Comedian and singer, Koffi Dagoro aka Koffi is no doubt one of the few comedians who started the business of standup comedy when there was little or nothing to show for it. In this chat with E24-7 MAGAZINE’S EMMANUEL OMENE-JOHNSON, the University of Lagos graduate of Theater Arts speaks on his career and other issues. Excerpts…
How would you describe your experience in the competitive comedy industry?
It is the grace of God that has sustained me over the years. It is neither by my expertise nor professionalism; I have been here for 15 years and the fan base is still waxing stronger. The work is improving while the platform is getting bigger.
Should we call you a comedian or a singer?
I am a comedian who is able to express himself in other ways. I am a full package of entertainment, and I started as a thespian on stage. I then moved from full blown comedy to music.
What do you mean a thespian on stage?
I started with a group called Theater 15 in the University of Lagos.
Of the three parts that you are, which has been the most rewarding?
Comedy is what I am known for, and that is what brings food to the table. I am a compere who humorously does things, but I do music too. Music helps me to push through barriers. Acting is my first love; it is something that I am trained to be, but comedy is what I was born with. It is what I didn’t need to learn. I can do it on any level; any sphere or medium. So, comedy pays the bills while others are value added services that I use to express the brand.
Despite being a successful comedian, don’t you think you might have done better as a thespian?
Drama is quite limited in itself. With stand-up comedy, I can function in a lot of ways. Drama, most times, has to be scripted, except if it is slapstick. It must follow certain rules. There must be a script, a director, actors and other things. I can’t be a solo actor. But with comedy, I can be a Master of Ceremony somewhere today and tomorrow, I am a comedian elsewhere. Drama is restrictive; and if you have expressive talents, you shouldn’t limit yourself. If I had stayed as a stage or dramatic actor, I might have become famous, but then, would it have been commensurate with my finances? I don’t think so! Anyway, talents shouldn’t be buried based on our own love. Yes, I love drama but we are in Nigeria where you have to pay bills.
Does it mean you wouldn’t have been able to pay your bills with acting alone?
That’s not what I said. What I said is that the reason I didn’t stick to being an actor only is because I can easily do a lot more with being a comedian. I’m not saying people are not making money from stage acting; they are.
Why did you go into comedy at the time you did when it wasn’t really financially promising?
We blossom into full-time comedians doing what we know how to do best. We were having fun while money started coming, and then we got serious with it. Yes, in the past, comedy as a brand was not tailored towards the corporate world. It was just customized towards drama and expressions on TV and at social gatherings. That is how the Jaguas and Baba Salas came to be. But a new age came when corporate clients wanted comedians to represent their brands. That is how we entered the age of dressing in suits and ties. It isn’t that those who came before us were not good enough; it was that society was not ready for them at that time. We were just the ones who got lucky when society was ready.
Are the older generation of comedians like you not afraid of the threat younger comedians like Akpororo pose to you?
There is no way you want to categorise comedy in Nigeria that you would not put in the higher hierarchy. Nobody throws away any known comedian in this country; they must fit in somewhere. Comedy in itself is a body of brothers. Everybody encourages everybody. There is no way anybody can be pushed away; we are the ones that encourage ourselves, it is not the media.
Are your new films going to be better than AY’s ’30 Days in Atlanta’?
There is no challenge; there is no comparison at all. AY has his brand, and I have mine. I do what I do; AY does what he does. There is no reason to compare us. Our story lines and attitudes can never be the same. I can’t do what AY has done just to please anybody. I have my storyline and my depth and he has his different approach. I don’t want people to go to the cinema to watch the same thing twice.
Is this a ploy by you and others like you to push out the established ones in Nollywood?
The truth is that most of the comedians you know today actually started from television. The first expression of a comedian is dramatic as he is telling his jokes. While expressing himself, he is actually acting. Now, we are in a society where it is necessary to push your brand to the extra mile. It will shock you to know that it is more expensive to organise a standup comedy show like ‘Koffi Live’ than to shoot a movie. After making noise for about three months, a show ends in one day. Meanwhile, movies still trend for a long time after release. That is the reason making movies is more impactful than doing comedies. We are all trying to meet up with the yearning of our fan base, and nothing more.
Can we call comedians people who act foolish to make money?
The word commercial is actually what the public appreciates. If somebody does what makes the whole town go agog, he is not a foolish person. He is just doing what he knows best and it is the public that is accepting it.
When do you hope to retire from comedy or the stage?
A comedian never stops performing. How do you keep yourself alive if you stop? Comedy has no age limit.