TOP COMEDIAN, TEE A OPENS UP ON HIS SECRET PAINS AND PLEASURES
There are certain things you can’t take away from Tunde Adewale, aka Tee A. No. 1. is his good looks; No. 2 is his humility and No. 3 is his talent. The likeable comedian and loveable television host who read Yoruba at the University of Lagos and has pioneered so many things in his sector shared some of his secret pains and pleasures with YES INTERNATIONAL! Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AZUH ARINZE. This was over a drink on Thursday, September 4, 2014, and at the ever bubbling Shoprite in Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos. Enjoy…
What is Tee A’s definition of comedy?
My definition of comedy will be that which entertains, that which brings joy, that which edifies people rather than bring people down. My definition of comedy will be the art of giving and then lifting up people’s spirit.
What do you like most about being a comedian?
I think, basically, it’s the ability to just touch people irrespective of whatever mood they are in. People come to events, they probably just want to spend 5, 10 minutes and the next minute, they find themselves reeling and laughing on the floor and they end up staying from the beginning to the end of the event. That gives you joy more than anything else. The ability to just feel the pulse of the audience when you are performing. I always tell people that that is the ultimate thrill – to know that you are in control of people’s emotions for a specific time frame.
What don’t you like about being a comedian?
Ah! What don’t I like about being a comedian? (Thinks) Nothing actually, nothing actually. I think sometimes it’s the price you have to pay. Everything in life comes with its attendant cost. Sometimes the attention you get, sometimes you feel it’s unnecessary. There are times you are definitely not in the mood for any attention, you just want to chill on your own, in your own little corner, you wish nobody recognizes you, but overtime, you learn to live with it. But that is not specific to comedy. It’s more specific with stardom generally.
What makes a good comedian?
What makes a good comedian? I think the ability to read an event and gauge the mood of the audience. With that, you know what to say and when to say it and comedy is simply …how I put all jokes is: I think jokes are a comedian’s instrument. But you need to know how to use it, when to use it and where to use it. So, it’s about telling jokes, but knowing what jokes to tell, where to tell it and how to tell it.
What is the costliest mistake that any comedian can make?
I think the costliest mistake that any comedian can make is to take your audience for granted. Taking the audience for granted is the costliest mistake. That is why even when you get any form of criticism, rather than complain, you need to examine it. Obviously, there are loads of unwarranted criticisms for different reasons. But out of it all, you try and look at it and sift it and see which one is constructive. If you don’t find any constructive one, you move on. But if you find any one that is constructive, you ponder over it and then you work on it. I get a lot of criticisms because of the TV show and every time we get those feed backs, we work on them. I try to understand maybe, okay, they don’t like this part or they don’t like this and we work on it and we see results. And then when we get all praises and stuff, I’m like I’m not looking for the praises, help me to critique this work. I mean, I believe that no man is an island of knowledge. You can always learn, and a third eye can always see what two eyes don’t see. So, I always believe in constructive criticisms.
What is the greatest thing that being a comedian has done for you?
I think the greatest thing that being a comedian has done for me is to help me value humanity more. Value humanity more, in the sense that everyone is gifted by God, but I’m one of the very few that I’m surviving strictly on my gift and making people happy with my gift. And that’s a blessing. Away from the money that people pay me, just seeing people laugh and seeing people have a good time is worth more than any amount anybody can ever pay me. I will even pay for me to be able to do that. But it’s funny I get paid to do it.
What has comedy not done for you?
I don’t know. I mean, we are still evolving, so I can’t say this is what comedy has done for me. I mean, comedy has done such a huge lot for me and I’m grateful to God and then I’m still hoping that it will still do more for me. So, it’s just like life. It keeps growing, it keeps maturing and you keep evolving.
Most people attain success in life, but they find it difficult to sustain it. Where do you think they normally get it wrong?
I think believing too much in your own supply; getting high on your own supply is a cardinal reason for that. A lot of people believe in the hype around them. Forget the hype, what is your substance? Especially in the media and entertainment, we thrive on hype. But beyond the hype, what substance do you have? What are you bringing to the table? If we take away the artiste, who are you, what are your values, what are your antecedents, what are your successes, what is your cerebral capacity beyond being an artiste? A lot of people get high on their own supply and this and that and before you know it, it comes crashing down and when the veil is removed, it’s now left for your person to deal with the situation and then your person does not have the capability to handle that. So, that’s just the thing.
Tee A has been into comedy now for over a decade. What would you say has kept you going?
