Popular comedian and actor, Koffi Nuel, popularly known as Koffi Tha Guru, speaks to JOY MARCUS about comedy and other issues in the entertainment industry
You have been in the industry for over a decade. What has helped you remain relevant?
It has been God’s grace, consistency, persistence, originality, and a genuine fan base. Also, I have been able to render quality and value-added services to my clients.
How did you start your comedy career?
I started comedy just for the fun of it at neighborhood birthday parties in Bariga, Lagos, at the time. Then, when I got into the University of Lagos, I did comedy at departmental events till it blossomed.
Who gave you the first opportunity?
I don’t think any established entertainer gave me a platform. I moved up the ranks in my theatre club in UNILAG from being an assistant soundman, crowd filler, music, and dance director, opening act for stand-up comedians, and finally a supporting actor.
How were you able to surmount some of the challenges you faced at the start of your career?
I had to stay responsible for my people to see that I was on the right path. My dad was not as worried as my mum but eventually, she saw the bigger picture after my first show at Muson Centre in 2004.
When you started comedy, did you know you would eventually delve into music and acting?
Not at all; it was a gradual metamorphosis. I trained as an actor in a group called Theatre 15 and I picked music along the way. The support of family and fans also encouraged me.
It is believed that many comedians repackage jokes of their colleagues. What’s your take on that?
Most people are stuck in the same circle of comedians. They should make an effort to seek out people outside their box. New things happen every day and comedians are talking about them. The number of comedians in Nigeria today is not as much as the individual events happening daily in the country but we seem to concentrate on a chosen few, thereby stretching their limit and stressing the system. This invariably puts pressure on the comedians to deliver, hence appearing everywhere with almost the same materials. Others follow suit with similar habits and same materials to stay relevant. Meanwhile, if the events are spread across the board, you would see a potpourri of talents with diverse content.
Do you share the opinion that social media comics are gradually taking over from stand-up comedians?
There are different areas of comedy, and everyone have their paths. John Okafor (Mr Ibu) and Nkem Owoh (Osuofia) are still in business though Alibaba seemed like a threat in the early days. Today, Ali is in business and people like Lasisi Elenu are also in business. No one is taking anybody’s market. An online comedian cannot function as a stand-up comedian, same way a stand-up comedian can never be Saka or Frank Donga.
released a huge body of work in the past few years. My ethnic variety show, Awada Express, has been a viewer’s delight on Africa Magic for the past two years. Throughout 2016, I ran a monthly comedy night live as a platform for up and coming talents. Blame whatever you don’t see on mainstream media. Lately, they seem to select who they want the world to see.
What are some of the projects you are currently working on?
I just premiered a new movie on June 12 titled, Mumble Jumble, and we are set for a campus tour to reach our targeted youth audience. A new music video, Just a Fan, was released on April 1. Also, Omije was released last year after the Otedola Bridge fire incident. My UK comedy tour will kick off this year too.
Why do you think comedians fade off the scene too quickly?
Perhaps the Nigerian factor of business sustenance. Hardly can you find any corporate brand surviving beyond 10 years. A comedian is also a brand that any of the prevailing factors can affect. Also, comedians do not generally succumb to kissing butts to stay afloat or do any form of industry associated nuances.
How do you think the government can promote the comedy industry?
Government sincerely has more on its hands to deal with, hence the inability to see the potential of the entertainment industry as a whole. If the government can provide subsidies, have intervention funds and revive certain platforms to conform with current trends, a lot of comedians and entertainers will find their footing.
What do you think an entertainer must do in order to remain relevant?
To be relevant in the industry, you need to be original, persevering, persistent and most importantly, prayerful.