Ace comedian, filmmaker and TV presenter, Owen Gee is known for his funny comedy skits in the comedy industry. In this interview with Saturday INDEPENDENT’s Oyinkan Somorin, he talks about life as a comedian, the challenges, and how he started.
What does the ‘Gee’ in your stage name stand for?
Gee stands for God Exceptionally Elevates. When I was looking for a stand-up comedy name, I wanted to use my first name, which is Owen and I wanted to attach a name that would depict my strength in the industry.
It is only God that takes one to the height you want to achieve. I also remembered that in school, anytime I crack a joke or do something funny, people would hail me with ‘Owen G’, meaning ‘Owen Gangster’ because I had this gangster attitude. I was a funny gangster, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t want my Owen G to be ‘Owen gangster’. I wanted it to have something different and so I decided to make it ‘Gee’, and when people inquired about what the ‘Gee’ means, I said the G is capital, meaning God. The first ‘E’ is Exceptionally and the other ‘E’ is Elevate, meaning that it is only God that will exceptionally elevate me throughout my journey in my career. So that is what the Gee actually stands for.
Can you tell me about your artistic career? The journey so far for you as a comedian.
The journey has been a long one. There are years one counts for playing and years one counts for being paid. But professionally, when I started being paid was year 2000. I started receiving money from the year 2000, but before then I had started even when I was a child. The first time I ventured into entertainment, I was two years old. I won a dance competition at a children’s party. My father usually bets on me with his friends that I was better than them in dance because he knew no child could beat me in dancing. At the age of seven, I was the best kid dancer in my locality. When I was eight years old, I was the best kid dancer in my local government, Mushin. By the time I was 12, I found my first musical group called the Dynamic Five.
What happened to the Dynamic Five?
Funny enough, Dynamic Five did well; we were five in number, myself and my two brothers and two other friends. My brother was the producer who is still doing what he loves best. The other is Jim who used to be the rapper then. That was how far the Dynamic Five came. This was is in the mid 80s and I was just 12 then. The intentions of the Dynamic Five was for us to be like the Jackson’s 5. That is Michael Jackson and his brothers. But when I got into secondary school, I was the social prefect of the school; I was taking part in everything social so I hardly had time.
When I gained admission into an higher institution of learning, I formed another music group called ‘Your Uncles From The Psychiatric Hospital’. We were just three then, and I thought I was going to be a musician when I grow up.
So what changed that thinking?
Comedy changed it. During one of the performances, I told the DJ to stop and I started cracking jokes and people loved it. They preferred the comic part of me and so the organisers of the show came to me and said, “we are going to pay you for you to be the anchor of this event.” I accepted the payment and I anchored it the next day and it was brilliant. So I went on to do more than 50 shows before I graduated.
Which higher institution of learning?
I went to Yaba College of Technology. I studied Mathematics and Statistics.
How does that connect to comedy?
It connects o. I can calculate how much I am being paid. That is the funny thing. It just worked well and I blended. I believe myself to be lucky; I have always loved to do art. So Mathematics and Statistics was just a passageway that God put in front of me in order for me to get an education. As soon as I finished school, during my service year, I was doing a television program called ‘Circle Of Stars’ on MBI. I was also doing another one on NTA called ‘In And Out’. These were the stations that were popular then. I went on from then, and in 2004, I won the best up and coming comedian in Nigeria. In 2005, I won the best comedian on radio, and I w a s o n e o f the early g u y s who started comedy on radio. By 2006 – 2007, I was doing a program called ‘Comedy Zone’ on STV from 2007 – 2009. I started doing stage plays, ‘Once Upon A Mad Man’ which was myself and Koffi. From 2010 – 2014, I was doing a program called ‘Skit’ on M-net. I was a skit guy and God did it for me. I did my first talk show in 2015 ‘Live With Owen Gee’. I did the talk show till 2017 last year when I went into movies.
You really changed from being a musician to being a comedian; now you are into movies. Why the shift to movies instead of your talk shows?
For me, it was time to do the big thing. I wanted to take the big risk. It was time to show people I can do something different. At every point in time, when one does little things, you believe its time to graduate into that big thing which is a major project. So I did my first film ‘200 million’, which featured an array of stars, Odunlade Adekola, Mercy Aigbe, Chigurl, Lepacious Bose, Basorge Tariah Jr. so many of them. I thank God it did well in the cinema and the show is on television now. When it’s done on television, it will go on to the internet.
When did the movie drop?
It has dropped for a while now. The movie dropped on the 30th of March in the cinemas. It did six weeks, after which it went on television. We are still on television now. It is showing on African Magic. Soon, it will begin to sell online.
What was the real inspiration behind your decision to go into comedy full time?
It was a brave decision I took because of the love and passion I had for comedy. So it wasn’t about the money for me, it was the only thing I knew how to do. I was kind of bad at doing any other thing but comedy, but I am just that naturally funny guy that just found ease in making people happy. I believed that if I concentrated on it enough and I package it, it can become a profession for me and it worked out. But truthfully, my best inspiration comes when I am in the bathroom. I can bath three to four times in a day.
So how many stand up comedy shows have you done so far that are yours exclusively?
I have done two that are my pers o n a l shows.
Why just two shows?
I h a v e s o many othe r things that I do. Some comedians have strength to do only comedy shows alone, but not me. If you are like me that indulges in different things like movies, TV shows and other aspects of entertainment, priorities will be shared and I also seem to think that the time I would use to do lots of my own thing, I use it to do lots of other people’s things. I have produced other people’s comedy shows apart from featuring in so many, so I think I have spent the better part of my life in being in other people’s own than doing my own. There are so many comedians like that. At least I have even done mine. Some comedians have never done shows like Lepacious Bose, Omobaba and some others. They have never done a show, but it doesn’t stop them from being great comedians. It just means that priorities are different. There are some other things that one wants to explore.
What do you believe you have achieved since you became a comedian?
I have achieved the fact that I have made a lot of people happy. That is my first achievement. Happiness. Bringing happiness to people makes me happy.
Apart from comedy what other things do you do?
I do consultancy, I help people plan to put together their shows. I help in shooting commercials; I help to write commercial scripts. I have equipment, and I do equipment rentals. Everything I do is based on entertainment. I also have a travel agency.
Earlier in the year, news made the rounds all over the internet that you wanted to commit suicide due to some issues. Since you have achieved all you have spoken about, why contemplate suicide?
They misinterpreted me. They blew the whole matter out of proportion, and that wasn’t what happened. I was called unto a platform to come and encourage people who were going through depression and I let them know that once in a while as a human being we all go through different things. Everyone slips into a quiet moment when they want to be alone, so as to reflect on the past, especially if one or two things are not going according to plans. And when thinking too deep, one can slip into depression, which was what happened to me at that point in time in my life when I needed to reflect. All this happened to me before my film, so many things weren’t going as I planned but I never thought about suicide because at the end of the day I broke through. So I was brought into a group called ‘Live And Not Die’ to come and encourage and be the face of the project. This was to talk to young people who were going into depression especially with the way our economy is now. So I gave my advice but the matter was turned around. Before I knew it, all forms of wrong information were passed about me. So I just let it fly, but it is not true.
How do you relax after a hard time at work?
I am still trying to think of how to relax. I haven’t had a holiday in a long time. I don’t know what relaxation is, but I pray God teaches me. I really need to know how to relax. But I think the few times I spend with my children; I consider that as me relaxing. I enjoy talking with my children.
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Author: Oyinkan Somrin