Popular comedian Bright Okpocha known as Basket Mouth is one of the leading brands in the comedy sector and fast becoming a force to reckon with on the international scene, having successfully organised tours IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES in the last couple of years.. Happily married with 2 kids,Basketmouth started his career as a drummer in churches and later became a rapper before comedy came calling during his days at the University of Benin..He delved into professional comedy 17 years ago and has over the years,succeffully pulled off a lot of hit annual shows starting from his debut Laffs7 Jamz,Basketmouth Uncensored, Lord of the Ribs, and African Kings of Comedy. His annual comedy show is always a big hit as he has a panache for perfection and quality content. City People Publisher Seye Kehinde and Vivian Onuorah had an interactive session with the humour merchant at Eko Hotel& Suites Victoria Island,Lagos.Looking debonair in his native attire and signature short dread, the controversial but well loved comedian took us down the memory lane on his life, career and marriage. He also gave his opinion on the current Political situation in Nigeria and the role his colleagues played at the recently held elections.Excrepts.
What has kept you busy in the last few months?
I have been a specatator; the country has been quite entertaining with the politics and all the drama. I have not been busy that much here just the same little bit of work here and there and taking care of family, nothing much.
What about outside the country?
This year in February I did a tour in the UK, we did 5 cities and it was quite successful. We were at Birmingham, Manchester, Abedden, London, Nottingham and they were very good shows. After that I took a short break and I started work on the comedy central gig. Those are the major works I have done till date.
How has the response been so far, comparing the reception here and that outside the country?
I have been doing this for 17 years and my core point is Lagos,Nigeria.I won’t say there is nothing new anymore but they “don see me finish for here na”(laughs) .Yes the materials are still fresh and we still try as much as possible to entertain people but out there am fresh to them.AM like a breadth of fresh air, this is like something they have never seen before so it’s more exciting and when they call me on stage the response is always flat but when am exiting stage ,you will see that everyone is excited. So that excitement behind the fact that you are not known yet you make something great out of nothing, that’s how I feel when I work out there and am more excited working out there but in terms of money, apart from the Alist comedians in America, there is no other country that pays better than Nigeria in the whole world. That’s the truth.
You have a particular set of comedians you always go on tour with, why do you always go for them?
People must have noticed that it was like a routine, me Buchi and Bovi,I go Die and I go save,after a while it now became Buchi because Bovi now has his own One Man Comedy Show in the Uk and I can’t over flog his brand. But for my recent tour, I went for the upcoming ,both known and unkwonw.My criteria was as long you are original,fresh,hungry for success and so far, it was a very exciting show. Right now I have changed my pattern, instead of carrying the same set of people every time, I want to spread it out so everyone benefits from it.
Talking about Bovi, you seem to have a special interest in him, what brought you two together?
When I met him the first time, I liked what I saw. He was quite remarkable and apart from the fact that he is an interesting person, he is quite brilliant and smart, am very picky and I feed from people so if am dragging anybody close to me, it has to be somebody I can feed from and he can as well benefit from me, so we became friends beyond colleagues but what caught my interest was the fact that it was obvious that this guy was a time bomb going to explode, and we have been friends ever since then, we have been doing great things together.
For your fans here who are familiar with your brand, what new things are you planning for them?
Because of the fact that we have been doing the same thing over and over again here, I didn’t want to bore the fans here which was the reason I kept changing it. I did BaskethMouth Uncensored, for 5 years, then I switched to Lord of the Ribs then African Kings of Comedy, so I keep changing it because you don’t want to be giving them the same thing and what am working on this year is something totally different from what I have ever done before. It’s called Basket mouth All-stars Comedy Jams or Concert.
When is that coming up?
In November and we are starting the tour in June which is going to end in November so the grand finale is in November or October.
Your shows always have better content than all other comedy shows, but the problem seems to be the publicity, what are you doing about that?
I think we all have different targets, I don’t do numbers, I prefer quality show with good content. My publicity is actually intense but we try as much as possible not to go beyond what we have bargained. So if I do 4000 seats, I try not to sell beyond that, I don’t fancy people standing at my show because they will complain, I want people to pay money and enjoy themselves.
You have a very unique packaging unlike most of your colleagues, what informs that?
