A-list comedian, Tunde Adewale, a.k.a Tee A, has built a name over the years as a reputable rib cracker. A couple of weeks back, his outfit, Tymeout Lounge, in Ikeja, Lagos, celebrated its first anniversary. We used the occasion to take him through his career which is in its 15th year, his TV show and many other things he is passionate about.
How many years have you been in the comedy industry?
This year officially makes 15 years that I’ve been in the business and I’ve been thinking of how to commemorate it since it’s a landmark year. Ali Baba celebrated his 20th year in comedy last year and he was some years ahead of me and has always been the pacesetter of the comedy industry in Nigeria.
How did you start, what took you into comedy?
I honestly can’t say. I was making a fool of myself right from secondary school till I got into the University of Lagos where there was a platform for me to develop it. Opportunities presented themselves and I was just having fun, making fun of people and that was it. As time went on, people started inviting me to their events to perform and paid me with plates of food or money and it gradually became something serious.
What was the first fee you ever received?
I can’t really remember the first fee I received, but I know I used to collect plastic plates of food to share with my room mates. Gradually, money started coming, but the first major event I did was the Awards for Musical Excellence in Nigeria (AMEN), hosted by ENCOMIUM Weekly. That was the event that introduced me to the Nigerian entertainment industry. I was also writing a campus column for the magazine then.
After AMEN, I was called for another show where they paid me N5,000 and I almost ran mad because that was a lot of money for me in those days. I was used to N1,000 or N800 from university students and most times, they didn’t even finish the payment. My pocket money was N2,000 for the entire semester and I made N5,000 in one night. That was very big for me.
From then to now, how big do you think the comedy industry has evolved?
It has evolved in an awesome way. When I was a green horn, Ali Baba was the most notable stand-up comedian. Then, there was the late Mohammed Danjuma, Okey Bakassi, who was more of an actor. He was also doing some comedy and there was Basorge (Tariah), who was also acting a bit. I was like the last born of all of them, but they encouraged me a lot before a lot of other younger people started coming in.
Today, we have what we can call an industry and a lot of the senior ones are mentoring and bringing up the younger ones to make the scene very interesting and vibrant.
How much has comedy done for you?
At least, if it has not done anything, it has put food on my table for 15 years and I am what I am today because of that gift from God. Comedy has done almost everything that a young man would wish for, for me. It has taken me to places I would only have dreamt of going, it’s given me opportunities I would only have wished I had. With it, I have met people I would only have dreamt of meeting. I have learnt a lot about things I would normally have taken for granted because they don’t have anything to do with me.
While in comedy, what other line of business did you establish?
Until very recently, I had never done anything aside comedy. I have never worked for anybody or invested in any business until a couple of years ago that I bought some filming and editing equipment and put up a studio. Before, I was driving to AIT studios in Alagbado to record my programme and I always got back late at night and this was every other week. When I thought about it, I decided to save money and buy my own production and editing equipment and produce the programme myself and give AIT the tapes. That was what motivated my first investment outside comedy.
Then, a couple of years ago, I felt that the way we all moved down to the Island just to attend shows needed to be replicated on the Mainland and I got a place in Ikeja and we opened Tymeout Lounge. Prior to that, there was nothing outside comedy.
In one year of the lounge, how much would you say your dreams have been achieved?
I’m still far from achieving the ultimate dream, but I’m very focused and I believe we are on the right path. I put in a lot of money into it and even though we have not yet made back our capital, we are making progress.
What are some of the other activities of the lounge that are not readily discernible by the passers-by?
We do a lot of special events. We had an event this Valentine. We have Thank God It’s Wednesday which is a mixture of music and comedy. We just started the Sunday Family Buffet where people come in with their families to eat as much as they want for a very reasonable amount. We have so many events that I can’t mention now.
Are there plans to expand?
Yes, definitely. We are always planning to expand the lounge because when the place is full, the lounge is usually crowded. Once we are able to get the expansion, we will be able to add many more things.
Tell us more about your TV show, the intrigues, the plans and the challenges you have faced so far.
Tymeout with Tee A is me breathing life into a baby that I had nurtured right from my university days. It’s a comedy and variety show which means there’s a bit of entertainm-ent and seriousness on the show.
We have just completed the first quarter of the show and I’m still overwhelm-ed by the positive reviews and goodwill that we have been enjoying. A whole lot of people have caught on to the programme, but that’s not to say that we don’t have our challenges. Producing that kind of programme without any sponsorship is suicidal, but it’s something I’m determined to do and it’s something I know would pay off in the end. We may be producing the programme at a loss, but I know that if we keep at it we ill recoup our investment and still make some profit. Right now, we are about starting work on the second season.
What are some of the memorable episodes you have had on the programme?
All of the episodes are special in their own way. But most of the guests didn’t really have an idea of the kind of show it was when they came, but immediately they got into the studio and saw what was happening they got into the groove.
For example, Terry G never planned that he was going to perform, but he saw a keyboard there and decided to freestyle. Jimmy Jatt came and deejayed on set and that wasn’t planned. Then, I had some upcoming guys for an amateur night and they got a very good reception from the audience. People really had a lot to share during the interviews and the first 16 episodes that we have recorded were awesome.
How do you relax?
I love to sleep. I can sleep for days when I’m not working, but I rarely have time to do that now. I also enjoy watching football like most other people and I’m a die-hard Arsenal fan.
What about your family?
My wife has been my pillar of strength and we have been together since our university days. She is the best anybody can wish for.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, February 15, 2011