Brandi, one of the children of renowned comedian, Ali Baba, tells ARUKAINO UMUKORO about her father’s life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Brandi Akpobome. I am 18 years old. I am the second of five children – three girls and two boys — of my dad, Ali Baba, and my mum. I am currently doing my A levels and will be going to the university next year.
What is the running joke in the family?My parents are really close and they are literally best friends. It’s a family joke, it’s so funny, but maybe people outside might not necessarily do. We go to our parents when they lovey-dovey and we ask them, ‘oh, do you want to go out with me, do you want to take me here, do you want to do this or that, etc,’ and my mum just turns and says, “Don’t spoil a happy home.” She says it in a funny way.
How does it feel knowing your dad is a famous comedian?
For a start, I’m not even sure at what age I was then, but I didn’t realise my dad was actually a comedian until much later. Now that I know what he does for a living, I am really proud and I feel extremely privileged. He is my mentor and role model. It’s a privilege to have someone like him so close to look up to. I see the things he and mum have done and achieved, and it makes me want to surpass what they have done. They’ve set the standard and raised the bar.
Beyond being renowned as Ali Baba, how would you describe him as a father?
Beyond being my father, he is more of a best friend than a father. He doesn’t just tell me to read my books, do this and do that, he is always there for me. In school, when something is bugging me, I could just pick up the phone and call him up, knowing he is going to be at the other end. He is a devoted father and is one of the most pleasant and creative minds I know. He is always there every single time I’m stuck or have some sort of block; he is always there to give me that little push, that motivation. He inspires me.
He just turned 51 this year, and he probably thinks he is 25 or 26, but he is not. At times, when I greet him in English, or in our local dialect, he could reply with, “Whattagwan, daughter, what’s good, how’re you doing?” The kind of things you don’t expect to hear from a 51-year-old father. It’s funny.
You have attended several of your dad’s shows. Which one stands out for you?
I was in school then when he performed jokes for several hours. I can’t remember how many hours but I think he broke his own record. I was watching the Youtube videos when someone pointed it out to me. But I remember attending one of his shows that really stood out for me — his January 1 show. It is so different from others, I have never been to such a show; the concept is unique. There is this thing he started, where he gets some people from a certain industry; they sit round and talk about recent events or people. I noticed it in the first edition, and people from other comedy shows started picking up on it. Nowadays in comedy shows, one would notice that a photo or someone that has been in the news recently, say President Buhari, is projected and they talk about it; then they project another one and so on and talk about it spontaneously. I think he’s the one that started that at his January 1 shows.
Your dad has a wide repertoire of jokes. Can you mention any one?
I don’t think I can.
Is your dad a disciplinarian?
Yes, but he balances it. He is not one to discipline someone just because he is in a bad mood, no. He is a reasonable person. If he is going to discipline you, he would explain it to you and give you reasons why what you did was wrong, and you are convinced about it.
Did he use the cane occasionally?
Well, not anymore, it is something of the past now. Back in the day, he was not that type. But then, he has a belt collection, probably close to a 100 belts. And the thickness of the belt depended on the severity of one’s punishment (laughs). Back then, sometimes one would be like, “Oh, I haven’t seen this particular belt lately!”
How does your dad react whenever he is angry?
It really depends on what he was angry about. But it is not something he holds a grudge about. He would easily forgive the person, and with some sort of humour. But if it is something he needs to be stern about, he would be and then sort it out.
What are some of the values you’ve learnt from your father?
Dad taught us to be hard working, and the value of gratitude. He always reminds us of where he is coming from. He comes from a humble beginnings and he worked hard to get to where he is today.
What is one of the best pieces of advice he has given you?
I can’t remember how he worded it, but I remember him telling me at a time when I was worried about work and what I wanted to be in the future, and he said to me, “I studied law, I have a law degree, but I am a comedian.” He was really saying to me, that “you don’t know where you are going to be tomorrow, so just make the most of it, do what you love, do what will make you happy, not what will appease everyone around you.”
What do you plan to study in the university?
I plan to study architecture engineering and design management.
Would you say your dad influenced your career choice?
Not quite. I would say my mum influenced my career choice; my dad influenced my hobbies; because of his line of work.
What are his hobbies?
His hobbies are football, sports in general, of course comedy, dance, music, art sketches – he is really good with pencil and pen sketches/drawings; he loves reading a lot. In his library, he has all the collections of National Geographic. I don’t know anyone else that has the full collection. He also has the full collection of Readers Digest. He has so many books in his library.
What football club does he support?
He is an Arsenal fan.
Does he have a favourite Nigerian artiste?
I don’t know.
Your dad was one of the pioneers of stand-up comedy as an industry in Nigeria, and has mentored several other comedians in their journeys. What does he say about this?
