Last Wednesday, June 24, marked the 50th birthday of Nigeria’s comedy Czar, Ali Baba. Predictably, he has been buffeted by deluge of tributes and goodwill messages by prominent Nigerians. One of his protégées, Bovi also writes a glowing tribute to celebrate Ali Baba, who is regarded as the undisputed King of Comedy in Nigeria.
Below is Bovi’s piece;
“OCT 30th, 2005…. Around 10pm; alibaba walked up to me and said “you’re funny. You should do standup comedy. You’re funnier than many of the guys already out there. You even funny pass *************” . Well, it wasn’t until 2008 I chose to make the very bold move. 3 years later. In those three years I had had trouble sleeping each night I watched other comedians. And his words echoed repeatedly in my head. The night he saw me, it was at an arts exhibition. The mc was doing a bad job. There was an interlude. But there was nothing to fill the space. So I grabbed the mic, blood rushing to my head and started to blurt out the few jokes I knew. It was the first audience in lagos I had ever faced as a standup comedian (save for a private party in December 2004). The audience stared at me, either out of pity or curiosity. But not out of interest. The jokes were funny but I wasn’t. However the bespectacled alibaba looked on with his hand to his chin and a permanent smile. He was the only source of encouragement in this firing squad. Soon it was over and just as the event rounded off and guests made their way outside, he walked up to me and said those words I will never forget . “You’re funny….” Happy 50th birthday to @alibabagcfr”.
Going down memory lane, Bovi also said he doesn’t collect jokes from Ali Baba anymore since the day he set him up.
“Alibaba is not one to shy away from encouraging you. He always sees the cup as half full. Many of the classic jokes that are evergreen in the minds of average Nigerians are alibabas creations.
Some have been retold in a shameless manner by less creative forces and audiences still laugh. Some have been refurbished and improved upon. But the source of these materials are still alibaba. Now this is where ali baba did wrong. Ali baba once told me a joke. He said check out this material. I died of laughter. I had barely finished when he said “you can have it”. I froze in shock. “Bros make I take am””?” He nodded with assurance. I arrived the next comedy gig with an air. I had an ace up my sleeve. I was going to bomb this show with my new joke. The audience will die with laughter and they will be buried with memories of the joke and their remembrance will feature my picture and my voice. In loving memory of the joke that Bovi killed the audience with. I had barely finished planning this obituary when I heard the audience already dying with laughter. The comedian on stage was saying something I had heard before. Wait, he was saying my joke. My new joke. Where did he hear me say it? But I hadn’t said it before. It was only a few minutes before I discovered the distress in the face of two other comedians. I thought it was something else until the comedian came off the stage leaving a trail of blood from an audience murdered with laughter. He was confronted by three of us with “oh boy why you crack my joke”. “Which joke?” We chorused again.. “The last joke”. He retorted “but na my joke: bros Ali naim give me” wrote Bovi on Instagram.
“And a mild argument ensued. I quietly withdrew and went to rework my set. Phew!!!!! I was deflated. In no time I confronted alibaba. He laughed so hard, I couldn’t figure what was funny. But that was until he spoke. “Make Una dey wait make I dey write give Una. Which one me go come talk if I dash out all, one by one”.i got d message clearly. If you don’t create your own material, the audience will kill you. From that day till today when alibabas offers a joke, I run. And he laughs” he further wrote.