- Water-tight security in Kano •7 churches, 8 shops razed - Police
- Terror suspect nabbed with N3m •As army uncovers bomb factory
- 2012, deadliest year for journalists - UN
- Court adjourns on missing N12.4bn oil windfall
- Why we cleared Molete under-bridge - Oyo govt
- Court jails courier over $286,400 cash
- Court rejects fridge repairer’s plea to keep Ibori’s bribe money
- Oyo to involve artisans in N.5bn schools rehabilitation contracts
- All set for LG poll today in Benue
- Mrs Braithwaite buried amid encomiums
- Forget presidency, Jonathan’s aide tells ex-military rulers
- FG sends delegation to Onaiyekan’s consecration, Suntai
Can you tell us how you started your career in acting?
It has really been long that I started acting. It is over 33 years ago. I started when I was still in secondary school. At this stage, I was only doing it casually, but in class four, I now started professionally. Though, I worked briefly at Alimaco Investment in Victoria Island, but I had a vision that acting was my calling, so I stopped and kicked off immediately. I went straight to buy drums, talking drums, shekere, agogo, because back then, without all these instruments, you cannot start theatre work. I gathered some young folks to start with me. So, that was how I started professional acting till date.
Can you recall your first professional job and how much you were paid?
The very first professional job I did was entitled ‘Baba Omugo’. It was staged at Amutan playing ground in Lagos Island. There was a large audience to watch us and at the end, people liked our performance and laughed.
It was there some people told me I should keep it up, that I will succeed with comedy because I did it so well. It was in 1979. I was the producer of the work. After the encouraging words, we went for rehearsals every Sunday at Muson Teaching School on the Island.
So, you started off as a producer? You didn’t go through tutorials under any practitioner then?
I did not pass through any veteran, I started on my own with God’s wisdom and guidance.
Why? Is it because you felt you didn’t need any guidance from any veteran like the Ogundes or Duro Ladipos?
I didn’t need any tutorial because that was my destiny. My destiny is such that anything I lay my hands upon surely succeeds, that is how God created me, to be a leader and not a follower.
I didn’t even see anybody then that could coach me. The Duro Ladipos and Ogundes were all in Ibadan and not in Lagos. Anyway, back then, when I started, there were no home videos, it was purely stage acting at the theatre or on TV.
So, I bought all the instruments I needed, gathered enough crew members and that was it because I already had the talent naturally, I only needed to tutor my crew members.
From my year one in college, I had been going out to act with some other people at schools, social functions, theatres etc. But just as I left school, I started professional acting where I made money and I didn’t learn under anybody.
Have you been doing comedy right from the outset or have you acted outside comedy?
Right from the very beginning, I have been doing comedy. I never acted outside comedy, it is my brand, my logo, my calling and my life.
Why did you choose comedy? Are you naturally funny and make people laugh or did people notice it in you and encouraged you to practice it professionally?
That is a good question. I schooled in Osogbo, when I was young and, there was this elderly man in our neighbourhood, who used to dress in funny ways, talked in funny ways and mimicked people in a laughable manner. Whenever I saw the man, I always mimicked him too, tried to talk funny just like the man.
So, that was how I developed the talent of making people laugh. Besides, the likes of Jaguar, Duro Ladipo, Ayos Arisekola, Baba Sala and co. used to come and perform in our school and I liked what I saw them doing. Then as a student, I used to organise for them, so that influenced my interest too.
But it was comedy that caught your fancy of all the genres of acting?
Yes, that is true and God really blessed me with that comic talent. In fact, after my first professional outing at Amutan, there was a known actor then called Kokosari, he was so impressed and envious of my performance that he came to me and asked who taught me to act?
I replied that it was God, he then seized my instruments and insisted I register or be under him before I could be allowed to act stressing that I was too young.
So, I went to ANTP office at Noble Street to meet Baba Omojola who was the secretary then, but at the end of one year that nothing happened, I saw that they were not serious, so I just continued with my job. However, Kokosari said before I could be allowed to be on my own, I must bring a guarantor.
Can you act any other role apart from comedy?
Why not and if not? I am an actor, comedian, producer, director and a composer. But comedy is my brand.
How old were you then?
I was just about 17 years old then.
Who are your mentors on the job?
Baba Mero. He was like my tutor then. I watched and studied his performance and I developed myself in that line to meet the standard.
When you decided to take up acting at the age of 17 and right after college, what were your parent’s reaction?
Dad was very furious and objected to it. He said I should not go into acting, that they are not beggars in his family. But fortunately for me, my dad mentioned it before his friend, who now advised that he should pray about it.
So, my dad took me to an Imam who prayed and said my destiny is such that they should allow me do whatever I wish to do, that God will bless it and I shall be successful. Since then, my dad just gave his blessings because he was very spiritual and believed so much in God.
