Stand-up comedian, vocalist and actor, Bowoto Jephthah, popularly known as Akpororo, tells Blessing Enenaite why he has stayed true to his craft, his greatest achievement thus far and other issues
You have been in the industry for over a decade. Can you briefly tell us your experience?
So far, I will say I am favoured by God. I have not stayed as long as some people but I am favoured because of the things I have achieved. I will say my experience and how far I have come in the industry is as a result of God’s grace and favour.
Did you know that you’ll come this far when you started?
Yes, I knew I would go far in comedy but not as fast as I have. That is why I said I am favoured. When favour speaks for one, things that are meant to be difficult will become easy.
Why did you choose comedy as a career?
Well, I don’t know, I play football, I can dance, I can play snooker, and table tennis. I can sing but comedy is exceptional. It was comedy that broke the yoke. I have a lot of talents but one paved the way. That’s why I’ll reiterate that I am blessed with comedy. I did not learn it or rehearse it. I just open my mouth and talk. Your gift will make a way for you, as the bible says. My gift made a way for me and poverty disappeared. Once your gift makes a way for you, that is money.
What are some of the hard lessons that you have learnt as an entertainer?
To be frank, I do not think I have any hard lessons. The only issue I have as an entertainer is that some of my clients in the past still want to pay the same appearance fee now. They forget that if I am no longer funny, they would go for other people. Since we are still doing the work and we are keeping that pace, they should try and move with the new trend.
Have you ever thought of giving up on comedy?
No, I have not thought about giving up comedy but I am doing more music presently. I discovered that one can do three things and do them a hundred per cent well. Presently, I am working on my album and it is a musical album. I want to break into the gospel industry. By December, I will do my listening party/concert.
There is a large influx of social media comedians, skit makers and content creators, how much has this affected your brand as an ace comedian?
Akpororo is Akpororo. The sky is wide enough for everyone to fly. What will be yours, will be yours. Moreover, stand-up comedians are different from skit makers. We are not the same. The ideas and manner of execution are different.
Will you say that the influx of newcomers “spoiled the market” for some of the old hands like you in the comedy game?
I do not think so. Every comedian has their client. Normally, no father will pray that his child should not be bigger than him. The old ones in the industry are aware that a time would come that the younger ones would overtake them. So, the new ones are welcome. Besides, I am still young; but they are welcome.
You’re classified as one of the most successful comedians in Nigeria. Can you tell us what it took you to build your brand to this level?
Like I have earlier stated, my success comes from God. He is the one running everything. It is grace that took me to this level, not transport fare. I am grateful for his protection, for the brand and the fans too; in fact, I am really grateful to them (fans). Whenever I go on stage, people still cheer me on as if I just started comedy. I am really happy and I am grateful to the “Roro Nation.”
How do you get inspiration for your comic acts on stage?
I just come on stage and perform. But most times, when my pastor is preaching, I get jokes from him. At times, I look into the state of the nation and create jokes out of it. When you hear me freestyle, I just do it. I don’t plan it. Then from my freestyles, I create jokes.
Comedians were not known to be this successful in the past, what do you think changed the game?
I think comedians were not taken seriously then. But now, you cannot do without comedy. What is keeping Nigeria is comedy and music. If you want to live long, you need us. I feel people appreciate us more now. That is why it is easier now to see a comedian buying cars and building houses.
What were the toughest challenges you had to contend with when you found yourself amongst talented comedians/skit makers?
The challenge I had was that people were expecting too much from me. They expect that I would crack different jokes at different shows but it does not work that way. These jokes are not even easy to create. Another thing people need to know is that it is easy to “blow’’ and get to the top but to remain at the top is big work.
Comedians have become known for marrying beautiful wives, did you deliberately seek out a beautiful woman?
No, I have always loved beautiful women. With the way I am, you do not expect me to marry someone that is not fine. In fact, the only reason I can do that is if God tells me to marry someone that is not fine, with a promise that he would adjust her face later. That is the only condition on which I would marry someone that is not beautiful. But when we talk about beauty, it goes beyond the face and the shape. My definition of beauty includes face, shape, understanding, wisdom, and other things that a woman possesses.
What’s your greatest achievement so far?
My greatest achievement so far is building a house at Okokomaiko and Amen Estate in Lagos State. Then, having a street named after me at Okokomaiko.
The entertainment sector is very competitive which sometimes leads to unhealthy rivalry. How have you coped over these years?
Firstly, I love competitions. Secondly, I am not at loggerheads with anyone. But if anyone is ready to be at loggerheads with me, I am here. I don’t have any time for unhealthy rivalry.
What do you do before going on stage to entertain?
Before I go on stage, I pray and commit my performance into the hands of God.
Do you still have stage fright?
Not at all, I don’t have stage fright. However, I used to have it but I have overcome it a long time ago. No matter where the stage is, even if it is under water or inside fire, as long as I want to perform there, I will do what I know how to do best.
You spoke about diversifying into gospel music too; do you think you will find it as easy as comedy?
