The original laugh merchant, Okey Bakasi needs no introduction in Nigerian comic clan. The Port Harcourt brought up and graduate of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), has come a long way in the Nigerian entertainment industry.

Since he joined the country’s make belief industry in 1993, the ace comedian has brought laughter to many movie buffs through his comic roles. He was one of the special guests at the opening ceremony of Surge Records studio along Rumuola Road, Port Harcourt recently.

In this interview with our entertainment correspondent, the actor and comedian spoke on various issues bordering on the entertainment industry in Nigeria.

Commenting on the Nigerian movie industry, the ace comedian said the movie industry is doing well, but needs to be restrategised, repackaged and refocused especially now that the country is going through the process of rebranding.

He noted that rebranding means getting better, which means that the level we are is not good enough so we have to move to a higher and better level and to achieve this, we need to project our positives to the outside world, while we down play our negatives.

The movie star stated that when we talk of our positives, what comes to mind is our entertainment industry which is the third highest movie industry in the world after Hollywood of America and Bollywood of India.

He said Nigeria has achieved greatness in that sector, therefore, the industry should play a major role in rebranding the country.

He noted that America has a strong hold on the world today because of her entertainment industry which is the second highest income earner for the country and America uses its movies to highlight the good things about them and at the same time down playing the bad aspects of their lives. He, therefore, suggests that Nigeria should use her movies to showcase her positives and down play politics and bad leadership which have given Nigeria bad reputation all over the world.

Okey Bakasi also hammered on the problem of piracy in Nigeria which he said needs to be addressed properly and fought by all means possible; so that rights owners and artistes could benefit from their intellectual abilities.

He stressed that marketing of artistic products needs to be improved, adding that the industry needs professional marketers to market artistic works. He contended that those doing the job of marketing today are not marketers, but traders and this has led to low sales.

Answering questions on his comic roles in the movie industry, Okey Bakasi said, “I did not set out to play comic roles. The first movie I did was “Police Man” until Nkem Owoh came with the movie titled “Pampam”, a comedy movie which I starred in and it turned out to be a huge success, since then, I have been given other comic roles”.

He maintained that in the industry, you don’t give yourself roles. “If a producer wants to do a movie, he gets a director who does the casting, but what happens in this part of the world is that the movie makers like to do what is called type casting. That is if you are good in a particular role, they always give you similar roles to play in other movies”, he explained.

On the music industry, the laugh merchant maintained that the Nigerian music industry is the best in Africa for now. “Undisputedly, our artistes are performing well in the continental level and they have been able to hold their own all over the world,” he said.