I THANK GOD I CAN FEED TODAY BECAUSE OF COMEDY – Seyi Law
Idileoye Oluwaseyitan Lawrence Aletile, aka Seyi Law, is arguably one of the busiest comedians in the country. The Ilaje, Ondo State born rib cracker whose career has been on the rise since he won the AY Show in 2006 hosted YES International!’s GBENGA SHABA at his new office on Omidisu Street, off Ishawo Road, Ikorodu, Lagos recently. They spoke on a lot of issues…
You have been on the comedy scene for some time. How would you describe the journey so far?
The journey so far has been wonderful. It has come with its ups and downs. I have gone through some challenges and I have been able to overcome them; not that the challenges won’t take their own tolls, but we just thank God that we are making progress.
What does it take to be a good comedian?
For me, to be a good comedian takes a lot of hard work, takes a lot of learning and you have to be very determined to succeed. You need to be humble which I think goes side by side with learning. Your humility affords you the opportunity to be able to learn from people who are ahead of you, from people who are at the same level with you and people who are coming behind you. So, you need a great deal of that and also you must learn to study time, yeah! Flow with time and time the time.
Why do you think most comedians find it difficult to sustain their talent?
I think it has a lot to do with the understanding of the industry before joining. I think it has to do with mind set also. I was talking with somebody some months back and I said if I had the opportunity to meet someone for an advice before I joined the industry, one of the advice or the questions that I would have loved the person to ask me is: “How would you sustain the fame in five to 10 years from now?” I think if I had had somebody ask me that question, I would have probably had a lot of time to think about what I needed to do to maintain the fame. I think aside from being funny, your relationship with people also goes a long way to affect your future in the industry and for me, relevance also matters. Relevance is the ability to prove yourself over the years so that people can even say behind you that he is the person that we want. There is no champion forever. You might not have the opportunity to be number one for ever, but then you can be at the top for a very long time and even forever.
What would you say was the best advice you ever received in the course of your climbing to where you are?
The best advice I ever received from someone was from my elder brother, Mr. Rotimi Aletile. He said, “Don’t forget that entertainment comes with F’s; that it will bring friends to you, bring foes, female; it will bring fans and it will bring fame and he told me that the ability to manage the F’s will determine how far I will go in life”. I think that was a wonderful one and the best advice anyone has given me because we have made friends along the way, we have enemies, we have fame, we have true fans and we have female and I think that God has been able to help me to be able to maintain a unique relationship with all these people and that, I’m very grateful to God for.
You are one of the most-sought after comedians today. How have you been able to achieve this?
Well, I bless God, but the truth is that I have a principle that I work with and the basic principle is hard work, with great determination and humility, with Jesus as my supreme being. Being able to put all of these things together really helped me. I just try to push myself to work harder, a little harder every other time and I’ve decided to remain focused, which is my determination to succeed. I used to tell myself that determination is the passion to remain focused on a particular vision or dream and I’ve learnt to include humility which has helped me to learn a lot from several people and each time, I want to give all my success back to God and not me. There are times I’ve been down and I asked myself is God really working for me? Because then I just keep reminding myself of where I’m coming from and how far God has brought me and this really convinced me that it was not me, but God.
What has been the greatest challenge you have had and how were you able to overcome it?
I don’t know, but I think one of the most trying periods for me was last year 2012, when for about 3 months I did not get a single job to do and at that time I was just thinking, am I sure I’m still in the right profession or maybe I’m losing focus? But then I just told myself that when darkness comes, a brighter light will surely shine and that became my focus; that things would get better. After those three months, the turnaround was massive, it was huge and the building where I am right now is part of those things that came up after the three months and this has really given me the opportunity to learn better and know that entertainment might not be forever and that the ability to diversity will help you along the way.
You are based in Ikorodu. Why the choice of this area because most of your colleagues prefer Lekki or Victoria Island?
I live in Ikorodu and I just told myself that before I leave Ikorodu for other places, I should be able to point to something that I have been able to achieve here for the past two years that I have been living here. I sat down to think about something that will benefit me and also affect lives of people in my neighbourhood, where people will be saying “Seyi Law is the owner of the place and they would treat you well there”. So, I just decided to leave a legacy behind in the community and that was how the idea started before I started thinking of those things that I can do and the idea of a very good beauty salon, a nice fitness centre, a photo studio and an avenue for children to relax, because most times we concentrate on the adults and we neglect the children. So, we also added a kiddies centre to some of the services we render in my new establishment. This place is actually two companies in one. We have the Seyi Law Entertainment Events, which is the aspect that deals with the comedy side of Seyi Law and the management of Seyi Law as an artist. We also have the Xcess Entertainment. This is the aspect where we have the Xcess Productions, which includes photography and video productions for different events and photo shoots for families, models and others. Then, we have the Xcess Fitness Centre, where people register to exercise and gym; we have Xcess Beauty Salon for unisex, we also have Xcess Kiddies, where children can come and play, swim, dance and have fun. This will be fully equipped towards the first half of this year.
