Africa: My husband is my best critic-Helen Paul

My husband is my best critic-Helen Paul

That the Nigerian comedy space is dominated by men notwithstanding, Helen Paul is one of the impressive few that have stayed relevant despite stiff competition. In this interview with LANRE ODUKOYA, she speaks on why men dominate her industry, love for education and why people think she is garrulous.

What’s your sincere assessment of yourself in 2016?
It has been a good year, as the brand Helen Paul did more in 2016 in terms of diversification. I did more movies and shows as usual as a stand-up comedian.
I started functioning on different stations too, such as Radio Continental, City FM and Naija FM. I have featured in some stage plays and I got my MBA as well. I am presently working on my PhD.

Comedians are not seen as serious people, but you just completed your MBA and pursuing PhD. As a comedian, what do you need all these for?
Apart from the conventional school, we learn daily. Even in marriage or as a mother, you are still learning and discovering things. As a wife or mother, the only thing you do not get is a certificate. But going to school to get certificates is fun for me; I enjoy education.
I also beg to disagree that comedians are unserious people, because it takes an intelligent person to make jokes from something serious or to do comedy.

When a family loses their breadwinner, it takes an intelligent person to make them laugh. Comedy is a ministry, it is not just a business as many people think. It is a ministry that brings joy and happiness to people. We also help people see things from other perspectives, just like pastors. Even with recession and the drama of MMM, we make jokes from them and put smile on people’s faces.

From the definition of theatre, which is the collaborative efforts of different professions, it shows that it is a big thing and that is where comedy too came from.
Comedy is not what you just get into for the money; you must be passionate about it. I am passionate about it, which explains why I keep learning.

Why is there so much bad blood among female comedians unlike their male counterparts?
I won’t agree that there is disunity among women. Generally, I think it is just a coincidence because I am close to Princess and sometimes I talk to Chigurl.
Whenever I see Lolo around too, we chat about things and I have a good relationship with Aunty Lepacious Bose. But the truth is that women have more things to do than men.
For the married ones, you have the home to protect and the children to look after. You also have your husband to answer to.

Even as a married woman, your parents and siblings still reach out to you. So, you have many things you are doing at the same time. To a large extent the man is free.
The man is the head in Africa, and as the head you can pick up your shirt at any time and stroll out of the house, without telling anyone where you are headed to.
But being a woman, you cannot just leave your home without explanations. Men could also gist about virtually everything, but as a woman you must be careful about what you say outside.

There are things you should not talk about as a woman, as our society has made it so.If I go to an event and Princess is there, I cannot ignore her unless I did not see her.
If I see Funke Akindele or Toyin Aimakhu too, I would definitely want to share the same table with them. I hardly go out too. In most cases, I go out when I need to work. I do not find it convenient just sitting and watching a show.

Is it not an irony that you do not like parties?
Would I leave my children, husband for parties when I am not working? You must be in a place where you have to function, not a place where you are not relevant. I do parties at home at all times; I am a DJ.

Ali Baba mentored AY, AY brought up Seyi Law while Basket Mouth has his acolytes. Women in your industry don’t seem to have such mentorship…
Maybe we are not doing enough like the men. Sincerely, AY has helped me a lot and still helps me. Whenever he has a show, he wants me to be on it.
I have noticed that anytime Lolo is having a show too, he wants to have Funke Akindele and anytime Funke is having a programme, she carries Lolo along. If Toyin is having a production that has to do with comedy, I am always there.

You have a theatre and film academy in Ogba, Lagos; why are you investing in a theatre school instead of comedy?
The foundation is theatre. For you to be a comedian, you must be a good actor. For you to be able to interpret roles, you must be a fantastic actor because what you are coming to say on stage is something you’ve observed in the society. So, comedy is more of acting, expression, because as a stand-up comedian, you can do jokes without talking

What is the difference between Helen Paul on stage and at home?
Acting is my job, home is me. Whenever I am home, I am calm and not playful. But whenever I am outside, my goal is to make people happy even if I am not.
I enjoy making people laugh even when I am not. I do not feel people should be sad because I am.

I woke up one morning recently and I decided to give out many of the gifts I had received from the brands I represent. Instead of keeping them till 2017, I wanted them to go and start afresh. I just wanted to surprise people and make them happy.
Do your two sons take after you or your husband?
I think they have both, but I cannot tell everything at the moment because they are still growing.

How does your husband cope with the fact that you stay out late?
The thing about the job is that I am the CEO of myself and I can tell when to get home. I can also tell when to take a job and when to decline.
When I am running late, I text and call him since I am an African woman. I try to apply wisdom in the way I communicate with him, because he is the boss of the house.

Do you sometimes get negative remarks from your husband after performances?
He is the best critic ever. Whenever he felt you did not pull your weight, he would tell you. He would even go ahead to praise others who did well. At a show, at times, he would make the videos of other performances but not mine.

Don’t you feel hurt when your husband criticises you and applauds others?
We are truthful to each other. Instead of pretending, he would tell me what he liked about a performance and the flaws he saw.
In fact, he usually comes home with downloaded materials to help me improve my craft. There was a time he brought me performances of different female comedians like Queen Latifah, Funke Akindele and Toyin Aimakhu. His belief is that you can learn from others.

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