Roses are red, violets are blue…but never did I imagine what lay ahead of me during my first stand-up show. Chai, it was crazy!
Chocolates are nice, flowers are awesome…but the gods should have warned me not to attend the ‘Talent Show’ on that fateful day. Maka why?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been told I was a funny guy. I don’t walk like Charlie Chaplin neither do I have a facial expression similar to that of Mr. Ibu. Actually, it’s none of that! I mean, I was just being funny in a funny way. I hope you get my point? Fine, I know you don’t. You know what; the summary of the whole twaddle and claptrap is this – I could make people laugh even when they didn’t want to. Sometimes I wonder if I were born during the time of Hitler and Goebbels, maybe I could have talked the Fuhrer into liking Jews (in a funny way) and the Second World War wouldn’t have taken place. Here we go again, digressing as usual. My bad! I apologize and promise never to digress again. Ok, so so so…
Whenever we had a family get-together, I would make everyone laugh so hard (no pun intended). At an early age, I even had the guts to tell a joke about my dad’s white beards. When the words left my lips, I froze abruptly. Everyone suddenly froze too and stared at my dad to see what would happen next. My mum gave me the eye as if she was saying: “Ngwa, you see yourself now. You see what you have caused? You have insulted your father. Today na today”. And I gave her the eye as if I was saying: “But Malle, it was only a joke na. Abeg, help me beg am o”. I expected to get a couple of blows on the face though. But surprisingly, after a couple of seconds had passed, the old man burst out laughing and gave me a pat on the back. Everyone followed suit and laughed except me. I was puzzled. Maybe the blows would still come later after the laughter must have died down.
I don’t think that was a thump of approval. But from that moment onwards, I never feared yabbing anyone. If I didn’t get knocked out by my old man, then nobody in this godforsaken world would dare knock me out if I told a nasty joke about him/her.
So every time I was chilling at a bar, I would reel out jokes like a politician sharing recharge cards at a rally in Osogbo. And God punish devil, if I come drink like 4 or 5 green boo, walahi, e don be for that day. I would yab the gateman, yab the security man, yab the owner of the bar, yab the security dog…I would yab every freaking soul and thing that came to mind at that time. One time, I was even yabbing my innocent pastor at a bar. Chai, God abeg, forgive me for I have sinned!
Even in commercial buses, I would yab strangers, yab the conductor, yab the driver, yab the doggaman selling fake medicine…and any freaking soul and thing that came to mind on the spot. One time, the driver got so angry that he threatened to plunge inside a lagoon if I persisted with the jokes. For where…ogbeni calm down jor, no be all of us go die inside the lagoon! Abi mammy-water go save only you, leave the rest of us!
And the good news was that in spite of all these mischievous escapades, I never got harassed by anyone. So the devil kept pushing me until I landed in hot soup some years later.
We were chilling in the face-me-I-face-you compound where I usually went to shoot dice or play games. There was always cash to stake, free booze and the other one that goes with booze – kpef. When I arrived on this ungodly day, I noticed no one was shooting dice. Nkiru was in front of their room preparing the beans which she would use to make moi-moi in the evening. Papa Chinedu was sniffing snuff with holy anger and cursing at an unseen spirit. I later learnt he lost his favorite dog a day before. Poor animal! Takpuru was holding a flyer and going through it. As I reached closer, he turned around and exclaimed happily:
“Ehe, Baruu, na you all the men dey wait for since. God go use you bless all of us this semester”.
“Wetin happen? Jesus wan come? Abi una win lottery?” I asked.
“Calm down first. See this handbill wey I dey hold so. Na Talent Show/Variety Night wey Cosmo F.M. dey organize. The first prize na 200k plus better TV set. Different categories dey. Dem get singing, dancing but the main one na comedy. O boi, you know say you funny well well. I believe say you go win am…aswear”, he said while raising his right hand in the air and taking a puff from his cancer stick with the left.
“Win wetin? I just dey look you since as you dey yarn. I resemble Basketmouth? You think say to yab person na the same thing as to do comedy? Ogbeni, I no do anything jor. Free me”, I told him frankly, while proceeding to grab a bottle of dry gin beside the bench.
Soon, the other guys came back from God-knows-where. They all said the same thing and kept encouraging me to give the show a try. One said, “Baruu, imagine as our lives go take change for this area. Nkiru no go form for you again. We go begin drink expensive wine, no be alomo and we go throway all these cheap kaikai wey we dey drink. Just try and you go win. God dey behind you”. I finally hearkened to the inglorious demons.
Over the next couple of days, I rehearsed and practiced for long hours. I came up with jokes – both old and new ones. I practiced how I would walk on the stage, my body movements and different facial expressions. By the end of the week, I was confident I was going to win the grand prize. Who dem be?
