industry and I have never, ever seen anybody as competitor. Maybe because I am the child of the elderly, I was brought up to believe that the sky is wide enough for every bird to fly, nobody and I repeat nobody is my competitor in the industry.
I have carved my niche and I believe the water you would drink would not get past you, it’s impossible and I try my best to encourage people to become what they can be. In Lagos today, as of the last count, we have about 28million people in Lagos today, if we have 28 million people in Lagos, at least one million people must have an event and if they do, let’s assume 500,000 people would need a Comedian or a Compere, let’s assume that 100 out 500,000 are top scale events, God is not wicked now, if there are 100 top-scale events in Lagos in one weekend, ‘No be me kill Jesus’ now. For me, that’s the way I see things and coupled with the fact that I learnt from the best Ali Baba. Ali Baba encouraged me when I first started the job, he would call me, give me jobs and if somebody had helped me like that and I don’t help other people, God will curse me. So nobody is my competitor and I hope they don’t see me as their competitor because if they do, the day you start seeing someone as your competitor is the day the person will begin to rise above you.
What are those challenges that have kept you going?
I have to keep going, if I stop working and I tell my daughter who wants to study abroad, she can’t go, if I can’t afford to buy my wife a car and put petrol in it, she would fight me, if I don’t drop money for food they would fight me and truthfully it is also a desire not to rest but to always get better and conquer new things and for me, every event is a new event. There are some events I go for unprepared and I don’t feel satisfied even if they clapped and clapped but deep down, I know I could have done more so in order to feel satisfied, I always make sure I prepare before the show and when I don’t prepare, I play safe but I like to be prepared and I do a lot of research on my clients so that when I’m working, I am judging on facts.
Why is your real name very close to your stage name?
My real names are Oluwagbemigajuotalo Otaobayomi Oluwa ni o je Adeyinka and why Gbenga Adeyinka was because when I started there was Ali Baba, Okey Bakasi, BasketMouth and for me your name is important and my family name means a lot to me so I just chose it and the only thing I added to it was the first and that’s because I said to myself that if I was going to do this, I want to be the best I can be and that’s what I am driving towards so that when I die and I look back, I’d say to myself, ‘Man yi, o mess wan up’ (this man did not mess his family up) (laughs).
You are known to be very close to Kennis Music, have you known them before you started or after?
I was working for a brand and I got a call from them, they said they wanted me to anchor something for them and I agreed and then we built a mutual beneficial relationship and respect. I can call Baba Keke and say ‘hello’, he would pick my call if he is not busy and if he is, he would return my call if he missed it. I always tell people that there are two kinds of relationships, there is body and there is pay as you go, if you do ‘body’, that person is always there for you if you have money or not, you are famous or not but if you do ‘pay as you go’, it will be like, take this money and get this thing done for me and at the end of the day, it is Naira and Kobo and that is why not chasing money is very important because sometimes you bend backwards for people so that they can do the same for you as well and that is the kind of relationship I share with Kennis Music and the entire family.
Tell us about Laff Mattaz magazine?
I have always wanted to do new things before anybody. I was the first Nigerian Comedian to perform in Ghana, I took BasketMouth and couple of other comedians to Ghana. I thought to myself that what has no Comedian done? Ok let’s start a magazine but unfortunately, Nigerians don’t read and vendors are coming to me saying let’s put fashion in front, let’s put one girl with cloth and pages of sewing inside so that tailors can buy as well but they don’t know my vision. We have made it quarterly now because it was a huge dream and I financed it and you would give it to vendors, they won’t return your money so we started doing subscription which has helped and very soon we would be going online and we would have everything we have on Laff Mattaz on TV and newspapers online now.
What other things do you do apart from the Comedy?
I don’t do drugs, I don’t do jigolos and jigolos are very ‘six packish’ and I was not blessed with that kind of body (laughs). But I do TV production, I have a studio, well equipped and we don’t rent them out. We had a couple of TV projects but I had to bring them down because I have a project I needed to finish and everything was distracting. It’s only in Nigeria you will have content and TV stations will tell you to pay and I have never understood that because they go abroad to Bill Cobsy, Martins and they come and show it here but when a Nigerian Comedian come and says ‘I have a show and I’ve shot it’ they would ask you to pay. There was a time a TV asked me to pay one million naira per week to show my content, I won’t mention their name. But now thank God for the new initiative of digitalization, we have a
lot of contents and most times when we are not busy, we shot skit and I also do motivational speaking and anything I do is centered round entertainment.
