Bovi Ugboma is among Nigeria’s top comedians and is as simple as any person walking on the streets. After two years break, this popular actor cum stand-up comedian, hosted the third edition of his comedy show Bovi Man on Fire at Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island Lagos. The Delta State born comedian spoke to Sunday Sun about his life as a comedian, Man on Fire season 3, his movie, It’s Her Day and other things.
You have been rated among the most successful comedians in the world. How did you do it?
I think my strategy has been to try to remain fresh. I tell the same jokes at several events but I try to tell them in different ways. I also try to model them around the events going on at that particular time. I became a professional stand-up comedian in 2008 and then people started saying I needed to do my own show and I said I wasn’t going to do that until I can stand alone and the only thing that can attract people when you’re standing alone is taking time to build yourself and between 2008 and 2013, I did my best to always write new jokes for every show and so that’s how I worked on myself.
As a comedian where do you draw the line on the kind of jokes you tell?
It depends on the joke completely. If I want to joke about a crippled person, I would make sure the person is in the audience and I would tell it in a way that will make the person look good not ridiculed, because people tend to think comedy is about ridicule. So, I can tell a joke as long as I’m not ridiculing the situation or the character involved.
What inspired Man on Fire?
We picked Man on Fire because we were looking for a moniker that would capture the essence of what the show is about. It’s a one-man stand-up comedy show which means it features me as a man on fire and like I said, emphasis is on the material that I would be bringing to the stage like hot topics, issues and of course funny jokes. So, it’s just Man on Fire from a comedian.
Why don’t you feature other comedians on your show?
It’s because it’s Bovi Man on Fire not “Bovi Men on Fire”. When we grow in the industry, we all choose different paths. I want to be an entertainer not a promoter, so there are comedy franchises that feature people but ideally what should be is that the show bears my name. I should be the person doing the show.
Why did you take a break from the show for two years?
The show did not air for two years in a row. As comedians we’re growing and we needed to take our brand elsewhere. So, in 2015, I went on a tour of other countries with the aim of taking my brand to people in other countries who love it. In 2016, I was actually ready for the show, I was fully prepared but it didn’t hold, because it wasn’t a good year at all for business and you all know what I mean.
What’s your favorites sports?
I love soccer and I play every Tuesday and Thursday. Even my teammates were at my movie premiere (It’s Her Day)
That movie was interesting but did not feature many known faces. Why?
It’s a combination of several things. First, we have featured Omoni Oboli but I have never been a fan of known faces not because known faces don’t deliver but I’m a strong believer in the story. It was a combination of everything. We had auditions; there are some cast members whose pedigree I know as well as what they were capable of doing. I pretty much reached out to them and asked them to come on board. Najite Dede for example trained abroad and her accent is not common here. I know she’s a methodical actor; so, I reached out to her to play a role that she would naturally have to put in a lot of work to adapt to. She played my aunt in the movie.
I have always known Toni Tones. I’m a fan of her works… her music and her photography but more of her music. When she heard about it, she sent auditioned tapes, but we didn’t get back to her. She flew in, she came for the audition. She auditioned and she was perfect for the part. She played the sister of the bride. There are three sisters of the bride. As for Ini Dema-Okojie, she’s been a friend and has been in the business for long. She’s a natural actor and she landed the role. She played the bride-to-be.
If the story is well told, it will sell. Aside the fact that I want to make good movies, I also want to tell perfect stories. I wouldn’t have minded featuring popular stars in my movie but budget is always a constraint when we are considering this. I believe in a good story. If you have a good story, it will sell but that’s not to say popular actors don’t sell movies. They drive traffic to the cinemas. I have conquered TV, I have conquered the stage, and the next thing for me is film.
What motivated you to do the movie?
I originally wrote It’s Her Day in 2004. I re-jigged the script and decided to give it life. Film has always been in the picture just that it has always been on the back burner.
Can you talk about your childhood? Most Nigerian celebrities have their grass-to-grace story, what’s yours?
I was privileged to be born in a home where I could get quality education and parental love. I went to good schools, my parents monitored me, and I have been lucky.
I got a good job working for Richard Mofe-Damijo as his personal assistant. If there’s any place I cut my teeth first, it’s the movie industry. Like I said earlier, when I started off, I couldn’t start with movies, I didn’t have the budget to make a movie. I’m not just an actor and entertainer; I’m a businessman as well. I started with TV when I left RMD. I was successful. Everything I have touched since has been successful, I have been favoured. I can’t even complain, I don’t really have a grass-to-grace story. I can’t readily remember that moment when things were really down because I have a lot of positive energy.
To be honest with you, I have never suffered, I have always been lucky, I have always been favoured, and I have always been blessed. Every obstacle I have had was temporary and even if it didn’t seem temporary I lived in the moment, I cherished it, because I knew where I was going and that the obstacles would not be there forever.
When you are not working, what do you do back home?
Actually I play. I just play with my kids and I read.
Do you do any chores?
Hmmm, not really. I take my children to school and ‘umm’ there is no time for that, I have people who do that. Every once in a while I cook. I spent all my bachelorhood cooking and I continued that but if I have something that I love that I feel others won’t do perfectly well for me, I do it myself and share with everybody.
You once gisted a friend about the cooking blunder you made. Can you share it with us?
Will I say embarrassing or due to being broke? When I was living alone, I was so broke I used to buy groundnut oil from the market in this water bottle. So, there was this day I was broke, I had this head of yam left. This was like 2005 by the way. I had this head of yam, I had some slices of tomatoes and one cube of Maggi and you know it was the last supper, so I diced everything, added oil and started to fry it. But the oil was foaming so, I went back to the oil and I checked and I saw it was engine oil. How it got into my kitchen, I didn’t know and I tasted it, so I pretty much fell sick and that was what I was supposed to eat that evening. I was so broken.
I just went outside, I had one cigarette, I lit it and I smoked it on an empty stomach and I cried. So, that was my most embarrassing situation. It could have been better to eat my raw tomatoes and my head of yam, but I wanted to make a sauce. That was how my last supper was wasted.