They are like Siamese twins, always inseparable. The synergy between them is inexplicable. While one is dangling the smart phone to capture the comical moment, the other is busy clutching the Bible and screaming jargons like ‘Wos, wos, wobi…’
Welcome to the comic world of Woli Arole (Oluwatoyin Bayegun) and Asiri Comedy (Oluwadamilare Simeon Osundare), two of Nigeria’s biggest indigenous online comedians. They are the new face of Youtube & Instagram laugh merchants away from the old order of stand-up comedy. Their genre of comedy is a blend of comic relief and prophesy.
For the record, the nickname Woli Arole refers to the ‘Heir Apparent Prophet’ while Asiri Comedy means ‘Mystery of comedy.’
Unification Of Two Great Brands
Born on the same day, both partners did not meet until they gained admission to same institution – Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). If anybody had told them that they would come together as business partners someday, it would have appeared like a mirage. This was because Asiri Comedy was perceived as a more cerebral fellow with a mindset of hitting the corporate world once he leaves the four walls of school.
As Woli Arole confessed in a recent interview, “We did not even know our paths would cross in life. Asiri is more cerebral than I am. Every time Asiri has an A, I got an F. So I concluded that it was Asiri who was doing me in school and the subsequent comic confrontation made me draw closer to him. Since then, we have been together for close to 10 years.”
Reaction of Parents
As expected of every success story, Woli Arole’s mother was strictly against the idea of taking up comedy as career. For someone who had hoped all her life that her son would grow up to become a doctor, she did not hide her displeasure at the drama unfolding before her eyes.
“I have a very strong spiritual background which explains why I don’t take alcohol or womanise. In fact, I always say it that if I weren’t a comedian, I would have been a pastor because that was the prophecy when I was younger. I was a unique child and there was nowhere I visited that I did not shine.
“When insults come, your best response should be result. Results cancel out insults. When results become a constant feature of your life, people will start to respect you. Another thing I have learned is that if you are loaded, you will be needed. Nobody can stop your dream except you,” he stressed.
The Making of Woli Arole Brand
Three years into the act, the comedian has seemingly found fame with over 652,000 Instagram followers posting videos of him preaching the gospel in comical ways reminiscent of local prophets. With such fame comes several engagements that have seen Woli Arole acts as master of ceremonies, actor in movies and advertisements from local brands.
When asked on how far he seems to have progressed at Akin Alabi’s Youths Empowerment Conference held last year at Eko Hotel & Towers, the instagram famed character disclosed that if life was a timetable, he was already behind schedule.
Interestingly, Woli Arole’s first ever instagram skit tagged ‘The election of your life which Orubebe wants to scatter, God will Jega it’ in 2015 was a 15-second post. Unfortunately, it did not go viral as planned but he however got a few traction. In his summation, the comedian noted that he was just having fun when fame found him.
“That is the problem with young people of today. They are too ambitious that they don’t even live their lives. I was not aiming for fame when I posted my first Instagram video. It pays to be a dreamer, a hard worker and consistent.”
The big break he dreamt eventually came three months after his first post when an American-based Nigerian girl slid into his DM and said, “Arole, I have compiled your videos and sent it to almost everyone in America.”
“I was stunned. So, she sent my video to America, which in turn found its way to London and subsequently Nigeria. There was a certain day I was at home when someone broadcast my video to me and people were asking who the guy in the video was (they were in fact referring to me). So it took me three months. Interestingly the first ever brand I got, Lenovo phones, approached me in December of that same year.”
Demystifying the ‘Asiri’ in Yoruba Comedy
Asiri Comedy, on the hand, seemed to have had comedy in his DNA from birth. According to him, he has always been exhibited such trait anytime he had conversations with friends.
“Anytime I exchanged views with friends, I found myself always adding ‘Asiri ni” at the end of the statement. Such slang never had any deep meaning to me until one fateful day. I was reading my Bible when I stumbled on Mark 4:11 which states that ‘It is given to men to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.’ That was where I coined Asiri (mystery) Comedy from. To me, it connotes seeing things differently from the way people see them especially where comedy is concerned.”
Just like Woli Arole who hails from Apata area of Ibadan, Asiri Comedy is an indigene of Oyo State and was also born and bred in Ibadan.
Speaking further, Asiri disclosed that many people enjoyed teasing and provoking him deliberately just to hear his witty remarks and jokes.
“Back then, I used to frequent football viewing centres. At a point, I watched matches for free because the guys love my funny contribution to every match. To me, it was just part of me and I was happy doing it,” he said.
By 2009, Asiri decided to make something out of his passion by getting a compilation of ‘Nite of a thousand laugh.’ After understudying everything he needed to know about Nigeria’s Stand-Up Comedy, he convinced himself he can do better by taking it from another angle.
“You have to venture into something new, if being successful is paramount to you. First, understand what people in the field are doing. This will help you decide how best to stand out. Secondly, understand their approach to figure how to improve yours. That was exactly what I did,” he noted.
How I Teamed Up With Woli Arole
In an interview with Temmy Balogun, Asiri disclosed that his coming to fame actually started the day Woli Arole, who was already known for his comedy skits paid the former a visit. At that time, Arole had already ignited an internet war among undergraduates from different universities with his crazy skits. While exchanging their usual comic vibes, Arole, who knows Asiri still has that undying passion for reading, spotted a bestseller written by John C. Maxwell on his table.
“On sighting the book, he screamed “S’iwe na s’inu iwe Unifasiti” (open the book to the chapter of Universities) and I just found myself opening the book and speaking jargons. From there, we decided to make skits in line with it. We started with UNILAG and attacked several other tertiary institutions as well.
“He posted them and got lots of views even though I didn’t really take it that serious. One day I came from my previous base in Ibadan to Ikeja City Mall, and I noticed people greeted me within few minutes. Apparently, they recognised my face from the skits. I was quite surprised.
In fact, it got to a point where people driving often stop or slow down to point at me using words like ‘That is the guy!’ People started attaching my face to what I do.
Celebrities were not left out. They followed us on instagram and helped to repost our videos. That was how our brand experienced a great turn around. In the past, I used to introduce myself whenever I went for shows. However when recognition kicked in, it became a thing of the past.
Today, anytime I show up at events, people scream out my name and always want to identify with me.