Amongst Ali Baba's myriad talents, he chose comedy to make money as well as to prove a point.
However, the ace comedian told Punch's entertainment desk, Saturday Beats in a recent chat that he had to focus on comedy simply because of money.
Now seen as the godfather of Nigerian comedy, it's no surprise that Ali Baba made his first N1 million in 1994, long before many actors ever dreamt of getting that rich.
According to him, “Comedy was bringing more money than acting, dancing and photography, even till date. I was a young guy that people believed could not make it, so I wanted to prove everybody wrong. They thought that being a comedian was for people without a future but I made them realise that it was not about the act but the delivery of service. As soon as it was clear that there was service being provided, people woke up to it. I chose stand-up over acting because I was charging N50, 000 in 1993.
"I made N1.6m in 1994 from Satzenbrau and as of that time, there were a lot of movie actors that could not even ‘smell’ that amount for three years. I went on a tour with Satzebrau and made N1.6m. I was able to make that amount of money because people did not know there was money in comedy. At first, they said I married someone because of money but when they started to realise that there was money in comedy, they started writing, ‘how comedians smile to the bank’.”
Ali Baba was also quick to correct a misconception about comedians delving into acting, saying that it was simply to broaden their creative horizon and had nothing to do with money.
“Comedians do not shoot movies because they can make money from them. We make more money from stand- up shows than we make from movies. I have played in about two movies, you spend at least three weeks shooting a movie and you would make the money they are paying you for that movie at a show. For every entertainer, you will look for all platforms to entertain yourself.
"Jamie Foxx went into music and he won Grammy’s, he went into movies and he won an Oscar award; Jamie Foxx is a comedian. LL Cool J is a rap artiste but he also acts and nobody has screamed blue murder. Will Smith was a comedian, turned rapper and actor, nobody has screamed blue murder. What is just happening is that a lot of people do not understand that as an artiste, you need to express yourself in different ways.
“If someone sees me hold a photography exhibition, they would begin to wonder when Ali Baba delved into photography. They do not know that I started taking pictures since 1978. If someone sees me drawing, they would ask when I started drawing but I have been doing that since when I was in secondary school. Someone could see me dancing and be wondering but I was the third runner-up in John Player in 1981. There was a time someone said that there was a comedian in Nigeria who was the first person to perform in an aeroplane and I replied the person that I did that in 1993 with Nigeria Airways across Africa. People do not know because it was not reported. I have acted in several flicks, I did ‘My Guy’ in a movie Barsorge shot in 1997 and I was in the soap opera, The Honourables. The only reason I stopped acting was because there was no money in it,” he said.
Ali Baba has since squired many young talents after him and is seen as a veteran in his field, an achievement which is well attained.
He trained the likes of AY, Basketmouth, to name a few, who have gone on to make a name for themselves in the same field.
Ali baba is married to Mary Akporobomerere and they are blessed with five kids.