He hasn’t said much, but from what I see, it shows the kind of person he is, he wants the growth of the industry and to help people with so much potential. He loves sharing ideas with great minds. He is very creative, innovative and spontaneous; he even has a show called spontaneity. So, when he sees someone that is also creative, he just has this drive to help them grow.
If your dad was not a comedian, how do you think he would have done as a lawyer?
As a lawyer, I really don’t know. Right now, I am thinking, if he was my lawyer, I would not take him seriously (laughs).
How social is he?
He is a very social person.
How does he create time for his family despite his busy schedules?
He does create time to spend with his family. For example, he has a radio show between 2pm to 4pm. Just recently, he called me up after his show at the radio station and asked me to come join him. Yes, he is a social person and hangs out with his friends, people, but he always gets us involved. So, sometimes, I would hang out with him and his friends and we would just drive around Lagos.
What are some of the favourite places he takes you to?
Sometimes, we could go out to watch movies. He loves watching movies. He is a movie critic. He watches a very wide range of movie genres; from comedy, action, adventure, romance and so on.
Does he have a fetish for any fashion accessory?
I would say polo shirts. He has lots of them.
What are his likes and dislikes?
He loves cars. He dislikes vulgarity.
What are some things Nigerians don’t know about your father?
I don’t think many people know that he was a serious athlete when he was in secondary school and the university. He used to run the 100m and 200m events. I think he stopped when he had a knee injury. Nowadays, every year during the school sports days, he is out to get the first place medal in the 100m for the dads. I think he uses that to remind himself that he’s capable. During these sports days, while other dads were just chilling and flexing, one would see him by himself at a corner stretching and warming up getting ready for the race!
He is also the fitness junkie. In the morning, he walks and jogs around. The other day, he walked from Lekki to Ikoyi and back. I was surprised. Sometimes, he does the most random things ever.
What do you think would be his legacy in the stand-up comedy industry?
He was one of the pioneers of the industry. I think his legacy is that he opened the door and made the way for others to jump in and follow. I believe the incredible growth of the industry is as a result of how he went about his work.
What is his favourite food?
He eats everything, literally. Say, if you have rice, groundnut, pepper soup, or beans or something, he would mix everything together and eat it. He could just decide to eat a funny mixture of food.
How does he react to criticism, maybe of his jokes?
It depends, but he would take it into consideration and think about how he would go about it in a different way. But if he realises that the person is obviously overreacting, he would just go his way. He is a comedian, it is his job.
How was growing up for you?
I would say growing up was eventful. The house was always full and I loved it. There was always something exciting happening at home. One could just wake up in the house and find everyone arguing or discussing about something which is funny.
People think my dad is the funny one in the family, but that is really not always the case. Yes, he could be funny; everyone finds him much funnier than we do, but my mum is the funny one in the family. With us, dad is more like the intellectual man. The things he says to us are more intellectual than being funny or just joking around. He has some of the most incredible ideas; he is extremely spontaneous. But, I wouldn’t call him the ‘comedian’ in the family; I would say it is my mum.
How close is his relationship with your mum?
My mum always tells me, ‘marry your best friend’,’ and that is exactly what they did. One just watches them sometimes and they never have a dull moment. They still have fire in them. When my dad and mum come back from work, one could see them all lovey-dovey. It’s literally still young love. They are still very much in love and spend much time together. They never run out of things to talk about, whether politics, economics, their respective work, they are so connected and support each other well.
Can you pronounce your dad’s full names Atunyota Alleluya Akporobomerere?
I am going to say no, but I will give it a try. The last name is shorter though.
How has your dad’s name opened doors for you?
I haven’t used it as much as I can just yet. But I will one day. Oh, I have serious plans for that name (laughs). But of course, he and my mum use to tell us that the name is really just to get one’s foot through the door, and the rest of the way is up to me. My dad has a lot of contacts. I’m trying to go into the design industry and I have mentors already that I have met in person, like Yomi Casual. He helps me out. Now, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity if not for my father. I’ve also met other designers like Mudi and Uche Nnaji through my father. This Christmas I am going to get some work experience in design. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity if not for my dad. I have met a lot of famous personalities through my dad. Most of the famous comedians are basically like my second fathers or uncles.
Can you mention some of these famous personalities who are friends with your father?
I’ve met Tuface and his wife. Patrick Doyle, P Square, Patoranking and so on. My dad sometimes hosts people in the house, and he introduces me to some of them.
Do you get any special privileges being Ali Baba’s daughter?
Yes, at concerts and shows, I really do. Sometimes, at some shows where the tickets are sold out, someone I know – a famous person – could just come and take me in and put me on a table.
Does he have any regret about his career?
I’m not sure he does.
What is he most fulfilled about?
I’m going to say his family; he is quite a family-oriented man.
Does he have a nickname?
His nickname is Dadadi. It was my older sister that made that up.