Most people don’t know I have been running an entertainment management company for about 10 years now and we have some rich clients out there. Because of that, the experience that I have gathered from working with these big brands has helped me with my shows. I have made mistakes and corrected myself. When I was doing laffz and Jamz, 10 years ago, it was every month and I did it for straight 3 years. So for those years it was like me going to school, it took a while before we got it right so all that has helped. Also the fact that I travel alot, not necessarily for holidays but whenever I hear there is a concert going on, I have agents out there and they give me all access tickets. I travel there go back stage and see how they do things and that helps me when I come back to Nigeria. It makes me deliver a good show.
You are brave and quite controversial; you always take on your fellow entertainers on your social media, why?
Am the kind of person, who doesn’t just think it, I also say it. A lot of people are very withdrawn, am not like that. It’s a free world and there is freedom of speech, I also expect people to say same things about me if I mess up. Am very vocal and I don’t hunger for controversy. But anything I say they grab it from my instagram or twitter. Normally I say those things for just my followers and entertaining them but of course the blogs will come for it.However, I always say the truth, if they can start behaving themselves I will stop talking. But I try to bring sanity to the industry because there are so much crap going on. You see some of the entertainers they will go and snap beside a car in a car shop and be lying that they bought a car. Whatever you put out people grab it and the artistes know. Someone will rent a house and say Baba God thank you for blessing me, giving you the impression they have bought it.That’s fraud as far as am concerned.
How do they react to you when you meet them?
They already know am like that and I don’t hold anything back. But I always apologise to them. Like the last time I slammed Dbanj, I actually reported myself to him, I buzzed him to tell hm, Wizkid is my pal so we are all cool. Since it’s not that deep, they don’t take it serious, I don’t hit below the belt.
Why didn’t you support nor campaign for any party, unlike most of your colleagues?
It’s safer not to do so, my belief is personal and I feel I shouldn’t throw it to the face of people,
But how did it feel when a lot of your colleagues were going towards one party?
I won’t judge them because most of them may have done it because of money, some might have done it because they believe in that person but I know 90 percent of them did it for the money and am not that kind of person that will sell myself. I know I have a lot of fans that look up to me and am from the street. The poor people are not really enjoying the government and it will be wrong for me because I now have a voice, I will shit on their face. When they pay you and you sell your vote that’s it, and that’s where it ends. I have never heard that somebody that supports a campaign was now appointed. SO you are enjoying that money for just one week and suffer for 4 years. I would never support that except if the person is loved by many because truth be told, these people on the street are the ones that made me, I can’t disrespect them. I will rather stay and watch, it’s safer.
Before comedy what were you doing?
I used to be a DJ then I started playing drums ,keyboards and I was being paid 2000 per month for playing drums,500 every Sunday as a drummer at different churches, Assemblies of God, Christ Apostolic church,Reedeemed and then when I went to school and saw there were many drummers ,I realised I couldn’t catch up. But comedy had always been there but it was just for fun,I thought everybody were funny because all my friends were funny. It was weird the way I discovered my comedy talent. We were on stage rapping and the crowd were just booing us, so I got upset and then I used to rap well, I could rap for several hours, they used to call it wording then. SO I killed the music and told my guys to chill out, then I started hitting everybody I could pick out, I was yabbing everybody and the highlight of the show was funny. When I wanted to sign out, the promoter urged me to continue so I went on for about 45 minutes. When I was done, some guys came to me and said can you stop rapping and start doing comedy, Guy you killed that
What year was that?
That was in 1998,so I was like are you sure? They said yes. That was how I started doing comedy, I never knew money could come from there, and when they gave me first fee, it was 150 naira. The guy actually promised 300 but after the gig, the guy took off. I used to charge according to what we wanted to cook. If what we need to cook a pot of food was 250, I would 250 naira(laughs).After a while, my manger encouraged me to move the fee high because I was doing every gig in school back then. I pushed it up to 500,they paid,I pushed it to 800 they paid and we did again for 2000 and the guys paid.I said ok this serious and that was how it all started. The demand was getting high and we took advantage of it.
Outside comedy, what kind of person are you?
