Helen Paul:Any publicity is good publicity in showbiz

helen-2Popular stand-up comedienne Helen Paul-Bamisile a.k.a Tatafo is no doubt one of the most intriguing among her contemporaries. One of her unique selling points, which is her ability to mimic the voice of a kid, has made her one of the most sought-afters in the industry. The petite Helen Paul, who also doubles as a singer, open up about things’ you don’t know about her in this interview with Morakinyo Olugbiji

Did you always know that you would end up comedienne?

While growing up, I never saw myself as a comedian. Although I fell in love with entertainment quite early in life, I had plans of practising a more serious vocation, particularly Law. I told myself that the worst that could happen was that I might act in a few movies. I didn’t even think that I could be a full blown actress. Back then, I used to entertain some of my peers within the neighbourhood. We used to play together just like most kids do and also, each one of us would try to do stuff to make other people laugh. It could range from telling jokes or an interesting story, to singing or acting. It was just fun. I usually came out tops with my antics.
Those antics started becoming professional when I performed on stage as a comedian at an event in the University of Lagos, where I was a student. It was an impromptu performance as I was literally pushed on stage by some of my friends. From there, I got more invitations and thanks to God, things have been looking up since then.

What was your childhood ambition?

Three professions were foremost on my list – law, medicine and journalism, in that order. Thankfully, I was able to get one from that list! I discovered that I could make people laugh many years ago; perhaps I was about five or six years old. I became an entertainer of some sort at that time by doing stuff to amuse my peers.

You started on a radio programme as this witty kid who addresses societal issues in a satirical manner. How did you discover the concept of speaking like a kid?

Yes, the programme was “Wetin Dey.” Before I featured on that programme, I met a co-worker called Matthew and we later became very good friends.
Either of us would bring up a topic, particularly any hot sizzling story that was currently trending in the media or just “word on the streets.” We would analyze and over-analyse the topic from various viewpoints. At times, I would talk using my baby voice and he would tell me that he can see me doing big things with that voice later in life. I didn’t pay much attention to that. Then one day, he got serious about it and encouraged me to take it to radio and see people’s reaction. The opportunity came later when I was asked to anchor a programme on Eko FM. Then I was still cutting my teeth in the media  but I had developed just the right measure of confidence I needed to get on the programme. So it happened that I anchored the programme and the feedback was positive and massive! This continued until I got another programme on Radio Continental. It was so interesting that as I was exiting the studio after the programme, I saw that people had gathered in front of the studio and in corridors just to catch a glimpse of the small girl who seemed to talk beyond her age! Then someone walked up to me and informed me that the D.G of the station had asked that I should see him before leaving. I walked into his office and I could see from his reaction that he was impressed, so impressed that he could have sworn that the voice he heard on radio was that of a nine-year old girl. You know what? He instructed HR to hire me immediately and that was how I was employed as a staff of the company!

Do you have any regret about life?

None, nothing at all! I’m happy with my strides both in my life and career. I hardly celebrate victories or gloss over losses or mistakes for too long. I simply do things and move on. Some people have told me the pros and cons of this habit, but it’s just the way I am naturally. So, when people ask me for high or low moments in my life or career, I usually have to think for so long! I live each day one day at a time and thank God for the mercies I enjoy on a daily basis.

We’ve seen several female comedians who started well but went into oblivion What do you think is the cause?
Personally, I don’t know why. But then, I want to believe that people may fail as comedians just as people fail in any other business or craft.
Reasons could be internal or external factors. When I say internal, it could be that the person does not have the right attitude to work or even the right attitude as per character. You know talent can take one to the top but the right attitude keeps you there. It could also be lack of creativity or originality. External factors could be societal or family pressures. You would agree that women get the flak for so many things that a man would do brazenly and get away with. A lot of stories are peddled about female entertainers that are either half-truths or outright lies. Some people might cave in to these pressures. That said, I relate with my colleagues and aunties who are also comedians and I know they are doing fine, e.g. Mandy, Princess, Lepacious Bose, etc.

As a married woman who is also into comedy and fabrics business, how do you manage the two without contradicting each other?

I rely on wisdom from God and I surround myself with people who understand the way I work and who are also visionaries. Also, I constantly have a picture of what I want in my mind and I keep working towards achieving it. Lastly, I believe that God has given talents to all of us. In fact, in most cases, each person has more than one talent. God does not give a vision without making provision.

We have seen “Time Out with Tee A” and the AY Show,” what is Helen Paul working on in the area of TV comedy?

Recently, I debuted my show “Helen Paul & Tatafo” at the MUSON Center.  A student version of the show was also held later at University of Lagos.  It was massively received. The show will continue by God’s grace but I’m working with my management team to tie all necessary ends. You know when you’ve done something before and you want to continue with it, you need to improve on it. We can only come out on a bigger level. Not only that, I am developing content that would soon hit the screen. We have done the recording bit and are putting finishing touches to the work to ensure all goes well. Details are close to my chest for now. We are also working on other projects but if you mean a signature-styled show, I am coming up with content for the screen pretty soon. Please keep your fingers crossed.

Would you say you are fulfilled now?

I am happy with the journey so far but I’m not relaxing yet. I still have a lot of grounds to cover.

You’ve enjoyed both positive and negative publicity. Which of the negative publicity published was untrue?

In showbiz, any publicity is good publicity. In fact, although I’ve been lucky not to have had the measure of negative publicity some of my colleagues in the industry have had, I usually joke with my colleagues that it’s all good. Bad news spread fast and in showbiz, the more it spreads, the more popular you become. Although I’ve stumbled upon some stories about me which at times are not true, honestly I can’t recall any that made me go crazy to the extent that I can’t forget it. I read them, laugh, and move on. Largely though, I’m happy I can say I’ve enjoyed a scandal-free career.

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