Isaac Aloma popularly called Zicsaloma is one of Nigeria’s hottest Instagram comedians, who came from “nothing” to become an online sensation. Aloma, who is known for his comic female character, is a household name on Tik Tok and Instagram where he boasts over 332,000 followers. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, he speaks about his humble beginnings and the dynamics of his industry.
PT: Tell us how Zicsaloma started
Aloma: Zics Aloma started from the church as a choir boy. It started with singing at the Chapel of Redemption Imande, Kaduna. I am from Abia state. So, I was in the children’s church choir, I was always leading. I felt like I could sing, I was like 8 years old then. From there, I joined the youth choir and later the adult choir before I
started pursuing music fully. I went for several auditions before I made it to the Voice.
PT: Interestingly, I only just found out that you were on Waje’s team on The Voice.
PT: This was three years ago and a lot has changed after then.
Aloma: Yes, a lot. So, after my exit from the Voice, I started doing comedy. The comedy was not even planned, it was spontaneous. There was a day my mum brought out her old caps from the store. I just put it on my head and crossed a wrapper over my body, I did a selfie video and started talking and posted it on Facebook and the video started going viral. People started sharing and asked me to shoot more videos, and before you know it, I started posting on Instagram.
PT: What year was this?
PT: Let’s go down memory lane. What reality show auditions did you attend?
Aloma: A lot, I went for so many auditions. I have gone for Project Fame, Nigerian Idol. I qualified for Nigerian idol.
I auditioned for Project fame, Glo Naija Sings, and a lot, almost all the auditions at that time.
Most of these auditions were very competitive, so it just almost like luck, apart from the fact that you can sing.
PT: Following the spontaneous skit that you shared on Facebook, at what point did you decide to come on Instagram?
Aloma: I had an Instagram account at the time but I was not posting comedy skits. I started posting comedy skits actively around 2018 but it was not until the lockdown that I kept doing it consistently. Even though I didn’t have many audiences then, you know how IG is, I got more engagement on my Facebook page but my IG was not really growing. I only had a few people, they were actually enjoying my skits, but my page was not growing. No blog had seen my content to make it go viral, notwithstanding, I kept doing it.
PT: What were you doing for a living before you became famous?
Aloma: I was a part-time English lecturer at the Kaduna State Polytechnic. I served in Kaduna, finished school in 2017 in Kaduna, then stayed serving in 2018, I served at the Kaduna Poly. After my service, I stayed back with them, I was doing a part-time job in private schools and other things. I applied for my master’s, lecturing
and I was doing a lot.
And I still found time to shoot skits, mostly at weekends. I can shoot five skits for the entire week and come home very late.
I was teaching English in a secondary school after school lessons, I then go to Kaduna Poly to lecture around 4 pm.
PT: When did you decide to move to Lagos?
Aloma: I just moved to Lagos in September 2020.
PT: To face comedy fully?
Aloma: Yes, exactly, because I started gaining grounds in comedy. So, had to resign.
PT: What would you say was the turning point for your brand?
Aloma: Joining Tik Tok during the lockdown was the turning point. I noticed people started using Tik Tok more, so, I joined and I was very confused at first. I started studying and soon realised that a video can go viral without blogs posting you. You know before I was tagging Tunde Ednut and the likes but they never reposted my content.
When I noticed it on Tik Tok, I kept doing and my content started going viral. At a point, I was marvelled, I got 100,000 followers and started getting crazy likes. Blogs from Instagram started seeing my trends because I was hitting close to 2 million views and some celebrities posted my content and after picking it from Tik Tok.
Before I knew it, I started growing, all my platforms started growing. That was the turning point.
PT: So, you do comedy full time now?
PT: Is it that lucrative? Enough for you to leave your lecturing job?
Aloma: Yes, of course. In fact, as a junior lecturer, you are paid a little less than N100,000 although you will still get little benefits. And that’s not up to what I charge for one of my adverts or skits on Instagram.
PT: So, you make more than your salary on Instagram?
Aloma: Yes, in one post. You notice that I drop adverts every week, and the higher. There are comedians that don’t collect less than N2 million for an advert and they get that every week. So, it’s way more lucrative and you still have endorsements and other gigs. I didn’t even know being an Instagram comedian was this lucrative. I had no idea.
