Owen Gee Speaks On His Meteoric Rise In Comedy And Showbiz
Owen Osamwengie, popularly known as Owen Gee, is one of Africa’s finest and gifted comedian cum actor. He’s an all round entertainer who has succeeded in carving out a niche for himself in the already crowded comedy scene. In this interview with Sunday Obembe he speaks about several sundry issues amongst which are his talk show Buzz Live with Owen Gee and the movie project 200million. Excerpt...
Looking at when you started and where you are now, how would you describe the journey?
It’s been a worthwhile journey that has taught me lots of lessons, a journey that I will love to embark upon again and again; a journey that has made me learnt more than I should, now I am so experience in divers field such as religions, economic and even political matters. As an entertainer you need to be very informed. And information is a major tool to becoming someone in life. I would have probably gotten a 9 to 5 job, but I have chosen this part. It’s been a wonderful journey that I cannot put a direct measure to in, because I am still on it.
Having being in the game for close to two decades, what would you say have been your achievements?
I don’t know how to measure achievements, some people measure achievement by the amount of money they have, some measure by the accolades they have, but for me it’s about the people I have made happy over the years. It’s not about the money and the fame because they have all come. I have done a little bit of everything and that makes me happy, I have done stand up and it’s been the bed rock of everything, I have been an excellent Master Compeer, I have done stage acting, released a chart topping single amongst others. These are the things that have kept me going. But my greatest achievement of all is when I walk on the road and meet people and they say to me that we love what you are doing; your spontaneous nature, when I receive e-mails, and messages of people appreciating for having made them happy, it makes me feel excited each time I hear or read such.
How would you brand your kind of comedy?
I call my type of comedy conversational comedy, I am not the type of comedian who just cracks jokes, I like people responding, it’s a give and take thing, and it’s a talk and responds type of comedy. I like to use everyday things, what I see form the basis of my comedy; though a lot of people say this but for me it’s different. I am a comedian who is very current; I see things as they are and put them into present situation and I bring out the comedy in things which you do not even see as funny. I am a people’s person so I bring out my humour from my relating with people on a daily basis.
You have siblings who are also into showbiz; how come entertainment runs in the family, who did you guys take it from?
Honestly, none of my parents are entertainers; my parents are regular traders. I started the whole movement; it was difficult but I pushed through and I think when they saw me doing my thing and it dawned on them that they can also do it and so they chose their own area of specialisation. We are the type of kids who when growing up played a lot inside than outside, we didn’t do the football, tyre rolling, fighting with rams; we did a lot of TV watching. And then TV programmes starts by 4pm, by 3pm we were already in front of the Television set staring at the colour bar lines waiting for broadcast to start. For every programme I watched, I observed very well, despite that I was very young then I knew that was where my future lies; I was very passionate about it. I knew every old school musicians from the 70s to the 80s and that is the era I was born and it is like having passion for something, when you have a passion, you have a mission. I had a passion right from when I was young, so I knew where I was going to. So all of these things I was doing then robbed off on my immediate younger brother. So when we grew up we just continued and when we started doing things, each person knows he has to establish his own area of specialization and that is it. I have some knowledge in music management which I learned from my brothers but it doesn’t mean that I am experienced in that area and they are not experienced in what I do. We all just chose our different areas. But my father is a very hilarious man, he is very funny, my father will flog me at comedy any day any time, and my mother did a lot of cultural stuffs when she was in school so I think their gene just probably gave birth to us and it just blended.
Can you tell us what your first performance looked like and what was the reception like?
Actually, it was in school, way back 2000, 2001 in YABATECH it was called Five Minutes with Owen Gee. I performed for 55mins, the crowd refused to go they just sat down and they were just asking for more until it was 55mins but it was surprising then because for the first show I had between 400-500 people with hopes and I won’t lie to you half of them even gathered to come and laugh at me, to see me fail but they were shamed, some of them were drunk, drunkards who did not have any other place to go that night except to come to the college hall, sit down to listen to me, and the other people who believed in me, who have seen me do stuffs in the background just came out to support me.
What were your major challenges when you started?
My initial challenges were acceptance, acceptance first from family and then making people accept me. The second one was trying to break into the mainstream and having people believe in me. People are not patient enough to wait for the benefits to come everybody wants money of now, instant money; it has to come now that is the major problem everybody wanted that. The third one is trying to create an identity for myself, who are you? What are you? How do want to be seen? Where do you want to stand? These were the challenges you know, I have to create an identity if I want to do corporate jokes, dirty or religious joke. These basically were the challenges.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I had a game plan, I started from the church but when I saw that the church might not be able to provide the kind of funding I need to build a family I now moved on from church to do clean circular jokes and I stood by it and along the line when I was doing that, I switched to doing corporate joke. I did a lot of corporate jobs because that is where the money will come from. So, It was like having to adapt to a lifestyle as it came by and as opportunity presented itself I learnt how to blend in it stylishly it doesn’t mean that I have left the former style, it just means that you have moved on to the next level because now your responsibilities have increased.
Tell us about your days at Yaba College of Technology?
