In case you have heard of a Ghanaian comedian who got a Range Rover jeep from Togolese ace footballer, Emmanuel Adebayor after doing what he sure knows how to do best, he is Benson Ohene Oduro Boateng, popularly known as Funny Face. From a yogurt seller, he worked his way to become one of Ghana’s kings of comedy with special love for children and the less privileged. ENCOMIUM Weekly’s Bukola Edah cornered the Swagon-Papa, as fondly called by his fans and he opened up on his career, family and what inspires him to keep giving back, especially to the less privileged and much more.
When hunger strikes you; you will discover your talent. I used to stay in Dansoman, going up and down, no money, no food, until hunger struck and I discovered the real me. I told myself, I need to do something to make money, and I asked what is the best thing I am good at, and I realized I can fool myself to make money (laughs). So, I gradually started going out. There was a programme on Radio Gold called Toli Masters. It’s more of humour, an Open Mic like the one AY does, but in Ghana it was called Toli Masters, that was in 2006. I’ve been doing this for a while, it’s not easy you know. I won the competition in 2006 and it started from there. But my breakthrough came with my comedy programme Chokor Trotro in 2009 and I topped it up when I performed at The Night Of a Thousand Laughs in 2010.
Tell us about the car gift you got from Emmanuel Adebayor?
Emmauel Adebayor is a lovely and free person. He has a big heart. When I say a big heart, I mean he is a philanthropist. I wanted to be a philanthropist, but I discovered I don’t have that kind of money (laughs). So, I started planting green grass where orphans lived, but they told me I can’t just be planting grass because they can’t eat the grass, they are not goats (laughs). They said I should do something with money, and I said I don’t have money that’s why I’m planting grass, but you know I told them I’m only moving at my own pace. Adebayor is a wonderful person, I anchored a programme he organized. I went there with my old car, you see that red car over there that was the one I went with. The car could stop anywhere just to embarrass me. So, that day after performing, the car refused to start and Adebayor came while I was still trying to speak to the car, because I didn’t speak to the car then (laughs) I was like “abeg, just move to the junction so you won’t disgrace me here (laughs). So Adebayor asked if the car was spoilt and promised to send me a car when he gets back to London and that was it. And I was home in 2012, a day to my birthday when I got a call from a woman that I had a container at the harbour. I told her she could disappoint or disgrace me just like that, I told her I know myself very well and I’ve not shipped anything into the country. Poverty is not good. When God wants to bless you, the devil will try to deceive you, because when I heard the container is from London, I told her I don’t have any relative there, so it was difficult for me to accept that I truly had a package from someone. The highest my family has gone is Mali… but she was persistent. So, I gave it a try and I went and behold.
Why are you so humble despite your level of success?
Because I was born and bred in a poor family. I came from a family that it’s difficult sometimes to have daily bread. My dad was one stubborn man, we don’t eat in the house and he still bought a dog… hunger beat the dog, it couldn’t bark anymore but coughs (laughs). So the dog left home willingly, nobody forced it to leave. You could see that the dog was even insulting us…
How will you compare the Ghana comedy industry to that of Nigeria?
I say straight up, Nigeria is leading. Everybody knows that, because Nigeria has a big market and a comedy industry like that big. When you say Nigeria, they like and understand humour. Over here, we’re just catching up. But obviously, Nigeria is leading, take it or leave it.
Why do you think the Ghanaian comedy industry is not well appreciated?
One, we don’t have the kind of population Nigeria has. Second, we are yet to understand the real meaning of comedy. Do you understand me, Ghanaians are now appreciating comedy. Nigerians started appreciating comedy over 10 years ago, but Ghana started appreciating comedy like five years ago. So you see, there are differences, and obviously…but we will get there with time.
So, what can be done to project the Ghanaian comedy?
First, the comedians should endeavour to get funny content, and people should patronize their shows and generally pushing it, we will surely get there.
Do you have a cordial relationship with any of the Nigerian comedians?
Yeah, I do. Basketmouth, Gordons, Akpororo, Seyi Law, Emeka Smith, Pencil, Buchi, Bovi, Bash…almost all the big shots are my friends.
Do you think if Ghanaian comedians are given the opportunity to perform in Nigeria, it will help project the comedy industry in Ghana?
Yes, of course. It will help it big time. Currently, if you say you want to fly with the Romans, you have to try and do what the Romans do. Automatically, Nigerians are leading in comedy now, it’s so obvious. So, Ghanaians have to start going to their market and gradually start building their brand and gain grounds. I have performed in Nigeria at African King of Comedy with Opa Williams at Eko Hotel and I tell you, the reception was wonderful. We did Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and South Africa.
Yeah, I act and also produce my own programme, Cow and Chicken. I also present on radio as well, on Star FM.
Which one takes more of your time?
I think acting. When I do standup comedy, within 30 to 40 minutes you are done. But acting takes everything, your time, resources, etc.
Tell us about the special programme you set up for the children?
Yeah, it is an annual thing. Funny Face Fun Festival started after I realized my fan base is children. So, on July 1, 2007, I did the Funny Face Festival and I recorded over 47,000 children, and I was brought to tears. You can Google Funny Face Spends Time With The Kid and you will see the pictures. I cried my heart out that day because, considering where I’m coming from, I used to sell rubber bags, polythene bags, Ghana must go on the street and I was also a yogurt seller. I used to count yogurts at the factory, and craba, the one known as potty. But in Ghana it’s called craba, the name alone tells you it’s poor. (Laughs). So I used to work in that factory too, I counted potty. I carried them left and right and also ate in them, I mean the fresh ones.
So, what advice would you give to someone that is going through all these and still trying to make it?
What I can tell anybody trying to hustle and be somebody is to believe in him or herself first, and believe in God. You believe in God and in yourself. No matter what anybody would say, you will never be discouraged. When I wanted to come out with my programme, Cow and Chicken, people were like I’m not serious, nobody will buy it. But I believed in myself and I know the market was ready for something new. Come out with something different. Be unique, and they will love you.
And what advise will you give to those already in the spotlight?
They should respect themselves, and be where they are. I don’t know about Nigeria, but in Ghana, if you mess up, they will insult your career out of you. They pray poverty into your life.
Looking at your fan base and the way you relate with the public, have you ever thought of going into politics?
I want to go into politics but in Ghana I’m not too sure because they can insult people a lot. Even if I go into politics, my motto will be simple chop I chop. I will make sure there is enough money in the system and you can use it to construct your own roads.
Who are your role models?
In Ghana, I will say KSM and Kevin Hart in the US, yeah.
Where do you draw your inspirations from?
I will say from God and my fans. The more they laugh the more I am inspired.
Oh! It’s sweet. It makes you more serious and more focused.
Do you miss your bachelor days?
I miss the fact that girls could call me any day or anytime, but now I can’t try it. If they call me, I tell them not to, cause madam go kill us o…. but I love my wife so much. Love is good when you find the right person.
What is the key element that could sustain a marriage?
It is understanding. You need to understand your man. You need to understand your woman. For me, my wife understands me; she knows this is what I do, that is why you could see me dance in my towel or get naked on Facebook and Youtube. She knows her husband is like that, yeah. And thank God for my funny fans that’s what I call them. You know October 1st is my birthday and I now understand why I am fooling myself because I share the same birthday with Nigeria. Nigerians are naturally funny, and thank God for my massive followers too for their massive support.
So, what singled your wife out from the crowd?
Let’s say the wish and the demand to be different. She doesn’t get angry often. Something that I will do and any girl will get angry, she wouldn’t. When we were dating, a couple of issues came up, but she managed them all and stood by me.