In fact, the first advert I did was 5,000. When I told somebody, he was shocked because I already had over 30k followers and my accounts started growing. He said I’m not supposed to charge less than 50k with my engagement.
PT: I know that you take on the character of a woman.
So, could it be as a result of your childhood, do you mimic a particular character, is it your mom?
Aloma: Not necessarily. As I said, I am generally a very observant person, I could go to a place for one day and mimic the whole place like I’ve been living there for a long time.
When I started, I noticed that people didn’t really like my male characters, they want the female ones, so they kept pushing me back. Even on Tik Tok, if I a make skit, it doesn’t trend but a female skit trends maybe because I’m more dramatic. And of course, I’ve been around ladies more. In my department in the university, 90 percent of us were ladies.
PT: So, you basically were observant and you mimic them?
Aloma: Very observant. I have been in choirs where there are mostly ladies and we will be looking for tenor guys. I see their gesticulations and everything, also, I follow my mum to the market. I am always curious and very observant.
PT: What was the initial reaction of your parents to your new unconventional job?
Aloma: My mum is very supportive, I wear her dresses and that is because it is her wardrobe I raid. She didn’t really know it will bring money that much, but she was supportive. She was like when I was even working and doing my normal job, I was not making this type of money.
PT: What is your creative process like? How do you come up with your skits?
Aloma: I actually do not struggle to think about it. I write, I studied Creative Writing, English, and Literature. I have written some dramas, novels, and poems. I think it also helps my creative ability, I just look at people doing something and it comes naturally. Most times, skits come unconsciously, I might be driving and something just
I leave whatever I’m doing once it comes like a flash. I remember, today I shot a skit with my friend and he was like he doesn’t have content and maybe we should postpone it. I said don’t worry, just come, by the time you get here, I would have thought of something. It wasn’t even up to 30mins, I told him I have content already and he was shocked. It’s not so hard for me to come up with content.
PT: I know no matter how creative you are, you must also have some challenges, so what are some of them?
Aloma: Yes, as a skit maker, there are lots. Sometimes, you could be paid for the advert and you guys have agreed on what you are working on.
Sometimes, you will be really tired or not well and not be able to work, they will still want you to do the content that day. So, no matter what, you have to shoot and the shooting takes time. Maybe I want to make a shot for a particular video, you’ll go to five or 10 shops before you finally have one location and different reactions.
PT: So, you pay to use some locations?
Aloma: Sometimes you do. They will be like if you will use my shop, you will pay me, others will say find me something, there might not be a specific amount. In some places too, you have to go through risk management, sign and all. There was a place I even had to go to the bank, get an invoice, paid and get a receipt before I could use the location. So many location challenges.
Some, you have to keep waiting for cars or bikes to pass from locations. Some will wait and take selfies, you will be so tired, you just have to beg and beg them to leave so you can shoot.
Some might even drag you that you are proud and all that, so you really need wisdom to also handle your fans and people people who like you.
Those Omo Onile can quote a whooping N100,000 or N150,000. Then if you are an excellent negotiator, you can beat it down to N10,000. If you don’t pay those people, they won’t let you shoot. They are always many sometimes and they would not let you shoot. Those are the challenges you face in Lagos especially.
PT: I do know your industry is highly competitive but have you considered collaborating with the big names in your industry?
Aloma: I collaborated with Debo (Mr. Macaroni) on a YouTube project. I’m not really sure if it has been published but he actually paid me for it. He is the only influencer whom I worked with that paid me.
PT: So, who else would you love to work with your industry right now?
Aloma: Currently, the people my followers are mentioning are Tao. The pressure has been much, please collaborate with Tao, collaborate with Tao. I think I have reached out to her once, no reply. I think she’s the only person I have ever reached out to. If you see me feature on a skit, rest assured that they actually reached out to
me. I actually reached out to Tao, of course, most of them will ignore you, especially when you are not as big. The pressure was much but I have not gotten a reply.
I have worked with Josh 2 funny and Broda Shaggi.
PT: Okay, that’s interesting.
