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Thursday, 3 September 2015
Review Of Al Jazeera’s ‘Baskemouth Trash Talking’
The first in Aljazeera’s documentary series, My Nigeria, features Bright Onyekwere Okpocha alias Basketmouth in a 25-minute film, which centres on the comedian’s vocation and some of the dictates of his calling.
In the course of the film, it is revealed that Basketmouth; who hails from Isuikwuato, Abia State, but grew up in Ajegunle, Lagos; attended the United Christian Secondary School, Apapa, Lagos, from where he finished in 1995.
Basketmouth’s stand-up comedy performances, a few of which the viewer witnesses in the film, remind the viewers why he is one of the most popular comedians from this part of the world. His jokes emanate from simple, well observed everyday occurrences embellished to thoroughly entertain an audience whist, in many cases, compelling listeners and viewers to reflect on the human conditions depicted in the jokes.
Neither Basketmouth’s background nor the path leading to his success as a comedian is adequately revealed inBasketmouth Trash Talking. His manager, Dotun Makun, who attended the same university with him recalls how Basketmouth mounted the stage as a rapper, but was booed by students who felt his performance was not up to scratch and when one of them took it upon himself to deride Basketmouth, the comedian presented the scoffer a dose of his own medicine to the delight of the students, who forgot that it was rap rather than comedy that gave Basketmouth the floor in the first place. Unfortunately, the name of this university where this remarkable event took place is not disclosed to the audience.
The comedian himself talks about growing up among very funny people that he initially thought everyone was funny; but realized that he was privileged to be raised in the same place as those individuals. Why did the viewer not hear from some of these people amongst whom are members of Basketmouth’s family? An unnamed female teacher at the United Christian Secondary School, Apapa; Bovi Ugboma, Basketmouth’s Friend and Colleague; and Dotun Makun, the Comedian’s Manager; are the only people interviewed in the film.
Why did we not hear about shows on TV and stage (likeNite of a Thousand Laughs), which gave Basketmouth national and continental exposure? Yours truly recalls the declaration of Bolaji Okusaga, MD of frontline PR firm, The Quadrant Company, who at the 2015 Nigeria Entertainment Conference in Lagos narrated how Basketmouth kept asking for a chance to showcase his skills on a show he (Okusaga) produced when he worked at a TV Station.
The opportunity finally came on a day a guest failed to appear and Basketmouth was given the chance to fill in for the guest, a privilege the comedian competently utilized to the utmost surprise of the show’s producers and viewers alike. In fact, the failure of Brian Tilley’sBasketmouth Trash Talking to include details like this, all of which the documentary’s researchers could have obtained from the comedian himself, unfortunately makes Okpocha’s ascent to the apogee of comedy – with more than five million followers across the social networks – look like a walk in the park.
Basketmouth mentions growing up in Ajegunle; what does an international audience know about that Lagos slum and why did the production crew not take a trip to Ajegunle, which is also on the Apapa axis like the United Christian School, which they visited? Where were Basketmouth’s pictures in his early days as a comedian? Not too long ago, Basketmouth’s wife commented on how love blinded her from noticing how ‘ugly’ her husband (then her boyfriend) was in those days; meaning that some of his old pictures are still there.
Apapais spelt asApap and Dotun says ‘yap‘, which it is not subtitled. Other slangs and some statements made in Pidgin English are also not subtitled. Asked how he creates jokes, the comedian says that Lagos is grimy. Is Banana Island; the location of his dream house, which he shows the film crew; grimy? Indeed, that representation is appalling because Lagos is actually a combination of the decent, highbrow and untidy.
It is extremely shameful and embarrassing that men of the Nigerian police reduce themselves to the level of the street urchins with whom Basketmouth had to contend at the outset of the film! Extortion – for which they continue to kill innocent citizens, especially commercial motorists, who refuse to grease their palms – must begin to attract punitive discipline from the force’s authorities.
Basketmouth talks about taking sleep-inducing medication to ease the pressure he faces at work, noting that many comedians are very unhappy people. People who face such situations should consult their doctors because the conditions could be indicative of a problem that may degenerate if untreated. Furthermore, increased Public Education should be mounted to enlighten people on the dangers of loneliness. According to an issue ofAwake!by Jehovah’s Witnesses, “The worst thing about loneliness is that you could be in the midst of people and still be lonely.”
Sometime ago, award-winning author, Chimamanda Adichie, discussed how she battles depression, meaning that both successful and struggling people are susceptible to that malady, which is known to have driven many people, especially celebrities and entertainers to suicide.
Much as it is up to a documentary film-maker to choose how to tell his story, mostly for a film with a short duration, twenty-five minutes is a lot of time to entertain an audience with the very important parts of a subject’s life, but this is not the case in Tilley’s film.
Fantastic Man, a documentary on the music of William Onyeabor, is authoritative though it is a 31-minute film. Presumably, the other 5 documentaries inMy Nigeria; whose subjects (Deola Sagoe, Kate Henshaw, Sandra Aguebor of the lady mechanic initiative, Femi Bamigboye and Gbenga Sesan) were displayed in a photograph at the beginning and end ofTrash Talking; will tell thorough stories of those outstanding individuals unlikeBasketmouth Trash Talking, which is not a seminal documentary on the renowned comedian