Many stand-up comedians in Nigeria are known by different names, but one person chose to be called ‘Jesus Parrot’. He is Godwin Okhawere, a young man whose real ambition is to become one of the greatest comedians that ever lived on this side of the globe.
Explaining how he came about the pseudonym, ‘Jesus Parrot’, which somewhat underlines his style of comedy, he says, “One day, I overheard two people arguing on the premises of a church and one of them suddenly screamed at the other, saying, ‘You talk too much, Jesus parrot!’ Everybody listening to the conversation laughed at this. Although I was amused, too, the statement caught my attention and the import dawned on me. Then I decided to adopt it as my stage name. I tested it at first and it worked.”
Unlike some of his colleagues, Okhawere did not embrace comedy for want of something better to do. It happened naturally to him. The stand-up comedian, who is well known among comedy fans for shaping his jokes around events recorded in the Holy Bible, recalls that his foray into the highly competitive humour business began in secondary school.
“In those days, I would stand in front of my class and entertain my classmates with rib-cracking jokes,” he says, in an interview with our correspondent.
While studying briefly at the Yaba College of Technology in Lagos, it occurred to him that it would cost him nothing to talk and make other people happy. That was when he finally realised that comedy was his calling.
“At the time, I wasn’t thinking of money. I was just doing it for fun,” he recalls.
Okhawere remembers the late Mama Ajasco, mostly for encouraging him to take a university degree. “Mama Ajasco inspired me to go back to school. She wanted me to become a successful comedian like Ali Baba. She believed that higher education would make me different. I listened to her,” he says.
Finally he conquered the elusive Universities Matriculation Examination and got admitted to the University of Benin. Eventually, it turned out that Mama Ajasco was right, if not prophetic. Tertiary education did not just expand his horizon as an individual; it sharpened his wit.
After graduating from UniBen and completing the one-year national youth service, Okhawere naturally returned to Lagos and to what he loves doing best: spinning rib-cracking jokes, as he calls it.
Okhawere claims that he broke an old jinx by taking comedy to the church. At first, he performed in the church where he worshipped every Sunday. But the response from the congregation was anything but encouraging. Comedy, he explains, was not well received by many Christians at the time and comedians were generally regarded as jesters.
“I was able to make them to understand that comedy was about making other people happy and not to make jest of them,” he says.
Interestingly the comedian’s ‘pioneering’ effort seems to have given birth to a new style of comedy and nowadays, most fans refer to him as a gospel comedian and not as a stand-up comedian. But he sees nothing wrong with that. “People call me gospel comedian because they see the Jesus in my style of comedy. As a matter of fact, I source 80 per cent of my jokes from the Bible,” he says.