In this article, Sharon Osaji recounts the story of a building in Ikorodu, Lagos, which served as the starting point for several of Nigeria’s prominent comedians, many of whom have now risen to become significant figures in the entertainment sector.
The saying “out of the black pot nonetheless comes the white pap” fittingly reflects the journey to fame of Nigeria’s celebrated comedians. While talents have emerged from various places like Warri in Delta State, Benin in Edo State, Surulere, Ajegunle, and FESTAC in Lagos, the less-known fact is that Ikorodu, a suburb of Lagos, has also been a breeding ground for numerous talents in the country’s comedy industry.
From Seyi Law to Elenu, Acapella, Funny Bone, Pencil, Laff Doctor, and others who have now become household names, their roots trace back to Ikorodu. In a few short years, many of them have transformed into entertainment icons and global brands, embodying the indomitable spirit and adaptability that Nigerians are renowned for.
What sets them apart even more is the fact that not only did they grow up in the same neighborhood, but they also shared a common roof and even rooms in a period when their talent’s potential was uncertain. This is understandable considering that stand-up comedy was not the lucrative venture it is today.
Upon learning about the unique building that sheltered these comedians during their formative years, our correspondent embarked on a journey to the community.
Situated in the northeastern part of the state, Ikorodu was once a dreaded destination due to traffic congestion. However, the trip turned out to be enjoyable due to improved roads and interventions by the state government that alleviated some of the challenges.
The initial stop was the bustling Agric bus stop, surrounded by streets such as Omodisu Street, where the influential house stands.
In a neighborhood characterized by commercial activity, the street houses various types of residences, one of which is an expansive multi-story building owned by retired soldier Mr. Peter Ayangbola.
The 78-year-old retiree recounted that although the construction of the house was completed in 1998, it wasn’t until 2009 that the rear flat was ready for rent. Seyi Law, then known as Lawrence Oluwaseyitan Aletile, was the first tenant to occupy the three-bedroom flat in August 2009, making him the inaugural occupant of the house.
Ayangbola shared fondly, “Seyi was a bachelor at the time. When he rented the place, AY, Ayo Makun, used to live four buildings away from my house. Whenever they came around, they played together with my children who were just like them. My son even worked with AY during that period. I took Seyi Law like my son, and his parents used to come here.”
Living with such vibrant and aspiring young individuals, particularly in the entertainment field, came with its peculiarities, including late-night noise. Yet, Seyi Law and his companions were “good boys,” according to Ayangbola, who regarded them as his own children. The community had no issues with them either.
Ayangbola recalled how Seyi Law started a club during his tenancy in the house, which was eventually closed down after he left the area and entrusted the management to others who couldn’t meet expectations.
Meanwhile, after Seyi Law’s departure, he introduced another comedian to Ayangbola. From then until 2022, comedians succeeded one another in the apartment until the last one, Laff Doctor, left in 2022.
He noted, “When Seyi Law was leaving he came to me and said, ‘Daddy, I like this compound and would like my brothers to stay here.’ That was how they kept transferring the house among themselves until the last person, Laff Doctor, left in 2022.”
Tribe or occupation didn’t influence Ayangbola’s decision to welcome them; he recognized their determination to succeed and embraced them as his children. His pride in their achievements is evident, as he maintains contact with some of them, witnessing their progress and success with joy.
Ayangbola’s wife corroborated his account, mentioning that Seyi Law received his first comedy award while residing in the house and speaking highly of him as a person. She said, “Seyi got married when he was here, and they were both like my children. Anytime his mother came, we were like sisters and one family. If there was no power supply and he had fuel in his generator, he would connect us to his generator. He was such a great guy; I really love him.”
Seyi Law, in an interview, acknowledged that Ikorodu, often underestimated, has played a significant role in nurturing remarkable talents. He attributed his ability to accommodate others to his mother’s influence and thanked his wife for supporting his endeavor of housing fellow comedians.
He explained, “I moved into the house in August 2009, and I lived there till June 2014. I really give kudos to my wife; she is the reason I could do all I did. Even when she was my girlfriend, she would cook for all of us. After we got married, sometimes, we would sleep in the living room and people would sleep in the main room, and she never complained.”
Enumerating the fellow comedians who inhabited the house after him, Seyi Law mentioned Elenu, Acapella, Funnybone, Pencil, Eboh Bomb, Youngest Landlord, Ushbebe, Princewill, Whale Mouth, Mecoyo, Matwot, and Laff Doctor. He expressed gratitude for their collective growth and emphasized his willingness to perform for free if young comedians invite him to Ikorodu.
He highlighted, “By supporting friends and family, I have done more free shows in my career than paid shows, but somehow God has sustained me, which is beyond money.”
Seyi Law also revealed that the camaraderie extended to holding comedy retreats within the house, where they would discuss and refine their jokes. These gatherings facilitated their creative process, leading to the development of some of their best material.
He concluded, “Living in that house gave me the platform to be who I am today. It gave me more reasons to push for more in my career. It also gave everyone reasons to work on original materials and be creative.”
Whale Mouth, also known as Usiaphe Kevin, fondly reminisced about the massive three-bedroom flat in the house. He underscored its importance as a place where their best jokes were created and refined. He expressed, “Most of the best jokes that I have done emanated from that house.”
Mecoyo, whose real name is Enubianozor Collins, attested to the collaborative and supportive atmosphere within the house. The comedians would critique each other’s jokes and inspire each other to excel. He shared, “Living in that house gave me the platform to be who I am today. It gave me more reasons to push for more in my career. It also gave everyone reasons to work on original materials and be creative.”
Laff Doctor, whose real name is Maduka Daniel, moved into the apartment during the Covid-19 lockdown. He remarked that fate led him to the house after his former landlord removed the roof of his previous residence due to unpaid rent. Laff Doctor experienced the same positive environment and mutual support