That’s about 17, 18 years now. I think it’s the grace of God and then two, I think it’s the ability to learn. I learn from a lot of people everyday. I learn from upcoming comedians, I learn from my colleagues, I learn from the bigger ones, I learn from foreigners, I learn from any and everybody. I’m always learning.
So, that’s what I believe. No one is an island of knowledge. For me, basically, I love to learn, I live to learn. If I make mistakes, I learn from them, if I’m successful in anything, I take learning from it. I’m always learning and I’ve found out that when you learn, you are eager to put what you’ve learnt into practice. So, that keeps me going. If I do a show and someone comes and says Tee A, you didn’t do this at the show, you didn’t entertain like you entertained at so, so event, I’m like okay…so, I take lessons from that. If they say oh, you did this and it was marvelous, you did all these and it was marvelous, but you didn’t do it at this kind of event, I will be like okay, so I need to. Sometimes on the TV show, people say why don’t you do this or do that. I am always learning and that has kept me going. And I always take time to evaluate my status, I always take time to evaluate. There are times I don’t do concerts. There are times that I forget the television, there are times I don’t even record. I just take my time to evaluate the work I have done, see what people are saying, see where we can improve on and then we go back to the drawing board, we come up again, put it back there, get the feel of what people are saying about it and that has kept me going. Also, the need to consistently re-invent oneself at every stage of life. I believe in re-invention. Gone are the days when you should only survive by being a stand up comedian. Nothing stops you from exploring television, radio, concerts, even writing. There are so many other genres of comedy.
Which of your colleagues do you have the greatest respect for and why?
Quite sincerely, I have tremendous respect for all of them. That is the honest and nothing but the deepest truth. I have tremendous respect for all of them. Yeah! Everyone of them. Like I said, the established ones, the upcoming ones. I mean, some of the works that the upcoming ones are doing are very inspiring. So, I have tremendous respect for every one of them. Maybe the ones that are my friends, that we are buddies, that we are contemporaries, I appreciate their works. Obviously, you talk about people like Ali (Baba), you talk about people like Basketmouth, you talk about Julius (Agwu), you talk about Okey (Bakassi), Basorge (Tariah), Teju (Babyface), those are men who have done standup comedy, they’ve veered into something else, into another aspect of comedy. Even AY. They’ve done stand up, they’ve done concert, they’ve done TV, they’ve pushed the boundaries beyond just being stand up. They are doing concerts, they are doing events. So, I have tremendous respect for every one of them.
What exactly got you interested in comedy?
Nothing! It was something I was just doing for fun. Back in secondary school, I was always doing riddles and jokes. So, secondary school, riddles and jokes; got into university, it became sort of serious. While we were still saying okay, I’m just a campus star, Encomium came with their wahala of Reel Awards, AMEN Awards, we did it and the next thing, people started calling and I’m like I’m just having fun. But let me just keep doing this. I met Ali Baba, yeah, it’s fun, he told me, but we make money. Okay, let’s see how much we can make. I was like you know what? Let’s just keep working. We kept working and we’ve been working ever since (Laughing). We’ve never stopped working…
You’ve come up with a lot of jokes, which of them tickles you the most?
Honestly, I can’t say. In fact, some of the jokes that I started with, when I hear young comedians doing them these days, I just laugh. Because I’m like these are materials I created in the beginning, when I started. It’s still funny to me, it tickles me when I hear them. But I honestly can’t say. I know there’s a joke that I used to do that a lot of people picked up and even if I hear it from a third party, it’s still funny to me. Example is single ladies singing ‘Do something new in my life’. Then married women singing ‘It shall be permanent’. So, when I hear a lot of upcoming comedians do it these days, it still tickles me. I’m like whaaooh!
You are one of those that started comedy shows in this country, but you are no longer as active as you used to be. What happened?
Like I keep saying, re-invention for me is key. I did Tee A Live ‘N’ Naked for seven straight years. I did Lagos, I did Abuja, I did UK and after seven years, I said I had had enough. It was so bad that people were asking me then what will you now be doing if you are not doing those concerts? I was like I will be surviving, I will be working. I wasn’t even going to go back to television. I was just tired of seeing myself on a poster, billboard, magazine every year for seven straight years. I was like let’s just take a break. I was tired of the whole Tee A Live and I felt also you needed to give other people a chance as well to explore the same market and to the glory of God, Julius did; pushed the boundaries; AY raised the bar; Basketmouth took it up further than we thought he could; Ali too came with some icing on the cake; Basorge also tried to do his own; Teju, Koffi, everybody! All the young ones – Akpororo, Buchi, Bovi, everyone is doing now, so I’m happy. I’m happy that God used me to at least put that out: that it can be done. Because prior to that time, the only comedy show we had was Nite Of A 1000 Laughs and I was like there’s no reason we can’t stage our own one-man shows. It’s been done abroad. I used to do a lot of international shows then as well. So, I was like if these guys I perform with abroad can do this, there’s no reason why we can’t do it here. To the glory of God, it’s gone on ever since. But I also believe that that is not the only form or format of comedy that we should explore here. That’s why I moved away from that, and I came back to television with a late night variety format, which is Tyme Out With Tee A and Tyme Out With Tee A; at first, people were skeptical about it. But much later, it picked up in ratings very, very well. Almost everywhere and anywhere, people recognized me and said Tyme Out With Tee A. So, it’s doing well.
