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King of comedy, Ali Baba rocks @ 50 – ‘I’m grateful to God for keeping him’ –wife, Mary

His parents christened him Atunyota Alleluya Akporobomerere. In the comedy circle, he is known as Ali Baba, while his pals call him Ose; whichever you prefer, you’d still be referring to the undisputed king of comedy in Nigeria.

Born June 24, 1965, in Warri, Delta state, to the royal family of Agbarha Otor, the man described as humble and a giver celebrated his 50th birthday in grand style with a gig at his newly-opened Nicon Town, Lekki, Lagos home.

It was originally scheduled to be a double celebration to mark the comic merchant’s milestone as well as warming of the new multi-million naira home, but it ended up a triple celebration for the birthday ‘boy’ as his beautiful wife, Mary gifted him a 2016 Mercedes Benz S500 worth about N23 million.

The black beauty actually only became available this June and is nicknamed ‘the epitome of exclusivity’.

ENCOMIUM Weekly chatted with the comedy king and he told us what his 50 years have been like…

How does it feel turning 50?

In my case, turning 50 is very challenging. Challenging in the sense that I’m thinking there are so many things that I should have done that I need to do. Unlike just being happy that I’m 50, I’m looking back at my years and thinking I should have done this and that. I have a backlog of things to do.

Despite the success you’ve achieved?

You see, success is relative. For me, I need to impart on more people, I need to give a lot more people platform to grow which is why I stated ‘spontaneity’. That’s a platform that a lot of people would take flight from. I also believe I need to influence and mentor more people. Mentoring people is about letting them see where you are coming from, telling them what they need to do and teaching and showing them the potholes along the way.

What are your beliefs that have helped you achieve success?

One is that I believe your talent is not for you alone. It’s for you to share with other people. You don’t just know how to sing and sing to yourself alone, or dance to yourself alone. It means that whatever you are gifted with is for humanity. I believe too that there are a lot of ways that our successes affect the next person. There are people who would find room for success when you achieve success. For instance, there are a lot of people who have made money today because of GSM. If it had not been developed in Nigeria, there are people who wouldn’t be billionaires today. Another thing is when you build a brand, others will want to use it to market their brands. That’s where you have brand ambassadors. You need to understand that people won’t pay you because you are talented, but because your talent is a service and it meets a need.

What are you most grateful to God?

That I’m able to influence other people, to be able to impact them.

At 50, any regret?

Like I told you, there are a lot of things I should have done that I either slowed down on or didn’t do. Also, there were some chances I didn’t take, but I think back and see it was for the good of everyone.

There have been certain brands who have wanted me to be their ambassador, then they mentioned a certain amount and I turned it down.

There are no regrets as you want to set a standard. I also think there are people I should have stepped into their lives either by contributing or encouraging them. There have been those I’ve helped and those that I have said no, maybe because it wasn’t properly presented to me or it wasn’t a priority then. I equally think there are times I should have loved more. Those are the regrets, but we are looking to the future.

How have you remained relevant in the industry after more than two decades?

Comedy is not about past glory. You can’t be a comedian and dwell on your past glories. It is a dynamic business, you have to continue creating new stuff. The entertainment industry in Nigeria is a replica of what is obtainable overseas. A musician can continue to play the same song over a period. You can, for instance, sing mo se orire at the beginning, middle and end of a show, but you can’t do a joke three times in a show. People want to hear something new from you. Even if it is an old joke, it should be told in a different way.

What’s the one piece you do to someone who wants to replicate or even surpass your success?

There’s no one thing, it’s a combination of some things. First, you need to have talent. That certainly is not enough. You also need to be hungry for information. You would also need to be able to manage fame, because if you are popular and you don’t properly manage the fame, you’d go down the drain. As a comedian, you need to be dynamic. Don’t just have seven jokes and think that it will take you through your career.

You need to be continuously creative. You will also need to network, networking is about getting to know someone through which you can build your market. Also, look out for platforms to express your talent, be it TV, live on stage, newspaper, any medium. Humility also is key. Arrogance is expensive, humility is cheap. It’s a lot of dynamics to make you who you want to be.

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