It doesn’t look out of place today, in 2016, to see people introduce themselves as stand-up comedians, musicians, or actors. Not a lot of parents would scold their kids if they suggested studying creative arts in the university.
But in 1996, when Babatunde Adewale or Tee-A as he is popularly called started, it was rare to find young undergraduates cracking ribs for a living.
There was Ali Baba, the Ambrose Alli university graduate who moved to Lagos to do stand-up comedy full time. Then there had been John Chukwu and Bisi Olatilo and their contemporaries who worked as broadcasters and masters of ceremonies, with a bit of stand-up as part of their routines.
There was however no stand-up comedy industry. There were no engagement opportunities, no training avenues, and definitely no local role models, apart from Ali Baba who was himself just navigating the space.
You couldn’t really look your parents in the eyes and say you want to make people laugh. For a living.
But that’s what Tee A did as a budding undergraduate of Linguistics in the University of Lagos. Using a campus club, Theatre 51, as a local hub, weekly magazine Encomium as a networking platform, and Ali Baba’s brain, mind and contacts as an enterprise, he spent his years in UNILAG writing comedy skits, mastering performance etiquette, chasing gigs, building a fan base, and actually making money.
Working under the tutelage of Ali Baba, Tee A learnt something fast: comedy business is serious business. He defined his own fashion style, carved his own niche as a corporate and events MC, built his own products, starting with Live ‘N naked, and the now global Tymeout With Tee A brand.
In July 2000 he hosted the first solo concert by a Nigerian comedian, Tee-A Live N’ Naked, at The MUSON Centre, in Lagos.
‘Everyone thought it was a big deal, and a major risk. But I was sure this is what I wanted. After co-hosting Lagbaja’s Motherlan’ monthly gig for such a long time, along with hosting the biggest awards and parties, I knew it was time for us to begin doing our own shows’, he says, after that sold-out event which opened a new market for the ladies and gentlemen walking the narrow path of comedy.
Since then he has produced and hosted his own TV shows, promoted concerts in England and served as chief executive officer of his own organization, First Class Entertainment, a multimedia services and TV production company.
With time, he has seen other stand-up comedians rise under his own tutelage and that of his friend, supporter and mentor, Ali Baba. He has created celebrated TV characters, like Madam Princess, the semi-literate cantankerous interviewer on Tymeout with TeeA as well as the bombastic grammarian character of Professor Abbey.
His mimicry of top celebrities on the segment of the show also contributed into making the Tymeout with Tee A variety show brand a household name in Nigerian and abroad.
Today, he has consistently hosted at least 100 events every year, at least within the past 10 years; he has equally produced over 15,000 hours of television, and blessed his industry with original materials too numerous to count.
Just like his mentor Ali Baba, he’s working on his first ever book, which he has appropriately titled, ‘THE LIFE OF AN MC’.
This book will tell the story of his life, as well as the story of modern stand-up comedy and masters of ceremonies in Nigeria.
For now, he’s hosting friends, partners, clients and family members to a dinner concert at Intercontinental Hotel in Lagos, with performances from pop giant D’Banj, gifted singer Wande Coal, and tribute performances from industry greats like Ali Baba, Basketmouth, Basorge Tariah Jnr and many other colleagues.
‘It’s a major personal celebration for me, but to be honest, I see it as an opportunity to celebrate the success of stand-up comedy in Nigeria, and the acceptance of our genre as a form of credible art within the creative community, he says. ‘It’s my 20th anniversary, but I would have been on the streets today, if the society did not buy what I had to sell.
Babatunde Abiodun Adewale was born at Island Maternity hospital, in Lagos island, on December 19, 1974, to Folashade Ricketts and John Adewale, of Oyo State. He’s married to former Miss Kehinde Fatukasi, his campus sweetheart.
Tymeout With Tee A 20th anniversary dinner holds on Sunday October 2 at Intercontinental Hotel, in Lagos. Tickets are available on NETSHOP