Ghana’s finest comedian, Benson Nana Yaw Oduro Boateng, popularly known as Funny Face, aka ‘Swag-On-Papa’, on Tuesday allowed NEWS-ONE into his residence at Millennium City Estate, Kasoa, on the outskirts of Accra and granted a no–holds–barred interview that touched on his career, his wife, his life and his future.
The award winning actor and comedian lives in a modern house built on a four-plot of land and guarded by 14 wild dogs of different breeds.
You have a big house with empty bullet cartridges littered all over your compound.
Thanks but this is not big enough. I hope to build bigger ones. These ones (bullet cartridges) are just warning shots I fired and also to scare the dogs, especially the stubborn ones.
You have an army of dogs too.
I have 14 wild dogs. Naturally I love dogs. Several years ago, I could just travel from Accra to Cape Coast just to watch dogs. Now I have several exotic dogs I keep as pets and as part of my security. You can see them. This one is a shepherd; it observes a lot…
(Interrupts) The interview is to let my readers know why you have kept a low profile within the last eight months.
In showbiz, there comes a time you have to stay away from the media, think through your career, plan the future and bounce back with a bang in a better shape and form. In Ghana, we easily get used to showbiz persons and get fed up with them. Please I said ‘in Ghana’ ooo. So when you are doing the story underline that aspect. I realised I was all over the place and over exposure was setting in, so I decided to stay away from the public for a while and use the year 2014 to work behind the scenes on a few new projects and then return to TV again.
Are you coming back on ‘Chorkor Trotro’?
No. I would rather return with my own TV programme, my stand-up comedy show and a new show for kids; God willing by this December.
What is keeping you waiting?
The sponsors are all saying ‘my son, go and come tomorrow’ and I also tell them, ‘it is not easy to wait’. Depending on the sponsorship arrival, I may return earlier than December with my drama show. The stand-up comedy would first start with my campus tour of tertiary institutions by November, then I move it to TV by God’s grace.
Do you believe in God’s grace?
I do. I was a prayer warrior at Living Streams but they sacked me and said when I pray, people laugh and lose concentration. Then I joined the choir and they also sacked me from the choir, complaining that when I sing and when I dance, they laugh too much.
What type of prayers could make a church sack you from a prayer group?
Hmm! I was a powerful prayer warrior ooo. I could pray and say: “oh God, we pray, we pray. Father, you know Ghana witches are quick tempered but they lie. It is about time they saw our swag”… oh why are you laughing?
Pundits say comedy is not lucrative in Ghana. So we import comedians from Nigeria.
It is worth it. And to God be the glory, I am getting something worthwhile from it. If not for comedy, I would have been in the village with a hoe and cutlass planting cocoyam behind my grandfather’s mud house. You know me. If not for this job, I would have remained in my single room at Dansoman with my smelly armpit. In those days, my armpit could minister to you.
I am happy it is picking up in Ghana. You would have observed that most of the telecommunication companies are now using comedians to market their services. Thanks to Vodafone for believing in my brand and using me and now others are doing same. But we may need to push the stand up a little harder; but it has remained a big challenge.
What exactly is the challenge?
Most people in Ghana have the perception that Ghanaian comedians are not funny. So when they leave their homes to watch comedy, they leave planning your downfall and come to the show expecting your downfall. So even before you appear on stage, they have condemned you and decided in their minds that you are not funny.
I attended a comedy show to watch and not to perform and there was this lady next to me and when the guy on stage said ‘helooooo make some noise’, she passed a very rude comment. She knew I was hearing her but she did not mind. She rather crossed her legs and started playing with her long artificial nails painted in different loud colours.
It is a big challenge and we need a change of attitude. People like yourself, Francis Doku, Kwami Sefa-Kayi, Akwasi Aboagye, Abeiku Santana, George Quaye are all helping to change that mindset and we appreciate it.
Good you mentioned George Quaye, your former manager. I heard you snubbed him and also quit Chorkor Trotro when you started getting bigger contracts. It sounds unlike you. What happened?
Oh no bro. How can I do that? I returned from a foreign trip and heard all those reports. As you said, that is not my style. The truth is that George and I parted ways about 18 months ago so I wonder why it is not coming up with this negative twist.
George was my manager and helped me a lot but he called me and said he had realised he was getting more and more busy and was not having enough time for me. He suggested I moved on and that he had confidence in me that I could make it on my own. It was a very cordial discussion we had and we are still the best of friends.
I never snubbed George. George never snubbed me. What they are saying is not true. Sometimes these things make me cry when I am alone in my house. It really gets to me. But I console myself and tell myself that people would not have written negative things about me if I was still hustling with my smelly armpit on the streets of Dansoman. Today, people write about me and add their own spin.
With Chorkor Trotro, I remained with the team for some four years even when I was doing that as a great sacrifice. I left when it was time to leave. No need to go into every detail. I left when I realised they were not ready to help me push my interests. I have some branded merchandise, exercise books, wrist bands, T-shirts, pens and other stuff I begged them to help me promote through the show but they kept turning me down. So I walked away to focus on my interests. There was no bad blood. I still remain humble.
What keeps you humble despite your money and fame?
The fact that I always remember where I am coming from and the fact that I know it is God who has brought me this far, keeps me humble. Halifax, let tell you something. When I visit Adebayo and the likes of Drogba or Toure, I see them seated on the floor, eating and playing with their houseboys. These players earn the equivalent of about four billion Ghana cedis a week, yet they are humble and respect their fellow human beings.
I have a song that talks about how you can be a living being today and become a corpse tomorrow. But because the song came from me, people think it is a foolish song. But it is a very wise song. Look, less than a year ago, I was with Fennec smiling and shouting, but today, he is no more. That is why I remain humble and respect everyone.
Were you close with Fennec?
We were mates at secondary school. He was the entertainment prefect at O’Reilly and I was the assistant entertainment prefect. We have remained friends since then. He was the one who introduced me to a lot of the persons who became influential in my career. Fennec’s death hit me like a bullet. It scared me. Let’s talk about something else.
What did you study at O’Reilly?
General Arts. I did Government, Economics and Geography that is why I want to become President of Ghana. I know how to use my secondary school economics and a little geography to become President. But Ghanaians would insult me till I run away.
What is the future like for you?
Wow, you are talking about someone like Dr Duffuor, Osei Kwame Despite, and their likes. They are the ones who coach me on how to make money and I am ready to learn from them. Also I roll with my boss Adebayo so you can imagine my future.
Can you suggest a headline for this interview?
Oh. Ermm ermmm…. Funny Face: Still The Swaggon Papa. The ‘still’ should have about nine ‘L’
Any message to your fans?
Oh yes. They should continue to believe in themselves and never give up in life. Learn from your mistakes and know that your stupidity can let you make some mistakes. But learn from them and move on. The future is as bright as you plan it to be.