From playing around as a comedian in school and the church, he ventured into a comedy talent show, Ay’s Open Mic Comedy Challenge on a number of occasions before coming out the winner. In this chat with RITA IGHODALO, Benji D’joke (real names Benjamin Onwume) opens up on his journey towards becoming a comedian.

Who is Benjy D’Joke?
Benjy D’ Joke is a stage name that I created for myself but my real name is Onwume Benjamin and I am from Delta State; when I started comedy I used to answer a funny stage name which was Iconji, but people didn’t call me that name and then I was in a drama group and a particular lady in that group calls me D’ Joke. From then everybody started calling me Benjy D’ Joke even when I told them that that was not my name they kept on calling me the name so I said that since that was what they wanted then I had to use it as my stage name. Even when I go to shows instead of them to call me Iconji they call me Benjy D’ Joke.

Tell us a little bit about your background?
I grew up with my parents until I was ten years old and I moved to Lagos with my uncle who eventually trained me educationally. I grew up in Ibuzo in Delta state. I attended St Thomas College Ibuzo then I went to Muslim College, Egbe in Lagos and finally finished at St John’s College Onipan Lagos. I studied Mass Communication at Lagos State Polytechnic and presently I am running a program at National Institute of Public Relations.

How did you get into comedy?
When I was growing up, I used to tell a lot of jokes and people will just laugh I had group of friends who were also doing comedy in school and with time I knew that I had passion for it so I decided to go into it full time. At that period I did not even think that I would do comedy until I got to a church called Realm of Glory International where they had a program called Heroes Club asked anybody with a talent should show case it so I entered my name as a comedian and I had only two jokes which I performed. so after I did my thing that day, everyone seemed to enjoy the joke so as I was going home that day I said to myself that if I continue like this I will be like Julius Agwu . One week after I had a call from a woman who told me that she had a job for me and when I got to the place, after the audition, I was told me that I was not a good comedian. But on the day of the show the comedian that they expected disappointed them and so they invited me and when I did my joke the audience were thrilled and these same people told me that I was good.

How did you get to know about the Open Mic Comedy Challenge Show?
The first time AY started the show I attended it after seeing the advert in 2006, I thought it was fake and I called my friends that we should go and try. The first time I tried I was among the first people that were eliminated and the second time I did not make it even though I came took the second position and I said that I will not do it again and in 2007 AY did not stage the show so when he did it in 2008 I got a call and was told about the show so I said that if at this time I did not make it what will happen but a woman I know Mrs Ajala encouraged me so well that I had a fresh spirit to start again, two days to the end of the sales of the form I bought the form and when I got to the place I saw different comedians like AY, Princess, Koffi and after the audition I was the 9th person and the judges said it was the grace of God that put me there and my performance was a brilliant one and I emerged the winner.

During the competition, did it occur to you at any time that you may be the winner?
It was after my first performance and the reaction from the audience that made me to begin to think that I may win because people were laughing and running out of the place even comedians like Princess, Kofi, Seyi Law, Bunmi Davis, Lecturer and others they felt the joke was brilliant and creative by the time I did the other jokes I knew I had won this was even because the other contestants had given up and had lost confidence in themselves.

After the show, don’t you think that people grumbled and complained that there was partial judgement that your joke was too dry to make you the winner.
Whoever would have complained means that he is both deaf and blind. If you do a joke and your fellow comedian laughs it means that you are good.

Who are the comedians that you look up to?
I look up to all the comedians in Nigeria. I like basket Mouth I like his type of comedy, I like the king of comedy Ali Baba, he has been my number one mentor, he is brilliant, creative, he has message and he is funny.

What kind of joke do you do?
I do mostly gospel comedy and jokes that are motivating, that gives moral instruction, educates and entertains. After you listen to my joke you must go back home and think of your life.

Would you say that your encounter with AY brought you to lime light?
Yes, if not for him, I do not think that I would get to this stage today. I must say here that AY is a God sent to our generation, he has helped a lot of people including me.

Have you taken comedy as a profession?
Yes, although I saw it as child’s play, but today I see it as a profession that I want to live with for the rest of my life.

Are there times that you perform on stage and people do not just laugh?
It happened before I won the Open Mic Show, then I was at a show that was organized by Lagbaja and immediately I climbed the stage the audience bulled me till I left and that happened because I had no confidence in myself but with the confidence that I have built for myself I do not think that I can have that experience again.

Did your parents support you when you decided to be a comedian?
My mother did not like it at all because she is a Deeper life member and when she saw that I won the Open Mic show she asked me if this thing will take me to heaven and she started preaching but the day I brought money to her and I told her that it was from comedy she blessed me and said may the comedy bring me more money. So I will say that now she has taken it calmly because she knows that it is what I have passion for.

Have any of your jokes put you in trouble?
Not at all, instead my jokes have brought me gifts, blessings and exposure.

Why do comedians repeat jokes that have already been said ?
Any comedian that you see doing this is not competent and does not believe in himself sometimes we make use of other people’s joke as a comedian and you may be saying your joke and it will end up with another person’s joke but it is necessary that you give kudos to the real owner of the joke. If we keep repeating our jokes the industry will not grow well. It is like P square singing D Banj’s song it will lead to fight.

How do you get your joke, what inspires you to do a joke?
I get inspirations from God, issues in my environment and when I read I get inspired and I listen to people too.

Can you tell us about your deal with MNET?
Sometime in November, I received a call from MNET and they said they were coming up with a recording show for comedians; the program is Live in Comedy Club Lagos. It was a show where they paired well known comedians with upcoming comedians; I was paired with Jedi and I stole the show and I was well paid for my level. The show has helped me to repackage myself better.

Where do you see yourself in the future?
Very soon I hope to run a comedy that will teach on moral, educate, inform and entertain too. I want to put some creativity in it where I will do comedy with people. I want to invite upcoming comedians and give them a chance to give us the stuff they have in them. I will make sure that people benefit from it.