I was into music before comedy. This is the main reason I want to release my album. I have dropped some singles but I do not get gospel music nominations except for the one I did with Testimony Jaga, which he featured me in. Apart from that, I have not got any gospel music award nomination. I have won “Best Collaboration with Testimony Jaga, Best Song of the Year for ‘’Hallelujah,’’ but I am still concerned about the big awards.
What are the most valuable lessons you have learnt as a husband and father?
One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned is that family is first.
Sometimes scandals rock marriages of celebrities. How have you been able to stay out of troubles?
I am not bothered because my marriage is in God’s hands. He knows the best and I just allow Him to lead. In marriage, love comes first. But there will be a time that love will disappear and one would need understanding. I try my best not to worry about my marriage. I just hand over everything to God.
What’s your advice to celebrity couples in general, especially with pressure from fans and social media?
My candid advice is that they (celebrities) should hand over their marriage to God.
Are you in support of couples putting up their marriage on social media or do you prefer they keep it private?
No, social media is a fake life. Until people understand it that way, maybe by then, the lives of many will change. I repeat, social media life is fake. On social media, people who do not have will act like they have. On social media, you will see someone who is not in a relationship advising someone in a relationship. It is on this online space that someone would say that you don’t need a man. Meanwhile, the person will get behind you to marry and have children. The wise thing is not to expect the right answer from social media. If you read some comments, you may develop high blood pressure. As someone who is married, I believe you ought to have someone whom you respect and honour in your life. Those are the kind of people you listen to, not people on social media. There will be issues in marriage. At times, you and your partner would quarrel. However, you should take it to people who you respect and honour and not seek advice from social media. That’s why the bible tells us to take our issues to the elders but many people do not care about elders anymore. If my wife and I quarrel, we will sleep over it. The next day, we will settle the issues. The next person you want to go into a relationship with may be crazier than your present partner. So, settling the issue is better.
You have won a number of awards as a comedian. What other feats do you wish to attain?
I would love to win big gospel music awards. I would also love to win Grammy Awards in the gospel category. But we will start from somewhere. The world should get ready for me. My forthcoming album would be one of the best.
What has been the most memorable moment in your career?
That would be when Airtel signed me as its ambassador. I did three years with them and I was very excited. I think I am the only comedian to achieve that with them. It was not just for adverts, it was a full ambassadorship and I gave my best. I cannot forget that.
How did you get the Airtel ambassadorship?
The company called me. They asked me to do an advert, which I did. The day I went to the company with the agency that gave me the contract to do the advert, that was the day Airtel said they would sign me as an ambassador. The story changed when they saw me. That is why I talked about favour and grace repeatedly.
Do you have plans to retire from comedy?
I cannot retire from myself but I am not going to do comedy forever. I was born with it and I did not study it. It will get to a point, I won’t do it again. But the name will still be there. “Roro House” will still be there.
What’s the idea behind the street praise you do at Okokomaiko?
I noticed some people do not like to preach on the streets. Apart from that, when some of them go out to preach, the words they tell the people may not align with them. Street is different from the church. Jesus will come for people outside the church. That is why I put it upon myself to do street praise. It is the vision Jesus gave to me. I am preaching through music. I gather my singers and instrumentalists. We don’t involve any pastor. When we are done singing, we do our altar call. Then the people who come for altar call can later go to the church.
You seem to be more comfortable staying in Okokomaiko than staying on the Island. Why is that?
Okokomaiko is for work. I get my style of comedy from there. However, Amen Estate is for my family. If I stay at Amen Estate, it would look like I have arrived. At Okokomaiko, I can simply look at the streets and get jokes from there. That aside, I am more at Okokomaiko because I am the music director of my church there.
Do you plan to be a pastor in the future?
Not at all. But you can call me an evangelist because that is what I do.
What’s your most embarrassing moment on stage so far?
It was many years ago at a wedding at FESTAC, Lagos State. I did not know I had just five minutes to perform. The person who gave me the job did not inform me of the timing. My time was up before I finished my paparazzi. I was not able to crack my jokes and sell myself to my audience. And I was not known then. It was quite embarrassing, and to make matters worse, I was not even paid.
What are some of your most memorable moments on stage?
The first would be Laff and Jams with Basketmouth at Awolowo Road, Ikoyi. Then the next one would be AY Live in 2012.
What do you think can help to improve the entertainment/comedy industry?
The government should invest more in the entertainment industry. Mr President should put more effort in the industry.
Some comedians have said that they have to read widely to master the art of comedy, is it the same for you?
There are comedians who read to get their jokes. For me, I don’t. I can look at someone and have what to say. I can watch a movie and use the storyline to get my jokes. That is my style.
How do you unwind?
I just gather with my Roro family and we talk. I love to play. At times we drink garri, buy beans and bread, or play on the streets.
How do you spoil yourself when on vacation?
I have never gone on vacation before but I will try it one day.
What’s the most expensive thing that you have bought during a shopping spree?
It is shoes. I love foot wears.
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