MEET GHANA‘S TOP STAND-UP COMEDIANS (Part 2)
‘Teju Babyface actually gave me a microphone style’ – FOSTER ROMANUS, Ghanaian comedian
We promised to bring you the concluding part of Ghanaian comedians making waves and about to turn comedy into an enviable money making industry just like their Nigerian counterparts. However, Ghanaians and comedy buffs around the world can only keep their fingers crossed and watch if they can really revive the Ghana comedy industry just like the music industry which has grown tremendously over the years with local and international awards to show for it.
When did you start doing comedy?
Let’s see…Stars of The Future in 2006, I started exploiting it because at that time I had been crowned 1st runner up. It was a reality show, and I said, okay, if I have gotten the recognition so why not start. That was where it started and I began pushing it. So, myself and the winner, David Oscar started doing shows here and there and we were called for shows too.
Was it your childhood ambition?
Not at all. I never thought of it. I grew up wanting to be a businessman or an accountant for a profession. I remember going to school with my briefcase and bringing out my books like it was done in movies, telling my father I would be an accountant. But along the line, 2006, I had completed senior high and was waiting to enter the university. I wanted accounting or business and anytime I applied, I was not given a chance, but God had other plans. A friend in the drama club told me about the reality show but asked me not to sing because he knew I wasn’t that good at that. He asked me to do comedy because he has seen me do that before. Though I didn’t believe in all these reality shows, because I felt they have their winners, I gave it a try. And after that I decided to do Theatre Art and Music in the University of Ghana.
What’s your take on Nigerian comedy having an edge over that of Ghana?
There is one thing I like about Nigerians, they want to make the best. Aside the best, they want to make money out of every little opportunity. How I wish Ghanaians were like that. We don’t attach importance to things even though they happen. The people that started comedy were illiterates, so it was called the concept party. When we came in, we started bringing the picture of you can be learned and still do comedy. We had our fore fathers, let me use that word though, because they are not dead, they are pacesetters. Like we had Kwaku Sintim-Misa (KSM), Hon. Chris Bafour, Tommy Anan Forson, they brought corporate comedy to Ghana. Not just comedy but elite kind of comedy. Chris Bafour did standup comedy doing jokes here and there and Anan Forson did the same. KSM I think is the only comedian that staged his own comedy show. Unlike in Nigeria, where you have the AY Show, Basketmouth, Bovi, a man on fire and the likes. Aside KSM, we’ve not had a one man stand up show, not at all. After them there was a gap, though myself and David Oscar started doing stuff and later we had DKB, Chemical, etc joining us. So, that’s one thing or reasons why Nigerian comedy is so ahead. They value it, but at this side of the world, it’s now picking up. Though, Ghanaians don’t like their own, like once it’s made in Ghana; ah! No, it’s not nice. Unless it’s made in China or if you can package the jokes and go to America, get an American tag (laughs)…I mean, it’s serious. Or you can go to Nigeria and do a birth certificate and add Ikechukwu to your name and then you become Foster Ikechukwu, then they will listen to you. There was a time, we went for a show, it was all Ghanaian comedy thing, the audience and comedians were 12. Comedians were 10 and only two people in the audience and we still had to perform (laugh).
Are you really serious about this?
Oh! Most times I go on stage, I use that as an introduction. I appreciate the fact that it happened. Now that you go on stage and see a full house, you go outside and ask yourself, “Are they Ghanaians”.
So, do you feel intimidated when you are on stage with Nigerian comedians?
A little. I had performed with Teju Babyface and Teju actually gave me a microphone style. I learnt that from him. How he handled the micro phone and in 2006 after the reality show, they put us on The Night of 1003 Laughs, so I did a duet with David Oscar and that show had Teju, Klint, Okey Bakassi on board and we excelled. But I think at that time we were kids and still in school. We didn’t know about the media to write a story and all that. We did our best, we did well and not too long ago we were on board, we performed alongside same Nigerians and we also did well.
Do you have any personal relationship with anyone of them?
