Multi-skilled comedian, Teju Oyelakin, popularly known as Teju Babyface, has not only stunned and wowed Nigerians with his new brainchild – ‘The Teju Babyface Show’ – he has also put critics in their place not only by making the most of his divinely inspired flash of genius, but also by changing the standards in Nigerian TV shows. In this revealing interview with Isaac Oladipupo, the witty comedian opens up on his show, love life, women, and his plans to settle down ‘sooner than you think’. Have fun..!
Without any attempt of flattery, you’ve practically reinvented the quality of comedy show in Nigeria. What specifically spurred the delivery of your endearing ‘Teju Babyface Show’?
It was simply the next level for me. I’ve spent years building a brand as a comedian, after a while I knew I had to diversify, walk into other territories and make my mark. I prayed about it, talked to God and the people who inspire me, and the show was born, out of the zeal to create my own number one spot in life. Something God tells everyone to achieve.
How did you conceptualize the idea for the show? Tell us who and what contributed to its origin and development?
Ayo Olasoju of Tavia Technology was the first person to nudge me in that direction though I had over the years been a fan of many international award-winning comedy shows. I have tapes of Johnny Carson and Eddie Murphy. I enjoy David Letterman and Ellen Degeneres, so there’s a foundation I am coming from with the Teju Babyface Show. Like everything in life, it had to be nurtured first in my head, in my spirit, with God, with men, funds, ideas, and resources had to be in place. The show in a short time has evolved into something not only witty, but inspirational. Of course, my story is never complete without mentioning the influence of Sam Adeyemi, the senior pastor of Daystar Christian Centre. That guy na bros.
Why did you choose the name ‘Teju Babyface Show’
It’s a brand; there’s no point changing a winning formula. We are building a structure that will house everything from the brand name.
What exactly are you trying to communicate and achieve with the show?
It’s a family show. Something we miss having around here. We want to be like the neighbour who knocks at your door with a cup of tea in the morning, or a bowl of amala at night. Those kinds of qualities are lost with trends and civilization. It’s our way of making you giggle, laugh if you want, and just enjoy the simple pleasures of being alive and kicking.
Such ideas are quite expensive to run. At inception, how and where did you get the funding to run the show?
God uses men to validate visions and I was lucky and blessed to meet some of those people who were willing to invest in my dream. I will remain eternally grateful to Messers Fola Adeola, Tunji Ogunwusi, Muiz Banire and Tade Ogidan. It’s been a struggle but we are going to break the mold at some point, and start to smile to the bank.
So far, how will you personally measure the impact of the show, and what major turnarounds has the show brought to you?
We host the best of Nigerian celebrities and icons. It’s amazing the people who have responded positively to the show. We have had an inspiring list – from 9ice to Kate Henshaw, to Dr. Sid and his father – Justus Esiri, legendary actor. To Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Mrs. Abimbola Fashola, Hon. Abike Dabiri Erewa, King Sunny Ade, The Deputy Governor of Lagos, Princess Sarah Sosan, Genevieve Nnaji, and so many others. The feedback has been awesome. If we had any doubts at all, the responses keep gearing us further.
We’ve had quite a number of comedy shows in Nigeria, what makes the Teju Babyface Show different from others?
It’s in the delivery. The package. We have a focus. We are going somewhere.
What other elements do you plan to add to this show with time?
I think all the elements are there, embellishing them comes as the show progresses. There are so many ideas dancing in my head. So many times, I am restricted by funds. But as we evolve all my ideas will find expression in the show, and the viewers will see just how eclectic the idea really is.
In your view, has it been worth the while running the show, and in what ways?
Of course, it’s my dream. I am happy to see it take flight. We have our challenges, the system that obtains in many TV stations is one that can turn you grey overnight, but we are not giving up, we are going to crack a solution. Just in case i sounded ambigous there, then let me say it quite clearly: the current model for running television business in Nigeria is WRONG!!! WRONG WRONG WRONG! It literally sucks the life out of the independent producer. (this is the part where I am supposed to appeal to the Government to do something about it but I will pass. No be evertin dem suppose dey tell person. Nuff said).
What has been the major challenge of the show since you began?
Erm…you mean apart from the one I just so blatantly referred to above? Well, again it’s the business environment around here. Every pioneer has to go the distance and then go some more. And then twice more. And then again. Sometimes we have a herd mentality. So you have a wonderful product and need sponsorship. So you pitch to 25 companies. Only 2 brand managers will catch the vision. The rest will not even smell it if you held it under their noses for a week. The remarkable thing however is that the moment the 2 who caught the vision do something about it and make a success of it, then everyone CAN’T WAIT to start the same thing. I think it’s a human failing and not a Nigerian one though. Perhaps I am culpable in some instances myself.
Practically speaking, how do you see the Teju Babyface Show in five years?
Bigger than even I can imagine. The dream is to own a TV structure like BBC, with a team that produces, directs, and airs world-class programming. Something bigger than Fox, bigger than CNN. That’s where I see myself. That’s what keeps the fire burning.
Now, you are undoubtedly one of Nigeria’s finest comedians. What’s been responsible for your consistent success in the industry?
I could fill a whole book with that answer. In the end I will have to put it all in one word: GOD. (okay let me expatiate with a few more words). God will send you mentors. Listen to them.
Aside your show and comedy, what other jobs pay your bills?
I come as a well-equipped Compere for events. And at some point, I was channeling the funds from that end to sustain the Teju Babyface Show.
After the Diamond Ring, you’ve not been featuring in the movie scene again. What’s the reason for this, and have you any plan to commence acting again?
Not really. I am focusing on the Show. That’s my passion. My primary assignment.
Does the prospect of parenting scare you at all?
Absolutely! Everyday of the week and twice on Sunday! It scares the pants off my back!!!
On a serious note now, when exactly is Teju planning to walk down the aisle?
Sooner than you think!
Tell us about the lady in your life…
She’s pretty (personally I like to use the word ‘hot’, but her mom might read this!)
Describe your kind of lady in five words…
Loves me more than EVERYTHING!
Tell us about your weirdest experience with a lady.
Hehehehe.. Wouldn’t you love to know?(her mom is still reading remember? Probably called the dad too at this point)
Favourite American comedian
Favourite Nigerian actress
Erm… Mercy Johnson(forget the acting part for a minute, will you?)
Role models in Nigeria’s comedy industry
Everyone who started before me and is still holding on strong. There are about 7 of them o. Basorge Tariah, Ali Baba, Okey Bakassi, The Late Mohammed Danjuma, Julius Agwu, Tee A… (you can add yourself here if i forgot you). Oooooh, and i love my brother Basketmouth too!
What would you die for?
Erm… I would like to say Jesus at this point but He would have to help me if that time reach o. E easy?!
Want to become the world famous chairman and Chief executive Officer of a world wide broadcast Network spanning the entire globe with employees in every nation on God’s earth.