Popularly known as Laf Up, but born Segun Ogundipe, he kicked off his comedy career from the ancient city of Ibadan, Southwest Nigeria.
He married his university girlfriend after proposing to her live on stage at one of his shows at Jogor Centre Ibadan on December 26, 2010. Laf’Up said she asked if the ring was original after saying yes.
The comedian also owns a company that supplies security wristbands for shows, events, fun parks and hospitals and is also into dog breeding.
PT: From Ibadan to Lagos, you’ve managed to find your feet in the comedy industry so quick, how did you do it?
Laf’Up: God did it, not me. My passion drove me to see clearly that I had better, by myself, found my feet on the ground else my feet will be given way on me. People, brands and business need value-adding professionals and if you’re one regardless of where you are or from, you would be sought after. The struggle was real, especially coming from Ibadan where there are already lords here as well. But with tenacity and passion for the art, my eyes were on the prize. Great thanks to the brands, people and organizations who believed in me. Trust me, I haven’t even started.
PT: What show or event sold you?
Laf’Up: A couple of shows I must say. I can’t say one specifically but Standup Nigeria helped a great deal; hosting Star Music, The Trek was a big break and Maltina Dance All clearly introduced me to the big screen and Africa as a whole.
PT: The Nigerian comedy industry seems to be divided into “families,” which do you belong to and why did you pitch your tent with this family?
Laf’Up: It’s no news that I call Ali Baba my boss. Apart from the fact that I’m his co-anchor on his show, AliBaba Serious, on Nigeria Info FM, he seemed to be the only worthy case study at the time I did my masters research work on the craft and business of comedy. That clearly is my thrust and reason for the tent-pitching.
PT: What structures do you expect to be put in place in the Nigerian comedy industry? What are the obstacles and how can these be solved?
Laf’Up: The comedy industry in Nigeria has become better and bigger but a lot still has to be done. There are a lot of untapped potential in its commerce so we need more visionaries and business men to get involved. Government also needs to take our sweat and work as the serious intellectual proprieties that they are and protect us. We also need to be more creative in our mode to add value and even giver fresher materials to our audience and comedy lovers. Finally, I think the younger comedians need to stop hoping and waiting on the more established ones to come up with the way forward for the industry. If we make money from it, we need to invest back for its sustenance. And I also think the drama and performing departments need to review their curriculums to suit modern stand-up comedy studies.
PT: How did you discover your passion for comedy?
Laf’Up: I would say that it is from the fact that I love to entertain people and make them happy. I have always been the class jester, the one with the funny remarks. Whenever the time came for someone to coordinate or anchor any event all hands pointed at me. The fulfilment I get from telling funny stories, cracking jokes and making people laugh is second to none. Comedy was such a great passion for me back then and it still is. I remember that I would spend my pocket money and take loans to produce comedy shows in school just to make people happy through my jokes. Nothing other than that has made me happier.
PT: You studied Theatre Arts, how has that influenced your comedy?
Laf’Up: I began comedy professionally a few years before I got into the University of Ibadan to study Theatre Arts. That is not to say that the discipline I derived from the course did not help me become the better comedian that I am today. Talent is not enough so going to school was key to me. It was pertinent that I studied a course in my area of passion and strength. I discovered my passion early and I took a straight shot at it. Theatre captured a large base for me as a general performer, it sharpened me professionally, artistically and I would say that made me a thorough artist. Theatre made me clearly distinct in my line of career as a comedian, actor, dancer, writer, radio/TV host, the training was real and I hold it sacred your heart always.
PT: What was your parents’ reaction when you started comedy?
Laf’Up: My father, Mr. Jacob Ogundipe, was extremely sceptical. He had hoped that I would become an accountant because I always had good grades in accounting. But after a while he sensed I was gunning for something artistic but it was not clear to him. He loved the fact that I started my first business early selling handmade cards and I was making a lot of money from it. My father is an Ijebu man so money is important to him. They were not too sure that I would study Theatre Arts till I started a diploma course in Theatre Arts. One day, I came home with my results saying I have switched to full time degree and I was studying Theatre Arts. My Mum sighed and gave me her blessings.
PT: What is your father’s disposition to your profession now?
Laf’Up: Although my dad is late but every single achievement I have today, we both had pictured it together especially in his last few days on earth. My parents appreciate the fact that I gave it my all and it gives them great joy and happiness that their son brings joy and happiness to as many homes around the world as possible. My mum opened a Facebook account just to let people know she’s my mum. So the next time you see my mum you better don’t talk to her anyhow because her son is a popular comedian, or else…
PT: There are several up and coming comedians in the industry, what sets you apart?