What about your shows? What stopped them?
I’m building myself, I’m building my fan base. In 2012, I did Lagos Must Laugh with Seyi Law on January 1, 2012, but it was really affected by the fuel subsidy removal. But then, we still had some wonderful number of people; over 700 people gathered at the Muson Centre to enjoy the show despite the fuel subsidy protest. I believe if not for the brouhaha, the show would have enjoyed more success because after the show, some people got stranded because they couldn’t get fuel into their cars. And after that we proceeded to the United Kingdom. We did London Must Laugh and then we did Manchester Must Laugh. This year, it’s not going to be any different. We are doing London Must Laugh on Good Friday, March 29, 2012 at the Discovery Centre, Jenkins Lane, Barking 1911 OAD, London and from there we will probably be touching Istanbul, Turkey, with Istanbul Must Laugh with Seyi Law and thereafter we would come back to Lagos to do Lagos Must Laugh.
Since you started comedy, what is the greatest thing that God has done for you?
I think the greatest thing that God has done for me is to be able to feed. My growing up was tough. At a certain period in my life, it was very difficult for my family to eat. I remember days that we had to cook beans without maggi, we had to use only salt. These are some of the things that I just look back on and say waoh! God, I’m really grateful. I can’t also forget the fact that comedy has helped me to marry the woman of my dream. You know every time you wake up and look beside you on the bed and see somebody that you genuinely love, you have to say Lord, I’m grateful. It’s a wonderful feeling anytime I see her as an addition from God. Sometimes things like this bring me to tears. Every time I look at my life I ask how did I make it this far, then I realize that it wasn’t me, it is God.
When you decided to be a comedian, what were the goals you set for yourself and how far have you gone in achieving them?
I just dabbled into it. I did not really plan to be a comedian, so I didn’t really have any goal when I joined the industry. I started setting goals and targets for myself when I had joined the industry. Basically, my journey into comedy was to be able to fend for my family, put food on the table for them, like I said and it was not more than that. I just wanted an avenue to make money and make my family happy. We were going through a lot, the suffering was really much and I just wanted a way out of it. I was just tired sitting under the umbrella at Orile Bus Stop making phone calls and not being able to count my gains after the day’s job. It was really difficult, but I’m grateful that I’ve been able to overcome all that and I’ve been able to set new targets for myself and I’m achieving them.
Tell us more about how you dabbled into comedy?
I used to make phone calls at Orile Bus Stop, the one we now call business centre, with an umbrella. One day one of my cousins, Oladipupo Ogungbemi, a member of a gospel musical group called Images, called me and said that this thing that you just do and make us laugh, do you know people are making money from it? I said something funny again and everybody laughed. Then he said kneel down and let me pray for you. He said, if you can make me laugh, you will make everybody laugh in the world and I said amen. One day he came to me that they wanted to perform in a church and that he wanted me to come over with them; that when they introduce them on stage, I should go first and crack one or two jokes and introduce them and that was how my journey into comedy started. From there, I got another invitation to another church, and then to another church and another. So, that was how I started.
What else do you want from God after all that you have achieved?
I want God to help me with enough money so that at 40 years I can retire and do some other things that I want to do for myself. Right now, I’m working for people and not for myself. I have a whole lot of responsibilities to carry, so I think it is time for me to start working for myself and build a good future that will help me when I’m retired. I want to retire when I’m 40 years old. Not that I won’t be in comedy, God willing, but then I want to be able to look at myself and say comedy paved the way for where I am. I might be in politics or at the helm of affairs of a very large company just to be able to give myself good holidays and a wonderful time with my family. I want to live a happy man after so much dedication to a profession that has brought me so close to many people and put laughter on faces of thousands of people.
You just acquired a multi-million naira building for your company, Xcess Entertainment and Seyi Law Entertainment Event. Tell us about it.
I remember passing by the building some years ago and I said to myself that I’m going to get this place for myself to live in or to use as an office and I prayed that if I did not get the place, no one else should get it. After a year nobody was seen in the building, so I decided that now that I have thought of something to do, let me set the records straight and get this business started and as God will help us, it is now functioning well.
NB: First published December 2013
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