During that time I was the funniest guy on campus, I am not just saying this because I was awarded as the funniest guy on campus, I have also been awarded as the most entertaining guy on campus at the time, everybody knew me all the women, all the men, the lecturers did not like me much because I have more attention from my classmates than the lecturers so most of them didn’t like me, a lot of them told me I would amount to nothing that I will not make it. About 3 to 4 years ago I was in the same holdup with one of my lecturers he was driving one rickety, smoky car and I was driving my luxurious car I had to wind down and greeted him, he looked at me and he was like I have been seeing you on TV and I said thank you sir. He said you are very big now and I am very glad, I replied him and said but you said ‘I no go make am’ that time and he just laughed, you know that is life for you it is just one of those things it just made me to work harder and that is just it. I liked it when people believe I am not going to achieve something it makes me work harder.
What is your most memorable day on campus?
My most memorable day on campus was the day I defended my project, people taught I will fail the project and have an extra year, even my lecturers were prepared, they were like he will fail, and little did they know that I was prepared for it. I have studied everything, I have done all the research they don’t believe somebody like me would go that far and immediately they called my name then I can’t remember my matriculation number, the whole audience you know you have to defend in the presence of lecturers and audience, so the whole audience started hailing my name. One of the lecturers in a bid to make the students quiet mentioned that their noise would make it harder for me and immediately he said that thing I said this people have put me in trouble so they just had to keep quiet and I stood in front and started. I talked and talked and they hail out again and the man will say you people are annoying me ooo... that was my most memorable day on campus because even the lecturers thought I was not going to bring anything at all that they were so disappointed because my performance beat their imagination, and that makes it my most memorable experience because I excelled in what people thought I wouldn’t.
Tell us about Buzz live with Owen Gee, what inspired the concept?
I didn’t know I was going to do a talk show, I was approached by a company called Total Recall Media, they approached me for a talk show and I said no I am not a talk show type of person that I am a comedian they said yes they want a comedy talk show I said that will not work. They told me they want me to use my hilarious way to ask people questions, I said it wouldn’t work, they said it will work, I said no, they asked me to come for the audition, I went there with the intention of failing the audition to prove to them that it won’t work with me. They brought someone as my guest with the cameras on I started asking the guy certain hilarious questions, the cameramen and all other the other crew members started laughing and the producer looked at me and said do you see why you are the best man for this? That even how you are saying it is funny that was how we started. All the big names in the industry from 2face Idibia to Sound Sultan, Denrele, OC Ukeje, Basorge, Gbenga Adeyinka, Debola Williams, and just to mention a few has been guests on the show. It’s one of the most talked about shows in Africa, in the whole of Africa we are number two. We started in 2014 and in just 2years we are able to achieve all of these in fact I didn’t know it was going to become this big. Right now we are the only programme that runs every day of the week, Monday to Friday so what else can a man possibly ask for.
Now let’s talk about your movie project, what is the movie all about?
The movie is 200milion, it’s a comic film, I have always wanted to do a film. I’ve done stand up, stage plays, I’m the first guy to do 105 skits that’s it then you can say okay what the next thing to do is. I wanted to do a storyline that is funny, that has a little bit of political sense in it, religious undertone, tackle certain moral issues of life and a story that affects every day life of the common man today; a story that a lot of young people can learn from especially going with the current economic recession. I thought of the storyline, and called a group of guys that can work with me they are the guys that produced Taxi Driver Oko Ashewo, we put together the storyline and developed it and started attaching characters to it, as soon as that is done we have a movie plot, we talked about location and then looking for the people that are going to invest in the film because to shot a good film in Nigeria you need good money we are able to get people to believe in the project and partner with us. I invited my friends and colleagues to appear in the film and they all agreed. So we have a lot of wonderful, brilliant acting mind, Odun Adekola, Basorge, Own Gee, Yaw, Mercy Aigbe, Saka, Omawunmi Dada, Lepacious Bose, Ali Baba and other acts amongst which is a young intelligent actor called Emma Oh My God. We are almost rounding off the movie, hoping that the film can be released by January 2017 across cinemas. Let’s see if we can invade your homes and make you happy with this new comic movie, it’s actually going to be a new chapter in my life with the movie 200milion.
Being a comic film, you would be surprise by the roles you will see some of these popular actors play in the film, such like Mercy Aigbe playing a born again sister, Odunlade Adekola played a pastor, I played an armed robber. And other interesting characters you wouldn’t want to miss.
What is your unique selling point?
My unique selling point is my attitude, my character, I bring in the Own Gee flavour into it, and it’s not my voice, face but put in my 100 percent into all that I do. I bring in things that is not every day because I am not just talented in one part from talking, I can start singing, from singing I can do stand up comedy and from stand up comedy I can start doing motivation. Even from the way I walk you will find comedy in it. And that is what people call crazy comedy. There’s a brand who wants me to just go on radio and talk about them, we are still talking about it. You know as a brand expert not just a comedian, I know when to tune down the comedy and also tune it up.
What inspires you as a person?
What inspires me are the everyday happenings I am somebody who spends a lot of time taking note of the society, reading, I observe things a lot, so these are the things that are most important to me. They are the things that inspire me; everyday life family, religion, food, the atmosphere, people and even culture. I pay a lot of attention and details to them, they inspire me.
What will you say to lots of young people who complain that there is no job anywhere?
God gave everybody talents, they should just imagine that we live in a world where there are no jobs, where you can only get employed by your talents, think about a world where there are no oil companies; there is no this, there is no that where the only way to employ yourself is by starting up something. What are those things that God gave you? Those passions that you can transform into money think of it, look inwards convert your passion into a profession. That is what I did, that is what a lot of young people out there are doing. When you convert your passion into your profession you make money. Stop waiting for somebody to come and help you those people you are waiting on to help you where do they get help from when they started? Most started on their own.