Am a very shy person, most people don’t know that. My son is extremely shy and my friends are like how can your son be so shy and you are like this, I always tell them to forget about what they see,Basketmouth is a character I created, the real me is a very shy person. If you watch closely especially when am with a new set of people, am always timid then after a while, when I put myself together I function better. Am very homely, you hardly see me going to clubs and all that.Responsibilties will make you change, when you have kids you realise you don’t live for yourself anymore. People say am temperamental but the thing is that you can’t change the perception of people about you. The people that say that am temperamental are those who must have pissed me off, am human and will react easily but right now am able to control myself. For those who say am proud, am not going defend myself because I know who I am, they say pride goes before a fall but I have been doing this for 17 years, if am genuinely proud I should have fallen by now. Trust me God is extremely partial with me and has blessed me extremely. People who say am proud are just intimidated by my success and they want to use that to compensate their failure. As long as God is happy with me, am fine.
What are some other endorsements you have got, asides Glo?
There is Sure Bet, there was Malta Guiness,There is Kia motors and Dana Air, for now.
Are you romantic?
I think I am, if not my wife won’t have fallen for me,I try.
How did she actually fall?
I was very persistent and I fought hard.
How did you two meet?
I was promoting a show back then I think in 2003 or 4 and I was right in front of her hostel in Unilag.She walked past and she was like hey Basket mouth, then my fame had just started growing. And she hailed me and walked past. Then I turned and saw her, she was beautiful, and she is still beautiful..For the first time in my life ,I walked after a woman. I asked her for her name and number. She gave me a fake number and I called some guy started insulting me. SO I went back to her hostel and waited, I think I did that for about 3 days before I finally saw her again. Then when I saw her, I told her why would you give me a fake number? I insisted and collected her real number but when I called her, she was extremely rude to me. SO I tried and pushed hard,I was really persistent and she finally fell. I did everything I could. The thing with women is as long as you give them the time and attention, you will break through.
What has kept you two ,with all the women and controversy back then
The thing is that I loved her right from the start and we understood ourselves, she is very honest and tells me the truth. If I mess up she will tell me, she doesn’t pretend and I like people that are real. We are both not perfect but together we created ourselves. She tolerated a lot of crap and it eventually paid off. Am happy she had that patience.
How did you propose?
I didn’t kneel down, I just asked her. We already had a son so it was more like bound to happen, so it wasn’t that outright romantic. I can’t remember how I asked but it wasn’t remarkable.
Why don’t you step out together?
We don’t and that’s intentional, she is the only privacy that I still have. Am too exposed an d if she becomes that too it won’t be nice. I don’t want to expose her to the point where people start talking stuffs about her or taking jabs at her.AM strong enough and I have got a thick skin but not for her. Let there be a balance, since am out there let her be inside.AM a very private person,.I was forced to be on instagram if not you wont see me posting stuff about me or my family out there.
How do you cope with challenges?
From the beginning, that’s the way am wired. Challenges are more like motivations for me. When something is difficult that’s when I want to do it, I started doing One Man Comedy when I knew no one had pulled it off. Am that kind of person when things go bad,I go after it. I face the difficult ones more than the easy ones. I love challenges and if there is no challenge,I feel bored.
For your upcoming show, what should we expect, any international act?
If I get good sponsors, I have a lot of foreign musicians that would want to come but for comedians, they are mostly my friends and can give me good discounts and all that. It’s more difficult with the musicians.However,am trying to do something that will be out of this world, like after my gig here last year,I went to do some other gigs that opened my eyes, things will be different right now, am my own competition,.
How do you achieve that?
I never get satisfied with anything I do,I finish a gig and am like bright is that the best you can do,I don’t even like to watch myself because I will keep criticising myself. People may love it but I always feel it would have been better.
How do you prepare for your jokes before you get on stage
I write and take notes on any potential ideas I have and start building. Trust me our job is difficult, I try to develop the ideas and make it better. I try it out with friends when we are hanging out and I don’t tell them it’s mine so they don’t encourage me. When they genuinely laugh, then I know it’s a good one. I also pray a lot before I go to a show. I still panic before shows till date.
Do you drink before you come on stage?
No I don’t,I used to when I started but not anymore ,I pray to God right before I get on stage