Owenoisiede Owenwegie Osemwengie is the real name of Owen Gee, one of Nigeria’s top comedy sensations. It will interest you to know that in his secondary school days, Owen Gee wanted to be a pilot.
Before then, at eight years old, little Owen was already a champion kid dancer, invited to the Lagos State House for lunch with the then Millitary Governor, Navy Captain Mike Akhigbe in 1987.
In this interview with Ifeoma Ononye, Owen Gee tells the story of how struggling through building a music career landed him into becoming a comedian and an actor.
Recalling your hopes, dreams and aspirations while growing up, did it ever occur to you that you would become a comedian?
Nobody at childhood knows how the future is going to be. At that childhood stage, you hardly know your aims and objectives or what you want to do with your life. But funny enough for me as a child, I always knew that I will become an entertainer. Becoming a comedian? No, becoming a musician or dancer? Yes.
That is where I thought my life will thrive but it is funny how things turned out. I remembered that at eight years old, I was already a champion kid dancer. We had a lot of dance competitions sponsored by Rothmans, John Player and so on. I was a big player back then because I was a brilliant dancer. Those were the times of breakdancing and so on. I was massively successful at it. I remembered that at seven years old, I was already the biggest kid dancer in my locality.
From there I went on to win my local government competition. I started at Ilupeju and I went on to win at Mushin. I also took part in the dancing competition in the state and I was one of the top finalists. By the time I was 12 years old, I found my first musical group called the ‘Dynamic Five’.
We emulated and copied the dance steps and singing styles of the American ‘Jackson 5’. It was five of us then, myself, my two brothers and two other kids then. We were all living in the same house. I think that is my first journey into the entertainment industry.
Though I was very good at dancing, I didn’t leave my education behind. I got a distinction in my first act leaving certificate exam. Because I was a mixture of brains in education and brilliance in performance, I was invited by the then Administrator of Lagos State, Mike Akhigbe in 1987.
I was invited by him and his wife to come to the State House where I shared my educational pursuit with them. I was invited with the girl that was number one in Lagos. I thought I was going to be the 2face of Nigeria. I thought I was going to be the South Sultan. How I took a nose dive into comedy, I still cannot explain. It just happened.
When did you discover you had a talent in making people laugh and when did it become a full career?
I discovered that I could make people laugh in my third year in the higher institution. I had struggled with it for a long time. For a long time, I had gone to see comedy shows when I just started higher institution. The first Nigerian comedy show I ever went to see was ‘Live and Naked’ Tee A in the University of Lagos.
That was in 1995. I saw Tee A doing his thing on stage and I said to myself, ‘Men, I think I can do this. I was always hilarious, always talking with people, hosting with my schoolmates and because comedy was not that big then, people only knew about Alibaba, John Chukwu, Baba Sala, the Jagwuas, there were very few people doing comedy at the time, so people could not tell me to take it up as a profession. It was not until I saw Tee A do his one man stand-up comedy show at University of Lagos and met Ojays, the likes of Basketmouth, Gandoki and other comedy men that I started thinking t h a t there is some possibility.
B u t I continued with my struggling pursuit in music. I found my own music group in the higher institution called ‘Your Uncles From the Psychiatrist Hospital’. We were a rap group and very unsuccessful.
We suffered. Then we had the likes of Raz kids, Idris Abdulkareem, Tony Tetuila, Plantation Boyz and Sound Sultan were the ones in the music industry and I thought I could make it big in the music industry.
It didn’t work out. It was during one of the shows that I made a startling revelation as I would call it. I stopped the music and started saying the jokes. People were laughing uncontrollably.
It was madly hilarious. That was where my comedy career kicked off from. I was not paid to be a musician, but people volunteered to pay me to be a comedian. Since then, I have not looked back.
While growing up in your secondary school days, what career fascinated you back then?
The career that fascinated me back then was being a pilot. I thought it was something you can go to the university to study. I didn’t know you have to go to an aviation school. I thought I could just fill pilot in my jamb form and proceed to a university of choice to study that.
It wasn’t until I got to senior secondary school that the reality hit me that it was almost impossible to study being a pilot in any Nigerian university. I went ahead to fill petrochemical engineering but didn’t get to read that. I later read maths and statistics and I have no regrets.
As a comedian that acts in skits, it should be easy to face cameras. How did you start building a career in acting?
Not just as comedian that acts in skits. I am one of the very first pioneers of making comedy skits when I was commissioned in 2011 by Mnet to do my own program, my own show called ‘Skits and Sketches’. Between December 2011 and April 2012, I had shot 74 skits for MNet.
Before then, I had been doing a few Sketches’ from 2008 down to 2011. So I have been in the skits sceen for a while now. Back to your question about going into the movie industry, I did my first executively produced movie titled ‘200 Million’ in 2018.
And it spent six weeks in the Nigerian cinema. It is a very funny action comedy movie. In my film, I featured Odunlade Adekola, Saka, Alibaba, Lepacious Bose, Chigirl Mercy Signed, Frank Dunga, Yaw, Woli Arole, Shared Mohammed, Basorg Taria Jnr and many other great actors. It did extremely well in the cinemas.
I have also acted in many other movies. I cannot mention them because they didn’t pay me to start advertising their movies. I have acted in six other movies where I have played significant roles. Movies is something I have already started.
As I am talking to you, I am planning on a new movie. I have been working in other people’s movies before I finally brought out mine in 2018.
In one of your posts on instagram, when your son turned 13, you were grateful you married early, a lot of young men now are afraid of marriage not to talk of having children, can you share some of the benefits of having children early?
I had my first son when I was 31 so I wouldn’t call it that early. I have been blessed by the Almighty to have a baby face, to have a young look. I guess that is what got people amazed when they saw a picture of me and my son when he turned 13. On the decision whether it is good for people to get married on time. It is a hard decision and you have to look at it from the great side and the not so great side.
The great side is that if you marry early and have the number of kids you want, so you can have the opportunity to focus on other things that life brings to you. The earlier, the better because whether you like it or not, it is something that you must do.
The more you post pone it further, the more difficult it becomes for you. The older you get the more life becomes complicated. You find out that when you finally decide to start having kids, your friend’s children are already leaving secondary school. You would wish you started taking these responsibilities earlier.
On the flip side, the economy has not made these things easy at all. Back in those days, our parents could afford to have five to six children. They sent us to public schools but you cannot send your children to public schools these days.
If you want the best for your children, you send them to private schools and it’s a lot of money. Cost of living is very expensive. Inflation has eaten derp into the economy and this has made a lot of young people to think twice about marriage. I really cannot blame anybody on this topic.
What is your advice to fellow men about marriage?
I can only advice men on what I have been through and what I have seen so far. The first is that there has to be a high level of trust between partners. Trust is of utmost importance. Your wife should be your best friend, your wife should be your confidant.
She should know everything and believe everything. Both of you has to be inseparable friends before becoming husband and wife. Respect is very important also.
You should settle your problem between both of you. There should be no bias when it comes to love. Love shout defy anything that wants to come in between, to religion, to tradition and status. All of these should not matter where love comes in.