BORN FOR COMEDY: He was here for the first season of 1,000 laughs and this year he will be hosting Season 2. Edgar R. Batte caught up with Nigerian stand-up comedian Basket Mouth on what it was like starting and why Uganda’s Patrick ‘Salvador’ Idringi is one of his favourite African comedians.
What do you like most about Uganda?
I love the weather, the people, Ugandans are quite welcoming and nice with a high sense of humour, which is what every comedian loves. My last experience was amazing and doing it again is just an awesome feeling. I also fancy its history, the culture and most importantly the dancehall music I get to hear here. I am a dancehall fan.
What does it feel like being back?
It is always a great feeling when one does a concert and is called back to do it again. It means I must have done something right. I love the fact that I have been given the opportunity to host the concert, I am genuinely excited.
What is your view of the Ugandan crowd?
Very intelligent and blessed with a high sense of humour, they just want to have fun and laugh.
Who is your favourite Ugandan comedian, and why?
I don’t know that many, just Salvador. However I can comfortably say Salvador is arguably one of my favourite comedians in Africa. I have worked with him so many times and I have brought him to Nigeria more than 10 times, that lets you know how much I love his work. I am also making plans to have him on my 2015 UK tour, he is an amazing comedian.
What are your thoughts on Uganda’s comedy scene?
Just like the rest of African comedy scene, it is growing very fast, it can only get better. The other Ugandan comedians I have seen are all blessed with great potential and talent. With our speed I am very positive that comedy in Africa will be more recognised world over in less than two years.
Where did you get the name Basket <outh?
A random guy called me the name back stage after my 1st performance. Before then I was going by my real name ‘Bright’, but the way I was spitting unfiltered material at the crowd, must have led the guy to say it. It was actually a remark, or compliment, as the word basketmouth in Nigeria means someone who says it the way it is.
Do you have a basket mouth full of jokes?
I guess I do, 16 years in the game is good enough to make me feel I actually do.
Walk me through your education journey…
I obviously went to primary and secondary school and I studied sociology and anthropology at the University of Benin.
How did you join comedy?
I didn’t really join comedy, I just found myself here. Everything I was doing as a child kept directing me towards the path. I was just another funny child on the block and I remember my late elder brother’s friend introducing me to Eddie Murphy, he gave me a tape of his delirious stand up comedy, and that was when I knew that stand up comedy was what I was born to do. After watching Eddie, I told myself that I could do it and the rest was history. God has been there for me. My dreams came through with ease and pain, although with a lot of struggle and challenges, which actually made me strong.
What was life like growing up?
It was fun. I wish I can live that life again.
What was the start like?
It was really difficult as comedy was just growing in Nigeria, with only few comedians running it. I was the youngest then and I made my way slowly to where I have found myself. I came with a new style and the brand was unique, so I guess people were curious and embraced me, however before I was embraced, I had to go through hell to make my way to the stage and deliver. Trust me, nobody wanted to take the risk of giving a young child the mic to crack jokes, the few who gave me the opportunity did not regret it. My first four years were the foundation building phase, which was the first difficult phase, now maintaining the position I have found myself in is the most difficult. The early part of my career is the part I actually love the most.
Were you ever booed off stage?
Yes I have been booed off stage, about nine years ago and in all honesty, I loved that it happened. When you try something new and you win, you celebrate, but when you fail, you get wiser. I was trying a new style, but I got it wrong and I am wiser now.
What has kept you going?
The love for the art, the industry and the fans.
What inspires your jokes?
Everything. I just feed from everyone and everything.
What have been the highlights of your career as a joker?
Every part of my career has been a highlight, because everything gave birth to everything, every move I made and still make is what is leading me to where I am going.
What is the downside of being a comedian?
I can’t really say, maybe because people expect me to be funny all the time, I guess. However, that is not how it should be; I have a life to live, the comedian is the guy on stage, the guy at home or on the street is Bright. However, I can’t complain, it’s the life I chose.
You have done a number of shows with Patrick ‘Salvador’ Idringi…why did you choose him?
He is remarkably funny and talented and gives me a good show.
How do you rate him?
Timing, delivery, structure, appearance, confidence, crowd control, stage presence, maintained energy, spontaneity, raw talent, voice command, the ability to read and understand the crowd and most especially, a comedian must be effortlessly hilarious.
You will be on stage tonight, what should your fans expect?
They should expect the best from me.
Do you ever laugh at your jokes?
Sometimes I do, especially the ones I create on the stage.
If you had to do it all over again, would you remain a comedian?
Over and over again, there is nothing else I would love the way I love what I am and do, except if I am the president of Nigeria.
What’s your real full name?
Okpocha Bright Onyekwere
Who is Basket Mouth away from the stage?
That is a secret only my friends are privileged to know. However, from the surface, I am a shy individual, down to earth and very real to life and the people in it.
What kind of music do you enjoy?
Rock music, dancehall, rap, house….actually I think I am a lover of music in general.
Tell us about your family life
My family is the only sanity about me, they are the only part of my world that is still private to a large extent. I am blessed with three children and a beautiful wife and I love everything about that life, I live my life for them, everything I do now is for them.
How do you balance comedy and family?
They are different. Basket Mouth doesn’t follow me home, the only hard part is that I am always away, but with technology it has been easy to handle; we skype, facetime, and video calls
How do you handle your image in the media?
It is always hard to handle social media, so my escape from any form of damage on that ground is to stay away as much as I can. I live a safe life, so I have little to worry myself about.
What is your worst experience with the media?
The misunderstood rape joke
How did you handle the situation?
Like I said, I stay away, so I stayed away from it, now everyone is over it. And now I have just reminded them.
How important is a manager in an artist’s life?
A manager is the core of the artist. I have an artist manager and a talent manager, both playing different roles. When you pick the wrong people to manage you, it is the start of the end, because they represent you, are your voice and eyes, they know what the crowd wants and look out for you.
What have you achieved out of comedy?
Everything I am
What gives you joy?
My wife, children, siblings, my mum, friends, my extended family, my work, achievements, my life, health, the love I get from my fans, and many more things.