PT: How do you cope with trolls, you know it’s not easy. As funny as you are you still have these faceless accounts, even accounts with faces that would drag you. How do you cope?
Aloma: I just simply whisked them, like I just ignore because I notice then I tried to reply trying to be understanding but I notice on social media, the more you reply, the more they sound more unreasonable. So,
just leave them to say what they want to say.
PT: Away from comedy, are you in a relationship?
Aloma: Not really, I’m not.
PT: Is it because of the career?
Aloma: Okay, I have actually been in a relationship before and part of the reasons it didn’t work out was not because we had any major issues but because I couldn’t keep up. I was in a relationship with someone who wanted me to call her 10 times every day and I can be really into what I’m doing. Let’s even keep aside comedy, apart from my comedy, I was a career person, I was running my masters and Ph.D. simultaneously and I would still lecture and teach. So, if I’m working, I give it my 100 percent. I was always having that issue when I was in a relationship.
Yes, I can say the real issues were part of what affected the relationship, anybody I will date must be understanding. Most times, I shoot from morning till night and I’m hardly ever with my phone during
PT: You also feature in movies?
Aloma: I have actually shot some movies and featured in ‘Jennifer’s Diary’ and most times I don’t play the female character in movies. Movies are quite demanding and it is nothing compared to shooting a skit.
PT: Is featuring in movies more lucrative than your Instagram skits?
Aloma: It is not true at all. In fact, I once had to return a movie appearance fee. Let me give an example. Someone like Taooma charges as much as N1.5 million for a commercial. If Taooma were a Nollywood
actress, as popular as she is in skit making, the highest she can be paid is N500,000.
I got to understand that if you start earning more as an influencer, you will not even bother about starring in a Nollywood movie. I’ll give another example. I was once paid N150,000 to feature in a film and I charge more than that for adverts actually. I accepted the fee because I thought it was going to be my Nollywood debut and it was also supposed to be a three-day shoot. I discovered I was to play the sub lead and I was like that was not the agreement, I then asked again, how long will this movie take and they said normally it will take us a month. I was like how? In fact, they said I was not going to go home, I stayed there for three days. And that night, I had a stand-up comedy invitation at a church on Lagos mainland where I was paid double the amount and it won’t take more than 30 minutes. So it was either I refund the filmmaker or the church or the Instagram advertisers because I wouldn’t have time to shoot. So, I gave the filmmaker a refund and I left the set.
PT: So, you also do stand-up comedy in churches?
Aloma: Yes, I have been invited a couple of times.
PT: So, if you could start your career, I mean Zics Aloma all over again, what would you do differently?
Aloma: I will do a lot. Like, as I said, then I just depended on Instagram, I would have joined Tik Tok earlier and taken advantage of Facebook, and Twitter. You do not need blogs to trend, once your content is great enough. I would have put more energy on all these platforms, that’s one of the major things.
PT: Finally, if you could advise an upcoming comedian, what would be the advice?
Aloma: I’ll tell them to be hardworking, persistent, and docile. When I mean docile, you should be teachable and understudy people that are making it. If you stumble on your Instagram account, will you follow you? Just be sincere, will you follow yourself? If you know you won’t follow yourself, it means you need to work on your content and one of the ways is understudying.
You need to be persistent, don’t think you will just come out one day. Some of these upcoming comedians enter the industry with the mindset of ‘I want to blow’ and it shows in their content. Create good content, take advantage of these platforms I mentioned earlier. Be persistent, don’t do it as your main hustle. Do not take comedy as your main hustle at first, just take it as a hobby and let your main hustle finance it until comedy can foot your bills. That is my advice for them.
PT: Do you think that Nigerian Instagram comedians are fast sending Stand-up comedians out of jobs?
Aloma: I think so, yes. To be honest, because I have visited the pages of some stand-up comedians, their engagement is so low. You see the follower count but there is nothing really happening on their page.
Back in the day, we had several stand-up comedy shows but these days, people just go to Instagram anytime they want a good laugh. I don’t think stand-up comedy is as lucrative as it should be. I think online comedians have actually taken over.
PT: How did you get the name Zicsaloma?
Aloma: Zics is actually extracted from Isaac and Aloma is my surname.
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