Mention his name to his fans and followers of the Nigerian stand-up comedy and you’d be greeted by a knowing smile.
Bovi (real name Ugboma Bovi) is a comedian who doles out original wisecracks of intellectual flavour. The Delta State-born “Comedian of the Federal Republic” has carved a niche for himself and his blossoming career as a man of inimitable comic sense.
In this brief chat, Bovi talks about his life - his life as a comedian and as a family man and the roads ahead of him. Excerpts.
What is Bovi up to lately? It has been a busy year for me. I have been planning for many things. Unlike last year that started with a rush of jobs, this year, I’ve had time to plan. My maiden standup comedy show is around the corner; that’s what’s been taking my time.
There are lots of shows billed for the first quarter of the year. How is yours going to be unique? I’m not aiming to be different from others. I’m aiming to stage a good show and have a good performance. I’m too soaked in preparations to be checking how others are coming up.
Aside comedy, who is Bovi? I really have a problem talking about myself. I’d say Bovi is an entertainer with his hands in different pies. I’m from Delta State and I come from an average family. I’m just a simple man who likes the privacy that he’s lost. Shy, reserved and observant, that is me.
Lost your privacy, how do you mean? By being in the public eye. I’m the let’s-take-a-stroll kind of guy. The buka guy. But all that is almost impossible now.
If truly you are shy, how do you overcome stage fright? Entertaining people is what I was born to do. Stage fright happens to everybody. It’s who turns it to positive energy that is different from the others.
How do you cope with the challenges of being a comedian, a producer and an actor? It’s been smooth so far. My timetable is well spread out. I’d rather be choked with doing three or more things rather than doing nothing.
How would you describe the industry, compared to 10 years ago? Ten years ago, I was still in the university. From the moment I came into the industry which is in 2004, I’ll say it has improved. Everything boils down to structure. Right now everything is like a jungle governed by the rule of survival of the fittest.
You often travel from state to state, how have you been coping with family and business at the same time? It’s easy because my job is what I love doing. When I travel, it’s not longer than two days at most. And when I’m home, I’m home.
How long have you been in the comedy industry? Professionally, it’s four years. My first sitcom, Extended Family, came out in 2007 and it was a monster hit amongst TV audience. Measuring success is relative. All I can say for me is that there has been a steady but bumpy rise and I’m still on the ascension.
What gives you inspiration? God Almighty - through Him I have discovered the wonder of books. I also draw inspiration from events – not the events that you see. I like to look beyond the surface. CNN calls it the back story: the side that’s never really heard. It has helped my story-telling skills.
What was your parents’ positions when you wanted to go into the sitcom business? I only had issues with my parents when I chose to study Theatre Arts. But once I graduated and came to Lagos, it’s been support and encouragement all the way. They let me take my own risks.
Who is your role model? I can’t peg that down to one person. However, there are industry players I’ve admired over the years. I love Tupac Shakur. I could relate with his story; almost identical with some areas of my life.
Richard Mofe-Damijo trained me while working as his PA between 2004 and 2006. Basket Mouth, I look up to him artistically and when I reached out to him, he taught me how to handle the business angle of my talent, and he’s been a true friend. There are a whole lot more others I admire but that will take a whole day to list. Have you ever been hurt by any negative reports in the media. Not really, but I’ve frowned at a few.
What is your biggest career moment so far? To be honest, none. I’m happy when I rock a show. I’m happy when I get paid handsomely. But I don’t dwell on the feeling because if my next show is bad, I’d be bothered about those seeing me for the first time. I hate to disappoint. And career wise, I think I’m still only at the starting blocks.
How much was your first earning as a comedian? The first money was no money. I did several shows without getting paid but I wasn’t bothered because I needed the exposure. And even when I started getting paid, the money wasn’t my source of joy. It was the good outing. I really don’t remember the exact figures. But I was happy.?
What did you do with the very ‘huge’ money? If I can’t remember the amount, chances are that I can’t remember what I did with it
If you are not a comedian, what else would you have done?
Probably a footballer. I love soccer. I play at least twice a week.
You look like every lady’s man-
How do you cope with female fans? That’s a musician’s problem. When a female fan sees a comedian, she laughs and runs away most times.
Have you ever been approached by a gay person? No, how am I supposed to even know that? Is it written on their foreheads
Do you think you are a fulfilled man, looking back at how you started? No, not yet. I’m still work in progress.
What do you think you need to catapult you to your desired status? Status? I’m not chasing status. I’m chasing fulfillment. I want to entertain endlessly. I want to touch lives.
How best do you think you can touch lives? I sell happiness for a living. I don’t just want people to laugh; I want their lives to be touched. I want people to think of me and have a reason to smile and be happy? It’s not like I want everyone to like me, no. But they should like my works.
How do you feel when someone steals your joke(s)? These things happen. But I’m lucky not to have been affected deeply by it. I’ve answered questions bothering on this repeatedly but it’s not an issue anymore so I’d say we move on.
What is Bovi’s biggest fear? God. That’s my only fear.
What kind of temptation did you find difficult to resist? Women, yes. Beautiful women. Money is never a temptation for me. Once I see any temptation coming I make the sign of the cross.
How has marriage impacted on you?
It has made me more responsible.??If you have a chance what will you change about yourself?
What is your weakness? You are asking me for the number combination of my credit card.
What are the challenges of organizing a big show? It’s been tough. The climate isn’t as conducive as it should be, but we are getting there.
What else do you see as a challenge confronting comedians?
I really can’t say. Our work is more of delivery. If we deliver, it’s all good.
You appear to be a very happy guy. What’s the secret? I discovered a long time ago that life is about choices. It’s up to the individual. That’s why money doesn’t define happiness for me. I take life as it comes.
What is your happiest moment as Bovi, not just as an entertainer? Life is a series of moments. I make the most of each one as it comes. I can’t single out any moment as being the happiest for me. I have landmark moments like my marriage, the birth of my son, when my kid sister graduated and a couple of others.
What about the saddest moment?
It will be easier for me to find my happiest moment than the saddest. I move on quickly in life. I think life has been very fair to me. I’ve never really suffered. My saddest moments have been when I lost loved ones. But then I’m thankful to God.
What won’t Bovi be caught doing? Worshipping juju.
Your show is coming up on March 10, what is in store for your fans? Comedy, comedy, comedy. Pure comedy.
How is your relationship with Basket Mouth now?
Just as before - we are close friends and colleagues. There was a story about a serious misunderstanding between you two
Have you ever thought of quitting the industry? Why would I? Is it football that age catches up with someone? Does one really quit art? Art is a way of life. Anyone who quits probably wasn’t meant to be in it in the first place. The road was never rough. I was too passionate to see it as rough. Every stumbling block was a stepping stone for me.
10 years from now, where do you see yourself? Life is a series of moments, remember. One step at a time. I do know for sure that I won’t be where I am now. I try to lead a siimple life. I work hard, rest hard. And I try to read everything I can.