By CHUKS EZE
Edo Charles is living out the dream he had as a child: to make people happy through musical concerts. At the age of nine, he could play the keyboard very well. But early life was a big struggle. After finishing primary school, he became a gardener, earning N800 monthly. The income enabled him to sponsor his education at Iju Secondary School, Iju, Lagos. Much later, fate turned him into a comedian. And since then he never looked back and has been merrily laughing to the bank.
But Charles has never forgotten how providence steered his life towards comedy. These days, he uses his talent to preach the gospel of Christ and has held 28 shows already. This Easter, Charles is all geared up to ‘crack the ribs’ of people for two days (Good Friday and Saturday) at Evangel Pentecostal Church, located at 3-9 Chidi Okafor Street, off Canaan Avenue, Okota, Lagos. In this interview with TS Weekend, he talks more about his foray into the entertainment industry. Excerpt:
How did you become a comedian?
At the age of nine, I was already good at playing the keyboard. For a person who came from a background where you had to sell akara (bean cake) and agidi (pap) to be able to feed and go to school, my childhood was very challenging, though interesting. And after my primary school, I came to Lagos and started working as a gardener to sponsor my secondary education. During that time, I used to tell God that if He blesses me, I would make people happy through concerts, praise shows and other possible ways. I was earning just N800 then. But my life began changing when I started earning N4000 after I met Paul Play Dairo in 2000. That was a great miracle for me. And to show appreciation to God, I decided to organize a free concert for people that same 2000. But the person I contacted to anchor the event charged me N5000, which was like being asked to pay N5 million.
Are you saying that you organized a free show to thank God from the N4000 you earned?
Yes, the show was free – just for people to praise God and enjoy themselves. It was a big concert. Dairo and other entertainers were there to make people smile.
What were you doing for Paul Play Dairo?
I was playing keyboard in his band.
So, did you pay N5000 to the MC?
I begged him to accept N3,500 but he insisted he wouldn’t come except I paid N5000. So, we couldn’t strike a deal. And I had no choice but to act as the MC myself. But amazingly, as I was doing it, people were laughing and falling over one another. In fact, I was even embarrassed with what I saw.
What did people tell you after the event?
Hmmm, after the event, one woman came to talk to me. After commending me, she invited me to her husband’s party. Her husband was working in an oil company. And after performing for 10 minutes that day, the woman gave me N150,000. I thought I was dreaming. So, I asked her ‘Ma’am, the money is for how many of us?’ and she said, ‘for only you now’. Can you imagine that? From N800 to N4000 and then jumping! After that day, I immediately changed career.
How do you mean you changed career?
Remember I told you that I started with music – playing piano. That was why I worked for Paul Play Dairo. Comedy was never part of my plan. My plan was just to go into the studio and produce. Comedy was a mistake. But it was a good mistake and I pray for this kind of mistake everyday. So, I left music for a while and embraced comedy fully; though I’m back to music now. I started holding comedy shows, doing it for free and moving from church to church.
How would you rate the success of the show since it started?
It has been a huge blessing over the years. There is no comedian in this country that has not been there for me, from Ali Baba to Basket Mouth, and Princess to many others. And all our shows are done in the church.
But why did you choose to do free shows? Is it that you don’t need money or what?
It is not as if I don’t need money. In this life, our source of sustenance is God Almighty and not necessarily our human effort. That is why you notice that sometimes, you see yourself spending or accomplishing projects that far supersede your salary, and if you are asked to explain how you did it, you can’t. But God knows. Remember also that I told you earlier about my prayer to God that if He could bless me, that I would do it for Him. God miraculously elevated me from the paltry monthly salary of N800 to N4000 and then shot me up to N150,000 for 10 minutes joke. And He has been faithful since then. Isn’t it amazing? It seemed like yahoo, yahoo money to me that day.
What is the average attendance at your shows?
Attendance at our shows hovers around 3500 and 6000 per show. And for the first time, we are organizing a two-day show in one venue. I have never heard of any show that ran for two days at the same venue. But we are making it happen now.
Will the show also be free?
Where is the show holding this time?
We are collaborating with the General Overseer of the Evangel Pentecostal Church, Okota, Lagos, Pastor Paul Toun who saw what we did and wanted to partner with us to bless his neighbourhood. That would be our first show in that area. So, the show will hold at the Evangel Pentecostal Church on Good Friday and Saturday.
Do you intend to feature other comedians at the show?
Yes. Many big names in the Nigerian comedy industry have indicated interest to feature at the show. It would be a star-studded event.
How many shows have you organized since you started?
We have so far organized 28 shows – about three shows per year.
Don’t you receive knocks from your friends for organizing free shows?
You know, the other day, somebody came to me and asked what my achievement has been for the past 11 years that I started the free shows. I am sure that if you ask those who have been doing business or working for the past 11 years, they will tell you they have built houses, bought cars and all that. But for me, I’ll say that what I’ve achieved from the 28 shows I’ve organized over the past 11 years is that I have touched the lives of about 77,000 people free of charge. And I feel that we are not there yet. I understand that the population of Lagos is about 18 million. So, if we have only been able to touch the lives of just 77, 000 people out of the lot, you can see that we have not done much. With this Easter edition, we expect to make many more people happy. Our show is the only show where you have old people, grandees, children, Christians and Muslims alike. That we hold it in the church premises is not a barrier to anybody.
Why do you prefer holding shows in churches?
Church is one of the easiest places where people can really open their hearts to praise God. It is also good in terms of security. Above all, it is a free show and we do not have any sponsor yet to fund hall renting, equipments and other logistics. Just imagine what it would cost if we are to rent the hall at Eko Hotels or the like for our shows.
Don’t you think you are spoiling business for other comedians who charge fees for their shows?
I’m not out to spoil anybody’s business and they do not feel so either. That is why they have been supporting me in their own way by gracing my shows free of charge. Though, to be honest, I feel tempted atimes. I do the shows free of charge to fulfill my commitment to God like I stated earlier.
Have you ever been tempted to charge fees for your shows?
Yes, it has happened once and it was a huge success. The money I realized from gate fee was big but as I was looking at the money, I heard a voice telling me gently, ‘that was not our agreement o’ and I felt sorry. My agreement with God was that I would be organizing free shows.
What did you do with the money afterwards?
Even though I was angry, I spent the money. You nko? I asked for His forgiveness and said, ‘Lord have mercy but I’ve spent it’. Wetin you think? Some people expected me to go and sow it back to the church, I no sow o! I spent the money.