Yeah, we did but lost contact. They feel (raises shoulder high) even a hi would not be replied. I performed with Akpororo and Osama in Tarkoradi. I took his number but we’ve not had any contact since. So, intimidation is a little because they are bigger in Ghana. So, if you are on with them on a show, it’s like, you are a Ghanaian, I will beat you to it. On stage we are cool but in their mind, it’s probably like that’s one of them, he is here just to pave way (laughs).
So, what do you think can be done to project the Ghanaian comedy industry?
I will borrow a line from Bob Marley, Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. And I think that’s what we used to. We are not imprisoned by their comments … because one Nigerian can actually convince you to believe in a thousand Nigerian comedians because the way he would exaggerate the whole story”: Charlie, this boy can do it…” A Ghanaian would not do that. They can only defend when majority is on your side. We are afraid of the truth, that’s our problem. If we have thousands of Ghanaians commending us, even when it’s bad, there are ways you can talk about it that will make me feel okay. I need to work hard. It’s not like we don’t welcome ideas. But here, if it’s bad, you are dead. Even if it’s good they will be reluctant to acknowledge it. When I did well in 1020 Laughs, twitter was all buzzing that I did well and somebody twitted I just made her laugh for the first time in 10 years of being a comedian. I almost asked her which of my shows has she attended, and that’s the problem. We don’t even attend our shows, they sit outside and judge. Meanwhile, laughter is not by force. It’s subjective. If you don’t laugh at my jokes it doesn’t mean am not funny. Probably I didn’t meet your problem or situation; you are not the only person in the auditorium. And it’s unfortunate, probably you might have a medium, like a presenter could say, Foster was not impressive and once I read Foster was not impressive, it sticks with me forever. But you could have written that I tried but could have done better, so that people won’t have the feeling that it was bad.
So, you think the media has a lot of role to play in all of these as well?
The media first, then the corporate organization, so that we can get sponsors. Because we also need to pay bill, pay for venues, sounds and other logistics that come with it, artistes, musician and all. I haven’t gotten to that level where I can pick my phone and call Sarkodie “Charlie I need you on my show” (laughs).
But do you think Nigerian comedians are funnier than Ghanaian comedians?
It’s subjective because of accent and all that. It’s because we are new to it. I remember being in the midst of Nigerians and the way I spoke was strange to them, so it’s like that.
What can your Nigerian counterparts do to support you guys?
I think collaborations. We don’t see them as competitors because when they come to Ghana, comedy comes alive. Apart from The Night of Laughs, there is no major comedy show because we are still growing and trying to make our statement. So, collaborations would help. I can’t pay Teju or Akpororo or Basketmouth, that’s like a whole bank (laughs). So, maybe a link up would do. We on our own are working on raising individual platforms, so it will take some time to have that relationship with them that would make them want to come to Ghana and support their own. Maybe DKB because of Big Brother Africa has that reach with them. Myself and others will take time, you know, management level. But if they come to our show and just tweet about our performance, then that’s a start. If Bovi tweets about my performance that will go a long way. I’m just begging for followers (laughs), these are some of the things that can help.
Have you been to Nigeria?
No, I have not. Not for any reason. But I will be there, I will come and perform at the AY Live Show (laughs).
What does a comedian need to put up a good show?
Yourself. Nothing more. The fact is, growing up in comedy, I was told that you should see it like you are talking or addressing an audience. If they find it funny and they laugh, it’s a compliment. If they don’t, continue talking because I don’t know why you are here or what the problem is. The fact is, I motivate myself with the fact that you bought the ticket because I was on the bill, if you don’t want to listen to me, you wouldn’t have bought the ticket. So, I have presented myself and not my jokes. So, if you remember me as the person who had delivered a joke, I will go everywhere with you, because the moment you remember the joke, you will remember the name that goes with it. That’s why you don’t hide behind the stage and say your jokes. I believe it’s all about you.
I pray. I always tell God I want good materials to work with. I have to be different, so my jokes are spontaneous. When I get on stage, anything around me I can make fun of it and that makes me unique. When I get on stage and my audience are not giving back, I’m dead, so, that’s how it goes. God is my inspiration.