What inspired Tyme Out With Tee A?
For me, I grew up, and till date, I’m an addict of Saturday Night Live. So, I’m like there’s nothing that stops us from having our own Saturday Night Live. I think I’ve always been motivated by the zeal to break new grounds. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have our own Saturday Night Live. At first, when we started, people said you are doing a talk show. I’m like I’m not doing a talk show; it’s a variety show that I’m doing. If you take time to watch, you will understand. But after a while, even if you don’t understand, it will be clear to you what I’m doing. So, I’m like you know what? We should have a variety show, an African variety show that people can watch, not just for comedy. People who love interviews, people who love sketches, skits, you know, like a pot pourri of entertainment put together and that’s what Tyme Out With Tee A is about. So, I said let’s try and put that up. Obviously, the first thing that came up was that for a programme this complex, the budget was going to be crazy. But I’m like let us start from somewhere. We start with whatever we can accommodate and then we grow into it. And that’s what has happened over the years.
When some people are not happy, they call Tee A to inject happiness into them and their lives. When Tee A is not happy, what does he do?
My wife is my personal comedian at home. So, that one makes me laugh and happy. But sincerely, I hardly fall into those kind of moods that I’m sad, that I’m down. If I take a drive, sleep, I’m good. The Bible says don’t let the sun go down on your anger. I don’t fret over things or accommodate irrelevant things. I need a totally pure heart. If I’m not happy with you, I say it and I’m over it. If anything annoys me, I stay in my corner, listen to music, watch TV, sleep, read and I’m done. I’m over it.
Let’s even talk about your wife, Kenny. How did you guys meet?
Azuh, all dat one is high school love story (General laughter). I mean, we were just friends. We were friends for a long time before we started dating. I think that’s what makes it special. We were friends for five straight years and we were just friends. We were always like hi, what’s up, how far, just chill out once in a while. Nothing! I think it was like the fifth year that we started really talking. Obviously, she was in school, I was in school. I was dating different people; she probably had a boy friend then as well. But it wasn’t till much later that we started thinking, let’s even date sef! Let me go out with you; we’ve been friends, let’s see if it will work. Then, we dated for five straight years…
What would you say has sustained your marriage to Kenny thus far?
The fact that she’s my friend, she’s my paddy. That just makes everything else insignificant. She’s my paddy-paddy and people don’t even know the half of it. We gist, we play, we fight, we roll. She’s a fantastic human being.
What’s the toughest challenge that both of you have faced as a couple?
For me, really, nothing. Nothing, for me, personally. For me, nothing is challenging. For me, it will all come to pass, it will all come to pass…People that know us are always like, we are waiting for you guys, where are the kids now? And I’m like God says in His time He makes all things beautiful. Kids will come when kids will come. But as a woman, sometimes it gets to her and I’m like babe, just keep your head up, just chin up. It will be okay, you know. Apart from the small business that she does, she would rather not go out, she would rather just come back home once she’s done with her waka-waka. She’s very reserved, she doesn’t even like going out. She’s not the out-going type anyway! So, that’s probably what you will say is a challenge. But even that will soon be a thing of the past. Apart from that, we are like every regular couple. Sometimes we find it hard, we find it so hard to believe that we’ve been married this long.
For how long have you guys been married?
It will be 10 years next year. So, it’s nine years now. Have we really been married that long? (General laughter). She says next year, I have to propose to her again (More laughter). That it doesn’t look as if we’ve even done anything. So, I have to propose to her again next year.
Professionally, God has been nice to you…
(Cuts in) – Yes boss! You can say that again.
What more do you want from Him?
I mean, God knows the desires of my heart. So, I will just let Him meet the desires of my heart. He knows what is most important for us. I pray that the two of us will hold our hands and enter into heaven. That’s how bad we want to be. That we hold our hands like this (Demonstrates it), we will not go separate – separate. And we will enter the gate of heaven together ultimately.
NB: First published December 2014
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