By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
The man bears a heavy-duty name, and it is not funny at all trying to pronounce or write the name (or names?) down.
Let me contradict myself by saying that the tongue-twister of a name can generate some fun in trying to pronounce it.
I am not sure anybody in the whole wide world can get the name correctly, but let me put it down thusly: Alleluya Atuyota Akpobome (or Akporobomeriere, according to one Warri babe who claims to know the guy more than everybody).
To keep matters short, let’s just call him Ali Baba – without the forty thieves, of course!
This dude called Ali Baba is so rich now that poor blokes like yours truly cannot afford to buy tickets to be in the audience where he tells his rib-cracking jokes.
The wonder is that not so long ago I used to see him hanging around in Lagos, poorer than veteran Nigerian journalists like me!
To give him his due, Ali Baba is a true original who knows where he comes from in his rags-to-riches story and gives deserving appreciation to the personages who supported him from the get-go.
The comedy mogul does not forget my buddy, the music impresario Edi Lawani who encouraged him from the beginning to come to Lagos after his studies in Ekpoma, Edo State.
If memory serves me right, I can remember in the early days when Edi Lawani brought Ali Baba to a show in University of Lagos, Akoka, and the young wannabe comedian brought the roof down with his unbeatable jokes.
Then Ali Baba was taken to a bigger show at Lekki Sunsplash and he roused up the audience with entirely new jokes.
Edi Lawani advised that Ali Baba should have repeated the Unilag jokes at Lekki because the show was bigger and the crowd was different.
He happens to be so fertile and prolific that he hardly ever duplicated jokes in his steady march to superstardom.
He truly deserves celebration for raising the stakes such that comedians can no longer be looked down upon as clowns.
From its rustic analogue base, Ali Baba took Nigerian comedy to the digital platform of pagers and onto the stratosphere.
For him, any talent given to one by God must be extended to others and the community at large for total sharing and enjoyment.
His old jokes are being told all over the place by younger comedians, sometimes barely refurbished and most times wholly copied without any attribution whatsoever to the original source.
He turns down jobs that are lowly priced so that the other comedians can feed off these jobs initially offered to him.
It is little wonder that Ali Baba got so highly paid that his doting banker wife, Mary, had to cry out: “You must be an armed robber to earn in one day what I get paid working for 30 days!”
It is all so cool to be paid more than a million quid per show because Ali Baba is definitely not a poor man’s brand.
The rich and the poor can of course enjoy his many jokes, but the pocket needs to be heavy indeed to pay for them.
He has opened doors for many other comedians, as he says: “There are over 40 big society weddings that take place every weekend and I cannot perform at all of them.”
It’s so funny that Ali Baba’s children think he is unemployed and jobless because he hardly ever goes to work as they see other fathers do.
Ali Baba in truth qualifies for the rank of a Member of the Idle Rich Class, as playwright George Bernard Shaw would have it.
A hefty fan and client of Ali Baba was the then President Olusegun Obasanjo in his heydays of power.
Arguably be the stingiest man who ever drew breath, Obasanjo never found it funny that Ali Baba was earning so much for each session of stand-up comedy.
Even so, Obasanjo kept recommending Ali Baba to most of the state governors he visited, and humorously kept asking the comedy king for his cut which he never got!
Ali Baba is so vastly wired that he even had a personal relationship with the late controversial founder of The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Pastor T.B. Joshua.
When Ali Baba somewhat reluctantly performed at Joshua’s 50th birthday ceremony the pastor encouraged the comedian to get born again into church ministry only for the King of Comedy to reply that he neither wanted to fast nor intercede for anyone, and that he was in fact not a good boy.
Pastor Joshua had a hearty laugh and replied that Ali Baba could not have been worse than David or Paul in the Bible, and that even if he was a killer God can use anyone.
Ali Baba readily admitted that he was “handsomely rewarded by the cleric for gracing his 50th birthday celebration.”
After Ali Baba’s Covid-19 experience, Pastor Joshua called to pray for the comedian and sent something “for Phensic.”
Ali Baba told Pastor T.B. Joshua that the “Phensic” made the prayer to work faster!
Laughter is indeed the best medicine.