Laf’Up: I am always working hard to improve on myself and my performance level and I know my target audience. I don’t just see myself as merely a comedian; I have and will continue to sharpen my skills also as an MC, brand analyst, radio and TV host. The appeal for me is more with the corporate world; I work on brands and most of my briefs come from the multinationals. Most of the time I am either pitching or taking briefs and probably coming up with funny copies for advert campaigns or conferencing on brand activation modules or brand trade launch. I don’t follow the crowd, and that’s clearly why you hardly see me in every comedy concerts. I’m quite picky and very busy. Another core element that sets me apart in the industry is, until I came to the big picture, most jokes said in modern stand-up comedy, were the general Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Calabar and Warri jokes. I brought that Ibadan niche to it. I popularised the Ibadan stereotype and now it has become a major subject matter in the industry so much people call me “The Ibadan comedian.”
PT: Established comedians often complain that the new crops of humour merchants are not original and they recycle their jokes, is it true?
Laf’Up: Well I feel some people like to say things just to be in the news perhaps as a result of not being popular anymore. I’m a blunt guy and I say it as it is. Which idea is really original, we are all re-inventing. I was once told about one of the “established” who almost got into a fight with a colleague because he copied his materials. Weeks later my partner came home telling me how the “Mr. Established” used one of my old materials that I authored. You know what I said? If a more established comedian can use my jokes, then I’m becoming a god in the game. In a recent interview with CNN on Ali Baba’s achievements in the industry, I mentioned that Ali has travelled far and wide but his jokes have travelled farther. Comedians are the best courier services you can ever think of. My point is that every industry has quacks, don’t over flog it. Guess what? My own jokes got on Night of a Thousand Laughs years before I got a chance to perform on it but heaven did not fall.
PT: Have you ever stolen anyone’s joke?
Laf’Up: You have turned this interview to a court martial. I won’t say I have stolen, but I have used people’s jokes with permission. Ask Ali, and some of my writers. It is not stealing because I referenced the jokes to their owners.
PT: How do you come up with materials for your jokes?
Laf’Up: Life, the struggles and hopes of my people, their emotions, culture and excesses. And finally, my experience and interactions with foreign cultures. Rehearsal, brainstorming sessions and spur of the moment.
PT: If it wasn’t comedy, what would you be doing? And are you still interested in doing it?
Laf’Up: Lecturing. I love to teach and I find time to do it on the side. Yes, I will. I’m sure once I’m done with my PhD that should come clearly alive.
PT: Some people do not take comedians seriously because of the nature of their job, does that ever happen to you?
Laf’Up: If I keep making the money I make and it keeps growing, you will have to take me even more seriously than I would ever have hope. I won’t only get your attention but your curiosity. But then, a comedian must clearly draw the lines where necessary or even cross it as he deems fit.
PT: Was there ever a point in your life you felt like quitting comedy?
Laf’Up: Yes! Sometimes I wonder what it would be like taking an office job or having a 5 to 8 job. Just for the fun of it though. But I love my life and my job. Every challenge or disappointment kept me in the business. If I chicken out then I have failed.
PT: What are the challenges you have faced building your brand?
Laf’Up: You stop facing challenges when you stop building. We have everything in abundance in this country and it reminds me to keep working. I faced a major challenge in 2008 when I launched my website and after two years some guys in Canada bought my domain and was asking for a huge amount of money from me. It took me four years to get my domain back. We just launched last week. In all, the challenges I have had isn’t so far from what the young entrepreneurs face. There is need for better policies to protect me as an artist and my works.
PT: As someone in the creative sector who would expect support from government, which of the presidential candidates shares your ideology?
Laf’Up: That’s a tough one; there is lot of things I am trying to take in especially with the current state of things right now. But one this is clear, I want change. Change that would be sustainable, that would respect and regard me as a young professional in my country. I want to be more respected when I leave the shores of my country because my leaders are detailed, disciplined and thorough. If all these with accountability, prudence and integrity are core values seen in the candidate, then that is my candidate. If I can’t take you for your word, you should not be my president.
PT: As an Ibadan boy, who would you be voting for in Oyo state?
Laf’Up: Of course, my governor (Abiola Ajimobi), but I would say that his government needs to carry the youths along much more. What is not for us is clearly against us. Let the change continue.