At what point can you do free job?
At what point won’t I do free job? It will depend on our relationship, how the person is able to convince me, if I see that you really want to use my service and you can’t afford to pay me and I said, I have somebody who can do it but you object and insist it’s me you want, I would end up doing it because if I collect 30 thousand naira from you, you would say you paid me, so I would just do it for free. I also do some charity events for free and some not for free and the reason is because I have my own charity too that I finance alone, if I don’t make money, I won’t be able to send those my children to school. I have once left Lagos to Abuja to do a free event, all expenses paid by me and I have refused to do some shows in Lagos because they refused to add 10 thousand naira. I would rather not do free jobs because I realize that I do more work when it’s free than when it’s being paid.
You always look smart and stylish whenever you attend events, who’s the brain behind this?
I dress myself but I do ask a lot of people in my office and my brother Femi, he has a good sense of fashion and I have a wardrobe in my office as well because most times I leave the office to events.
Are you part of celebrities that have passion for exotics cars?
“Omo Arugbo Ni Emi”. I would rather invest my money than buy fancy cars. My new dream after I am done with my project is to buy an old Benz, an antique and I would drive it on weekends alone but for me, my advice to younger people is not to waste money on cars but invest in property and more sensible investments. Now, I have one fancy car and one functional car that I blow about, once you have two cars, what else are we looking for?
What is your favourite colour?
I don’t know what my favourite colour is but I think you would see me more in black now than any other colour because people have said that black makes you look more slimmer and as an Orobo, I need to look slim.
Pounded yam, vegetable and bush meat or goat meat and if there isn’t pounded yam, I would go for ‘Abula’ and bush or goat meat.
Going down memory lane, what is that thing you wish you had done or something you would have had earlier than you thought?
I wish I had started comedy professionally earlier than I started. I started when I finished school but then nothing happens to man unless God wants it to. For me, I don’t t regret, but maybe I wish I had made more money, maybe I had made more judicious use with money when I was young. If I knew what I know now then, maybe I would have secured more investments, but you never know what will happen, so I don’t think I have regrets.
You were once reported to have said you have a luck that one can only dream of, what do you mean by that exactly?
The things I never thought would happen to me in my life have happened to me. If I see Mr President now, he knows me, he knows my name, I know a lot of Governors and they know me. I play with people I never thought I’d be opportune to meet, Asiwaju will see me and hail me, Aregbesola laughs so hard at my jokes, it’s overwhelming. I have been to places in the world that I never thought I would go to and not even on my own bill; people would buy me tickets and all that. I have experienced things that could only have been good and my mother must have done one good thing in the past and God has decided to reward her through me. Sometimes, I just say to myself, ‘why you? How?’ I know that, it could only have been God.
You recently commented on Lepacious Bose’s weight loss?
(laughs)That girl is a very wicked person. She was strong enough to take that step, without any medical operation yet did weight loss exercise, reduced food and everything. Lepacious Bose is my wife in the industry, my baby sister, my confidant, whenever she calls me, we talk for about one hour and big kudos to her, I am very happy for her and she is so beautiful. My own problem is food and funny enough I lose weight every year.
With all the fortune and fame, how do you give back to the public?
Let me refer you to the Bible. If you publicize what you do, you will get your reward in the open, if what you do is between you and God, he will bless you in private. God has been good to me and I have been able to do some of the things I would like to do for the less-privileged and I pray that God should give me power so that I can do more than what I have been doing.
What do you have to say to up and coming comedians looking up to you?
Believe in yourself, believe in God and don’t try to be Gbenga Adeyinka, Ali Baba or anybody else, just be yourself, look at Paso Ibadan, he will always be a replica of the real Pasuma, so just be your very self and the best you can be. Stay off drugs and money is a visitor, when it comes, invest it well and be a proud ambassador of your family and your name.
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