Have you ever listened to commedienne, Helen Paul before? If you have, you will not forget her in a hurry. She has a way of leaving her listeners spellbound. She is so naturally funny. And she has been that way inclined for the past 10 years.
Like most commedians, Helen started out by entertaining her friends in school and in her neighbourhood, little did she know she will end up becoming a leading comedian in Nigeria. But she’s not only a comedian, she sings, she acts and she is what some have called an all round entertainer. She is also a TV presenter. She has been presenting a TV programme called JARA for the past 7 years with BBA winner, Uti Nwackukwu on Africa Magic.
The big news is that Helen Paul is set to launch her 2 new Yoruba movies titled Aye Ogbofe and Ona Ara at Muson Centre in Lagos on Sunday 19th February, 2017.
Why do a Yoruba movie she was asked. She explained that it is because she grew up in a Yoruba setting “What I experienced is in this indigenous setting and I cannot abandon all these or throw it away. The fact that you are educated should not mean throwing away your indigenous culture.
Most people who started theartre started it with passion and not money. But the new practitioners are more interested in money. They don’t show passion. What they don’t know is that money comes when the passion is there”
Not many people know that Helen has a training school she set up 3 years ago called Helen Paul Academy located in the Ogba area of Lagos where she has been raising impeccable stars with integrity, hardwork, honesty and other virtues. She specifically teaches Theartre and Film taking her students back to the very basics. She herself is well trained. She is well grounded. As you read this she is a PhD. student.
Last week, this pretty lady who is a wife and mother spoke to City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE about her career.
What has been happening to Helen Paul over the last few months?
Many things. I have continued to perform at events. I perform as a comedian in some and I anchor others. I am still doing my radio and TV presentations. I have been acting in some movies. Apart from these, I have also been exploring some other aspects of entertainment which I was probably not really known for. Music for example. Although I had released some songs earlier in 2012, I decided to record some more songs. I recorded “Take It Back” and also shot the video not too long ago. The song has been enjoying some airplay. It is a song that makes reference to life in those days. The yesteryears when apple and blackberry were just fruits. The days when lovers used to “pick their golden pens from the basket of love” to write long love letters. Those days of doing patewo hairstyle and so on. Life was much easier back then, compared to the jet age of today where things happen at the snap of the fingers.
I also recently recorded a song with the producer with magic fingers; K-Solo. It’s titled “Meji”. The central theme of the song is that You Only Live Once (YOLO). As such, we should learn to number our days and apply wisdom to whatever we do. I like K-Solo’s artistry on that beat. Superb.
I have also written and produced 2 movies this year. The titles are “Aiye O Gb’ofe (Life Is Not Free)” and “Ona Ara (Miraculous Way)”, both in Yoruba language, with sub-titles in English language. They are scheduled for release any time soon.
I also wrote and published a book titled “Life Burial”. I and my drama troupe have toured a few universities such as OAU Ile Ife, University of Lagos, and Redeemers University with the stage drama adaptation of the book.
Apart from the professional side of things, I am still juggling being a student, a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur, etc. There are so many things to do, so many places to go to. The mission is daunting, but the vision is clear. God has been making provision, so it’s pure fun doing so many things all at once.
Somehow your brand has become very strong. How did you pull it off?
First, it has been God. I dare not even deny that or take that glory from Him. Sometimes I just hear my name in some quarters, not for evil but for good and I give praises to God. These are places where I never thought I could reach some years ago. Some people get in touch with me to show their support, others discuss business with me. They tell me they’ve listened to my jokes, shows, and all that. These are places across many seas where I would never have thought my work would travel to. So it has to be God. He has blessed me with favour and goodwill.
Then there is technology. The world is a global village now. You can upload a skit from the confines of your room in Lagos and have it watched by millions of people all over the world. I remember a joke about how tough it is to be a fine girl that was uploaded on YouTube some years back. A friend of mine in the US called me to say it had gone viral in a school in the US then. Not only was the joke eliciting positive reactions from the blacks in the school, it became even more popular with the whites, irrespective of the little barriers that exist between jokes that appeal to the white community and those that appeal to the blacks.
In all, I have been honing the skills that God has blessed me with. I am restless. Never waiting for the achievements of today to be celebrated long enough, I move on so quickly to the next thing. Naturally I’m hyperactive. So I keep setting targets and exceeding them. When I meet those targets, I raise the stakes even higher next time. I’m working with the right team of people. I also get support from people that love my brand. This keeps me moving on. Lastly, though strange, one of my greatest motivation is in the fact that some people do not believe in me. These are people that told me from the ouset of my career that “talking like a baby will not take me far”. They look at some contraption called Helen Paul – diminutive in size, talks like a baby, does not do the diva thing, etc, and hurriedly assume that “she’s not gonna last”. While some of them have made a 360-degree turnaround, some others are still doubting Thomases even till date. However, God keeps surprising them. It is not how quick, strong, or swift one is, it is God that shows mercy.
What are the things you are involved in now apart from your TV programme, Jara?
