By Christine Onwuachumba
Before becoming one of the most successful gospel comedy stars in Nigeria, Charles Edobor scrimped to make a living. As a teenager, he became a gardener but rose to his present position through concentration and hard work. Also in his teens, Edobor began hosting his own gospel comedy show. He practically threw himself into the art and ended up wowing his audience. In this interview, the comedian spoke on his career, the science of comedy, dream for the future and vision of comedy education for inmates. Enjoy it.
How did you venture into comedy?
My name is Edobor Charles. I came to Lagos from Benin City, Edo State like every other young guy who came in search of the green pasture. I do gospel comedy, a covenant I had with God. When I was in Benin, I could not afford secondary school education. A family member invited me to Lagos, so I came with great plans and expectations but did not get exactly what I wanted. The story changed, so I decided to pick up a job as a gardener in a church located in Maryland, Lagos. As a gardener, I worked hard because there is dignity in labour. But I had a bigger plan and dream. I worked as a gardener for years until one day I decided to quit because I was no longer comfortable with the job. Deep within me, there was this urge to go to secondary school. I made a vow to God that if He would provide for me and I attend secondary school, I will do gospel comedy show for Him every year. As God would have it, less than a month I made the vow, I got admitted into secondary school.
Were you a member of the church where you worked as a gardener?
No, I was just a worker; I did not worship with them. Although, I was already a church boy, I was a church keeper when I was in Benin at age nine. I was in the choir as a keyboardist and at thirteen I was already actively involved with in the church’s crusade team and other programmes.
How did you meet Paul I. K Dairo?
I went to a studio in Surulere, Lagos with a guy. It was a long time ago, I couldn’t really remember the date. Suddenly, I heard someone saying that a keyboardist was needed. Then, everybody started saying ‘this guy can play keyboard, this guy can play keyboard’. I immediately responded that ‘I am a keyboardist but I don’t want to play for a secular musician’. But Paul I. K Dairo said that he is not playing secular music but gospel. I then agreed to play keyboard for him. That’s how I started working with Paul who is the best boss I had ever worked with. Even as a keyboardist, Paul will introduce me as a comedian before he performs on stage. And I will go upstage and crack jokes. He gave me the opportunity to minister with the comedy talent God gave me. After a while, I mastered the art.
One day, we had a concert in the church but the MC did not come. The guy had requested that he should be paid N5000. This was when I earned N1500 per show. Someone walked up to me and said ‘Charles, you are very funny, make us laugh’ but I said being funny and performing were two different things. I collected the microphone and started talking. And before I knew it, people were laughing.
So, what happened next?
Soon afterwards, I was invited to a retirement party of a man. When I got there, I performed to the glory of God. I wowed my audience and was given an envelope. After the show, I opened the envelope, what I saw made me trek from Ikoyi to CMS. Inside the envelope was N150,000. I couldn’t believe it. I brought out my phone and called the woman who introduced me to the celebrant. I told her that there was a mistake or something and she said ‘no, the money is yours Charles.’
That day, I thanked God because the highest amount I had earned then was N20,000. I informed Paul Play about it, and I told him that my career had changed. He said ‘okay but just get serious with whatever you are doing’. However, he requested I continue playing keyboard for him until he had a replacement. Since then, I have been doing comedy alongside prison ministration.
You talked about Paul Play introducing you to prison ministration?
Yes, Paul had introduced me to a young girl in prison called Portable. I went there the first week and started training about 14 of them. The second week I had more inmates. We had three-month comedy training, an empowerment scheme as well as the message of Jesus Christ.
When would you say was the most important day of your life?
The day I ministered to Kirikiri Prison’s inmates and they were just laughing happily. I saw people who do not have choice laughing excitedly. It ministered something to me that one should be thankful regardless of the situation in which he or she is. Over the years, I have been to a lot of churches ministering through comedy, but I have never felt the way I felt that particular period. I set Kirikiri on fire with inspired comedy, fresh from the throne of grace.
Last year, I had a communal comedy training/empowerment programme in Kirikiri Prison where I gave out sewing machines, blenders, DSTV decoders, and generators.
My plan is to have an educational comedy course that would be officially ratified by the Nigeria Qualifications Authority. I would love a situation where I can go to schools, colleges and even young offenders’ institutions and teach comedy and confidence course, to help students discover and find their self-belief through performance techniques. Really, it was comedy that bailed me out of poverty, apart from God’s favour.
I equally do empowerment scheme for widows. I don’t want to be a comedian who just performs and not make impact, or maybe one who lives a luxury life without caring for the needy. Widows are in my payroll. I just want to affect their lives. I don’t pay for hospital bills. I have aged parents, my mother is 83, but I don’t pay hospital bills for either of them because God has been taking care of my family. I do these things because I remember the days I was in total lack, abject poverty. I don’t pay for food and all that. God informed me to take care of widows, and I obeyed His voice.
How would you assess comedy business in Nigeria?
An average comedian in Nigeria can survive. We have lots of social functions right here in Nigeria, what is needed are contacts. A comedian should put up his best act when the opportunity comes. Comedy is a lucrative venture but the secret is for one to know how to be effective with his performance. Thrilling the audience brings money and fame. But there are myriads of hurdles for a new artist who intends to get a slice of the chunk. Being funny is serious business, so comedians must be creative in order to gain recognition as well as appreciation.
Another important thing up and coming comedians should note is being a clown or bit funny is not always enough. They should learn to be disciplined as a comedian.
What are the challenges being faced in the industry?
When someone writes jokes, someone else copies it. It’s really tough. We don’t have security with the jokes we write. Anybody can make use of your jokes.
Apart from comedy what other things do you do?
I am also a filmmaker. I do corporate videos and music. I have my own comedy show aired on Africa Magic right now. It is called Edo Channels.
Are you married?
I am still single.
What kind of woman would you prefer?
One who wants to serve and also be a blessing to others.
Would you say you are romantic?
Yes, I am. At least, I buy flowers and recharge cards for…