Popular comedian, actor and radio presenter Segun Ogundipe; stage name Lafup, talks to JANE KOLADE about his life, growing up, his art and how he was compared to stern-looking General Tunde Idiagbon because he never laughed as a child. Excerpts:
HOW did it all begin?
I had always known that entertainment would be it for me. I was not lively as a child as such, but I liked the idea of entertainment. The lively part of me was not obvious as I preferred to observe things. Music was what really caught my interest growing up: drama, cartoons, TV programmes like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Family Matters. I really liked to watch television. I was in the drama group, cultural group, and later on had a music group in school.
I am a church boy; always been, and will continue to be. I was in the choir. There was a year my sister was to have her birthday party, and we needed an MC. I felt that we had spent too much money already, and felt there was no point spending any more money to get an MC. I asked for the mic and anchored the party. People must have liked it because people in the area started asking me to anchor their events, either as MC or whatever.
You mentioned going for your PhD. As a rule when you find people pursuing a PhD, it means that they are pursuing a career in academia, is that the case with you?
That is actually my first love. If I were not doing comedy, two things I would definitely consider would be running a food place; because I love to cook, and I love to see people eat. Another love of mine is teaching. And you can’t teach people if you don’t feed them. Both go together, which is why I also put the food in entertainment. So it might seem that I have multiple personalities, but they are really one.
At what point did you realise that you wanted to pursue comedy as a career?
It was when I went to my mentor at the time, Steve Babaeko, and I discovered that he had access on his phone until 2014 back in 2010, and this was at a time when you had only five days access on your phone. That was how much he had recharged his phone, so I said to myself, “This guy has the best job.” And so my friends and I decided that that was what we were going to do.
So after a spell with Terra Kulture, I wanted to go into advertising as I didn’t do badly in the assignments he gave us. As I waited to see him, I got talking with a guy and he told me he was paid sixty thousand naira a month, when I easily made forty thousand a show each weekend. To my Ijebu sense, it just made sense to continue with comedy, so I tore up my CV and never looked back.
Were your parents supportive of your doing comedy?
My father is a typical Yoruba man and he wanted me to be an accountant because half of his friends were bankers. He wasn’t schooled, so he probably wanted me to study a professional course that he could show off to his friends, which is why I ended up in the commercial class instead of the pure arts where I belonged.
But the knowledge is not wasted, as the commercial angle in my businesses is purely monitored by me. I have a clear idea of the numbers. After a while, they had no choice, as they saw that I was independent anyway. I wouldn’t ask anybody to give me money.
When did you start having your own comedy show?
2005 at Ibadan; so, it has been ten years.
If you were not doing comedy, what would you be doing?
I would be teaching. I have always loved children’s church; teaching children values through music and drama. It is not just creative drama as an art, but it is also child psychology, child theatre/drama. But after a while, I changed churches, and the children no longer wanted to listen, preferring to chill with Lafup, so I had to stop that, although it was so painful.
Outside of comedy, do you do anything else?
I am a business owner, and have a few businesses I would not like to disclose. I do not own a joint, although I would like to own one. People like to drink alcohol; when they are happy, when they are sad, when they are celebrating and so on. I have some event servicing companies.
Not just products, but services related to events. We also supply security gadgets for events. I also consult for a couple of media communication companies. When they have a brief, they call me and we sit down and brainstorm to think up better ideas to do stuff. I also do TV, I work with Alibaba on the radio show Monday to Friday. I have been told by quite a number of friends, “Lafup, Wetin you no dey do sef?” But that is what my father taught me. If it brings in a legitimate buck, do it.
Are you ever completely satisfied with your work?
If I say I am not satisfied, I would be singularly ungrateful, because none of this is my making, but by the grace of God. I used to be a nobody from a humble background; never having a room, or bed to myself. Everything was a privilege, you had no rights. I grew up with a very kind mother despite the fact that she had very little. She was so kind that she shared all she had, so much so that we were not placed on the top of the list. She taught me to see that everything is a privilege.
And that you only have rights when you invest your time and sweat in something. I really don’t want to sound parochial, or like a church boy, as I am satisfied with all my failures, and all my successes. Because the failure has taught me some things, I have learnt that there are people I should not waste my time with. It has taught me to understand what people want. While my successes have taught me not to disrespect, or disregard my failures, so I am grateful to God, and all the wonderful, sweet angels I met on my way. I am happy with my life.
I am not there yet. I am a work in progress, and if you mention the top ten Nigerian comedians, I am not sure you would mention my name, so I want to really work until that is extremely obvious.
Tell us some challenges you have faced as a comedian
The challenges I face as a comedian are the same every Nigerian faces. Some of it is our handiwork, but we live in a country that is suffering. But you should not make rules that I should drive faster on a road that is not well built. But some of these challenges have made us tough, such that we have made miracles with what we have.
And I hope to do more. When I started doing comedy in Ibadan, there was no comedy there, but by the grace of God and God’s people, when you mention modern comedy in Ibadan, you must mention my name. If not, your conclusion would be baseless and void, because I decided to sit there when there was nothing. When there were only two or three radio stations; Oluyole FM, Premier FM. When there was no media talking about our work, or people attending shows, or even willing to pay for shows. I started my shows with fifty naira gate fee. It is getting better though. The challenges are minimal compared to the past.
As artistes, we are not artiste managers, or copyright protectors, and should not be expected to be good as managers, as the business administrators would. So we need government to provide us these things. If our overheads were not so high we could afford to pay good business managers, lawyers, agents, assistants, road managers, artiste managers. But bills are crazy, and the dollar to naira exchange rate is not helping matters.
Intellectual property rights should be a major concern. The greatest problem is that people are cheating artistes. People copy your work without acknowledging you. Many fellow artistes don’t even know that what they are doing is wrong; copying your material with reckless abandon, and it’s a major challenge.
What is your take on the Intellectual Property Rights bill?
First and foremost, I am not so clear about the details of the bill, but I would first like to comment with respect to what I do, and then look at the generality. It might seem selfish, but I believe that you have to have done something to experience it. But I need to know how it affects me as an individual, as we are the ones who know where the shoe pinches.
What was growing up like for you?
It was fun. I am an only son, and have two sisters. For quite a while, I was the youngest. My mother was always working, but anytime she was home, I always wanted to have something to tell her. I always asking questions as a child, and always going to the village on holidays as a grandma’s boy. I had an interesting childhood. Growing up was fun, it wasn’t luxurious, but it was not too downtrodden. My parents worked their asses off to give us the best. As poor as we were, we had ice-cream in our fridge, the sort of banana ice-cream that came on a stick.
Where did you grow up?
In Itire, Lagos State.
Are you married?
Yes, to a beautiful wife.
Do you have other mentors apart from Ali Baba?
I have people I look up to. Ali Baba would probably have stopped being my mentor but he has a heart. But I would like to send shout outs to the likes of Gbenga Adeyinka, Owen G. In the industry there are people I respect, and look up to. I respect every other artiste in the industry, from Okey Bakassi, to Julius Agwu, Basket Mouth, and so on.