Since then, have you gone back to school to further your education or don’t you believe in education?
Well, I never did, but I thank God today and I believe in education strongly. You see, in our days, we didn’t really know the value of education, but now, I know better.
In fact, I will train my children to any level. However, whoever wants to go into business or acting or any other line besides education, I will equally support and put in God’s hands. Everybody has different destinies.
Apart from the natural talent, what is required of a professional actor to bring out a good script?
That is why I said you don’t just learn comedy, you must have the talent. When an actor is given a script to act, you read and understand the lines and a good actor will also infuse his natural creativity in the script to bring out a perfect job.
One has to be creative in this job, you have to learn new things because you can’t continue giving the viewers same old jokes.
You must be dynamic, so I read the script and put in my talent to play. That is why it seems I overplay my character at times. I try to always come out better in any of my work. But what I am yet to understand is for a producer to release five, six movies in a year, how manage? The standard will surely drop.
Really, so how many movies are professionally right for a producer to release in a year.
Two or three at most. Business or not, there are standards that must be strictly adhered to for the industry to maintain international standard. We can’t say because we want to make money, then throw caution and standard to the winds. How can you write five or six very standard stories in a year? It is not an easy task, I know so because I am in the business too. No, it is wrong.
What about a situation where producers get six or more stories to buy?
Well, that is possible but not just any wishy-washy story to produce just because you want to make money. I don’t buy just any story, it must be meaningful, impacting, good and tight.
In fact, I hardly get stories to buy because comedy is not easy to write. True life stories are very easy and cheap but comedy is the most difficult and not everybody can come up with a nice professional comedy script. There is Awada, Ase, Apara, Efe.
How often do you release movies in a year?
I don’t release more than one film per year and it has to be of good standard.
How much did you make from your first movie?
The very first film I released on VHS back then, I collected N20,000. But since then, I wised up and don’t collect money from marketers again. I started using my own personal money to produce my films.
How long have you been doing this business?
It has been 33 years or thereabout.
How many movies have you produced since then?
Just twenty-two in 33 years. Is that not too small?
I am a real professional and I don’t release films just because of money. My works are usually very tight and standard which is not easy to do.
So, that is why. I actually take my time to give my fans the very best.
How would you describe your personality outside acting?
Very good. I am totally different from the comedian you know when off the stage. In fact, you won’t believe it is the same Baba Suwe. I am not funny but very serious when not acting.
When on location, I am very calm and serious until it’s time to act my script, then you see a totally different person. I went to a club in London and my friend expected me to start joking and make them laugh, he had obviously told his friends they would laugh.
One of his friends had to ask that is this the same Baba Suwe he watches on TV? But I didn’t, I was just myself. Can a carpenter just be nailing the house about without a purpose or just painting without a purpose?
How rewarding has acting been to you?
Very, very rewarding. It has opened doors of opportunities. I have met people I wouldn’t have met ordinarily, but the job has connected me to them. It has fed me and my family. It has taken me round the world. I just came back from Paris three days ago. I give glory to God.
What special treatment has the stardom accorded you?
More than enough. Everywhere, is it at the airport, filling stations, public places and so on? People accord me special treatment. I thank them all.
At the same time, some people are always ready to extort money from you because one is a star.
How has life been with you without your late wife, Omoladun Kenkelewu?
It has not been easy at all, I must not lie to you. I miss my late wife so dearly. Physically, emotionally, in the home, even on my job, I Miss Moladun. She was one of a kind. Words can’t express how much I miss her but I do miss her a lot. When she was alive, I never felt lonely in my house as big as it is even if I’m the only one at home, but now, despite the fact that people are there, I feel so, so lonely. I don’t pray this should happen to anybody. It has been really tough for me.
How do you mean physically?
You want to know? Of course, I miss her sexually too because I am flesh and blood and a real man. So, I do miss her in that sense too.
How do you manage the home, children and your job now that she is no more?
It has been difficult for me really. Though, I have a house maid with the children, but it can never be like having a wife at home. When she was alive, I could be on location for weeks, travel out for weeks too, but now, only two days, my mind will not be at rest, I keep thinking about the children and home. This Paris trip was meant to be longer but I couldn’t stay more than 13 days because of my children. I am trying with the help of God, family and good friends.
Do you have plans to remarry?
Yes, I will, but not now. I don’t want a woman that will maltreat my children, so I am really taking my time on that to get a good woman, but I will surely remarry soon.
Soon? So, is there a woman around the corner?
No. But I will remarry in the near future.
Will she also be an actress like moladun?
I don’t know yet. Only God can tell that now but she must be God-fearing and be ready to love my children.