Music is one area of entertainment that I have always had interest in. As a teenager, I sang in my church choir. In 1999, I composed and recorded a gospel song that fetched me my first award ever at an event tagged “NISOFES”. The award was presented to me by Chief Commander (now Evangelist) Ebenezer Obey. I emerged as “Best Gospel Singer” after being pitched against some singers that I never thought I could rub shoulders with.
I am also running my academy, called the Helen Paul Theatre and Film Academy. We offer a wide variety of courses relating to entertainment – from dance, to music, to movie production, acting, editing, costuming, make-up, to sewing and several others.
In addition, I am on radio – as at date, I anchor a radio talk show on City FM 105.1 every Monday from 3pm to 4pm, on Radio Continental 102.3 every Wednesday from 10am till 11am, and on Naija FM 102.7 every Friday from 9am to 10am. These are some of the notable things I do apart from the usual comedy shows, online skits, etc.
Have you finished your course now?
I am done with my MBA but my PhD is ongoing; about to be concluded.
How is married life? Tell us about your husband, how does he cope?
Marriage is wonderful, in spite of the challenges. The challenges are normal since it’s an institution where two different people from different backgrounds come together to build and nurture a family. However, my husband is my friend so we get along easily. He is my fan but at the same time, my critic. He analyses my jokes and advises me from time to time. People ask me how my husband “copes” and I believe that means they’re insinuating that I’m quite a handful (laughs). We talk, laugh, and do many things together like friends so I believe he doesn’t “cope”, he enjoys!
What’s your Unique Selling Point as a comedian?
My spontaneity. I usually don’t use already prepared materials for the entire duration of my performances. Most times, if I have, say, a 30-minute performance, I would have about 3 jokes that could last a maximum of about 10 minutes collectively. And that would mean that the joke has a well-developed plot/storyline so the narratives would make up that entire time. For the remaining 20 minutes, I would pick on a topic or someone in the crowd and develop my materials around them.
How did you get into comedy?
As a kid, I played games and pranks with other kids in my neighbourhood. As I got older, I continued to find myself in the midst of kids. I derive joy in playing and interacting with them. Kids don’t give a care in the world; they create their small world where everything is smooth, where ignorance is bliss. They live in that world. Their innocence and ignorance attracts me to them and I instinctively began to mimic them. That was how the baby voice started.
In addition, I had always had this gift of mimicking people perfectly, to onlookers’ amusement. As a kid, I was a fan of Nollywood characters (even now) and used to mimic how they act, talk, and generally gesticulate. The same also applied to TV and radio presenters and generally all facets of the entertainment industry. I discovered that I could do this effortlessly. Edged on by friends, I participated in some stage plays, short comic flicks, and other social events while in high school. I discovered that I really enjoyed myself when I do that.
What year? How?
It was in 2005. As said earlier, I had been performing as a comedian of some sorts for years until several years ago when I was asked to perform impromptu at an event when the comedian billed for the event did not show up. I was practically nudged onto the stage by my friends to save the day when the organizers began to get worried about how to get a replacement. I had never had that kind of exposure or opportunity before at that time. Meanwhile, I had just been admitted into the University of Lagos. I did perform and that was the beginning of my venture into comedy.
Did you ever think you would become this big?
I just wanted to live my dreams. I was armed with nothing but a dream, belief in God, and prayers. I never knew that this would pave way for fame, goodwill, and fortunes.
Are there new projects you are working on?
There are more movies in the pipeline for me to write and produce in the year 2017 by God’s grace. I am also working on my show within the second quarter of next year. By God’s grace, it will be a yearly event thereafter. I also have some community projects that I intend to use in giving back to a society that has not only believed in me, but has given so much to me. Again, stay tuned!
Tell us your story, where were you born? Schools attended? And at what point did comedy come in?
I was born and raised in Lagos State, where I also schooled. I bagged my Bachelors and Masters degrees in Creative Arts from the University of Lagos, where I am also currently undergoing my Ph.D. Before then, I attended Bejide Memorial College and Mainland Secondary School.
My early years were tough, fun, and challenging – a pot pourri of sorts. I was raised by disciplinarians who never had the time to start giving lengthy explanations for you to learn whatever value they wanted to pass on to you. Just a wink of the eye, a cough, a movement of the leg and the message was clear as noonday. Of course I made my mistakes whilst I was still trying to learn and got my behind smacked well for that. My grandmother never believed in dull or unintelligent children and as such, you can never pass through her tutorship and not be sharp-witted. Same applies to my Mom.
Also, I grew in an environment where everyone was his or her brother’s/sister’s keeper. As neighbors, we were close-knitted, although we knew where to draw the boundaries. I had to quickly learn the difference between good and bad, good and right, right and proper, and all the fine lines between all of them. I had loads of fun though, as that was when I discovered that I could entertain people. I used to entertain handful of peers and even older folks in my neighborhood whenever we gathered for our little “get-togethers”. I must say that was where the journey into comedy began.