Born Idileoye Oluwaseyitan Lawrence Aletile but popularly known as Seyi Law, he is one of the top comedians in the entertainment industry after carving a niche for himself shortly after winning the popular AY Open MIC challenge in 2006. Seyi Law spoke with MUTIAT LAWORE on industry issues, family, career among others. Excerpts:
Knowing that language is a barrier internationally, how have you been able to breakthrough that obstacle outside the country?
Constant improvement of yourself; I’ve done English comedy for over one hour before without even speaking either Yoruba or Pidgin English, so it’s just that we need to understand our audience and know what to say and when to say it. Once you understand that and are able to improve on yourself, you don’t have a problem. As a matter of fact, I’m still going back to school very soon in order to brush up my English, because I feel the need.
Over 15 years down the line in the comedy business, how has it been for you?
It’s really been a journey, one which has left my heart full of gratitude. I tell people all the time that I didn’t plan to be a comedian; it was just my cousin who saw the talent in me and felt I could do this thing, and so I started it in August 2005 when he introduced me on stage for the first time. And at a point, I just decided ‘okay, I think I could live on this.’ It was at that point that I started asking myself ‘what is the first 10 years is going to be?’ if I was going to really succeed in this business, it meant one was going to stay relevant for the first 10 years, and by the special grace of God, it became a dream come true. And even after the first 10 years now, we are still going on to do greater things; winning two awards just a week after my 10 years celebration. So, you can tell that it’s been really wonderful all the way.
What have been the challenges so far?
Anybody who comes into the comedy industry newly will tell you, one of the greatest problem of the industry is the case of recognition, and because comedy is not as big as music yet, we also have a bit of a challenge of respect; you are going to an event with a musician and they are providing accommodation for the musician and expect the comedian to just drive from home and come; yet whereas the former will only perform for just about 15 minutes, the latter will be there all through the event. So some of these things are the things we see. Therefore, we want to always talk about recognition all the time.
You said your cousin actually introduced you to comedy business, so if you were not doing comedy, what else would you have done?
I wanted to be a medical doctor. A lot of my colleagues will tell you that I was pretty brilliant in science. I even got admission to study medicine twice, but then it was at the point when we had financial challenges and it was so difficult for me to continue running the admission. I remember, I started attending classes at one particular point but had to pull back eventually to start contributing to the sustenance of the family with menial jobs to earn stipends. But thank God for what we have today.
Your first time on stage, how was the experience like?
It was a great experience, because immediately after my performance, somebody walked up to me and said ‘we will like you to come and perform in my church.’ So it was a great first time experience; it wasn’t as if I had stage fright or anything, because I had the opportunity to stand in front of crowds over and over again; I was the presi-dent of the cultural and dramatic club of my school; I was part of the literary and debating society. I had been representing my school in so many activities. I didn’t really understand what comedy was about; I just knew about saying something and let people laugh. So, when they introduced me, I just went on stage, started talking and people were laughing, and it was great.
All these years, when was the time you felt; ‘now I have arrived’?
I have not even arrived because the destination is still very far. But in 2008, I would say, that was the point I was fully convinced that this is what God wants me to do. A lot of people will say I talk about God so much, but then, it’s evident in my life, so I can’t stop talking about Him. On June 25, 2008, I remember when I was at an event with Asa when she came back after two years outside Nigeria. It is a story I always recount, so I came on stage, introduced myself, and I told them I’m going to be your MC at this event. Somebody in the audience said who is this? And I could hear the person because he was close to the stage; where is Alibaba? Where is Basketmouth? Who brought this one? At that point, I lost it; I had to crack my best joke which was supposed to be the last one, and people didn’t even laugh. I remember, I went backstage to introduce the next performer and I used the word ‘young’ almost seven times in a statement while introducing the performer. And my cousin, who even introduced me into comedy, followed me to that event. He said when the acts came on s t a g e , the mic r o -phone started misbehaving. A man sat in front of me said ‘when that idiot came on stage, they ought to have set the Mic about that time’; he was referring to me. So when I went backstage I went on my knees and said ‘God if this is what you want me to do, take over’. Going back after the first guy’s performance, for the first 45 minutes, I had people laughing and rolling on the floor; falling off their chairs. I introduced the next act after which I did another 30 minutes, and people were still laughing. So, at that point I said ‘God has shown me what He wants me to do.’
Over the years, your brand has evolved, what has kept you growing?
In the words of my elder brother, he says ‘determination with hard work and humility with Jesus, make success, a dream come true.’ That was one of my fundamental principles. Continue being focused, to be determined, to keep improving on my passion; keep the fire of passion burning within me. Also, to put in as much hard work that I have always put in from the beginning; and then to remain humble, so I can learn from those around me, and to always never forget going on my knees. They say your gift will make you stand before even great men, but the grace of God will bring you to your knees, and that has worked for me.
If you were given an opportunity to choose an international person to perform on stage with, who would that be, and why?
It would be Steve Harvey, because I love his facial expression; it’s crazy when it comes to facial expression, he’s unique. I am his greatest fan. You know, a lot of times you watch foreign comedy and you don’t really understand why people are laughing, but with Steve Harvey, you don’t even need to hear him speak; mere looking at him, you already know he’s really good.
The first money you made in comedy, how much was it, how did you feel, and how did you spend it?
Unfortunately, the first money I made from comedy was actually supposed to be N700, but they ended up paying me N500, and the way I spent it, I used it on transport.
What is your take on the practice of comedians recycling their jokes?
The truth is, there is nothing like recycling jokes; people need to first understand that. A musician who sang a song in the 1960s and come back on stage in 2015 to sing the same song again; will you call that recycling? Of course, no; so I hate it when people talk about recycling jokes. The truth is, there is nothing new under the sun; people have to improve upon that which has already been in existence. So sometimes, a young comedian just coming into the industry, may probably watch a video and listen to this person cracking this joke, and he discovers that probably the senior colleague no longer cracks the joke and he tries to embellish it here and there to make it good for himself. I tell people, leverage your way under people’s creativity to build your way into your own originality, if you do that, you will start making a unique you. But if you dwell on people’s creativity for you to have yourself, then that’s where it becomes problem.
How was growing up like for you?
Growing up wasn’t really so much fun for me because I didn’t grow up with my parents; I lived with people, and I spent much of my years in boarding house. My parents were based in Gabon and I was living with my uncle in Nigeria. I only come home during the holidays.
What is the craziest thing a fan has ever done to you?
It was one stupid lady who grabbed something in my body.
What message do you have to your unborn child?
I have two daughters already but to my unborn child coming; you go read o!