On the D-day, I arrived at the venue dressed in an orange shirt, faded blue pair of jeans, a brown pair of timberland boots and a black fedora to match. I walked with a swagger and whistled to the tune of Eminem’s Lose Yourself. Before we entered inside the hall, Takpuru called me aside and presented me with a wrap of greens. I objected to the gift but he persisted by pressing it firmly into my right hand. “Dey there, you no know say you suppose high up before you enter there?” he said after handing the kpoli to me.
The devil manifests in many forms and Takpuru is definitely one of those forms. As stupid as I was, I took his advice and proceeded to the parking lot to get high. After I was done, I went inside the hall and got my ticket before heading to my seat.
The show started at 6 p.m. prompt. The rappers and singers showcased their talents first. After I saw them perform, I was confident I was going to win. My goodness, were those talented folks or just a bunch of kids that came on stage to embarrass themselves? They all should be lined up and shot at the back of the head one after the other for wasting our precious time.
Afterwards, it was time for the comedians to showcase their talents. Na so…o ti ya, I thought to myself. The first person was a lady. On the stage, she kept on shouting ‘Area, Area, Area, Area…’ for a couple of minutes before the crowd got sick of her antics and booed her off the stage. She left holding her face in her hands. Chai, this audience mean no be small o! At that moment, I started having butterflies in my stomach. In addition to that, I started noticing the effects of the kpoli I took earlier on. My head got so heavy and my respiratory rate increased a bit. I also noticed my palms were moist. I quickly realized that particular stuff wasn’t the normal one wey we dey take. E don be for me today, I thought. I didn’t even know when the second person finished performing and my name was called as the next performer.
Slowly, I adjusted my fedora and walked up the steps leading to the stage. I felt I heard the crowd applauding and as I turned around, I realized no one was actually clapping or cheering. First phase of phuck up…the weed was actually working. When I reached the stage, I forgot to request for the microphone. I had started performing before the compère called my attention to collect the mic. Second phase of phuck up…the weed was actually working.
Ladies and gentlemen, I was abso-freaking-lutely stoned and phucked. When I beheld the audience, all I saw was a sea of cockroaches. Everyone looked so small. Voices in my head became more audible. Ideas were clashing and jamming randomly. For the first few minutes, I was just laughing at the audience while trying to contemplate on where to start from. Finally, I decided to say something:
“Make una no mind me o…I no well. I get diabetes for my brain”.
Some people laughed, some giggled while some kept mean faces, especially one ugly girl. One of the voices in my head screamed out: “Baruu, yab that ugly girl, yab am…imagine, you tell joke wey funny, she no laugh”. I hearkened to the evil voice and turned towards the girl’s direction and said:
“Sisi, how far…this one wey you no dey laugh at all. E be like say you never suck blood today. No worry, I go soon finish make you go back to your witchcraft business”.
Omo, see gobe. The girl was flabbergasted as well as the other members of the audience. Some naughty ones actually laughed at the silly joke and cheered me on. At that instant, that same evil voice in my head spoke again: “Baruu, you no see say people dey laugh…dem gbadu your jokes wella. Talk more, talk more”.
I quickly jumped up in the air and took my orange shirt off. Action film don start be that o. I proceeded to yab every single person I saw on the front row:
“See this one, you dey form township girl…you sure say you wear pant as you dey there so”. More people laughed and clapped for me.
“This one wey dey here…I know say na your neighbor goat you thief go sell…take the money carry your babe come show…dey form for front seat”. More people clapped for me. I saw Takpuru stand up to cheer me on.
I kept going on and on and on…until I mistakenly (or rather, stupidly) yabbed a soldier seated on the second row. I talked about him dying on his next peacekeeping mission in Sudan. Omo, that was the end of story! Two other soldiers walked up with him to the stage. I realized they were soldiers because they wore camouflage caps and pants. One put his hands on my belt buckle while a second one kicked my two legs and I quickly slumped on the ground. I was screaming on top of my voice, calling my friends to help me but I saw them from the corner of my eyes escape from the venue. Omo, see beating! Even the protest from the organizers of the show fell on deaf ears.
The beating didn’t end there o. I was bundled out of the venue to the parking lot where I was severely dealt with. They were waiting for a taxi to convey me to the guard room at 82 Division when I discovered an avenue to escape. The one holding me was busy looking for a bigger stick to hit my big head with, when I quickly stood up and took off. It was that day I realized I could give Usain Bolt a run for his money. They pursued me and I kept running till I saw an okada man who conveyed me back home.
When I arrived at the compound, Takpuru and the other inglorious demons were on hand to offer their fake sympathies. I didn’t even talk to anyone. I quickly made a hot bath and washed my body. Afterwards, I took several gulps from the bottle of brandy left under my study table. All the while, I still didn’t talk to anyone.
Over the next couple of days, I stayed indoors nursing my wounds. I got sympathy visits and calls from friends and enemies. Some actually came to laugh at me. That one no matter sha…wetin happen don happen.
But I learnt a valuable lesson on that day – Never yab a military or paramilitary man, even if na your friend!