Azeez Idowu, popularly known as Uncle Azeez, is an online comedian and dancer with more than 100,000 followers on Instagram. In this interview, he tells TIMILEYIN AKINKAHUNSI about his journey into the world of comedy
How would you describe your experience since you started doing comedy and comic dances?
I have been dancing since I was a child; I decided to add comedy to it when I realised people wanted to be entertained on social media.
Did you open your social media account with the purpose of posting skits?
I opened my Instagram account for my personal use in 2013 while I was still in Nigeria. I used to be a shy dancer before now. I started with 2,000 followers; I started posting my skits officially in January 2018.
What is your educational background?
I studied metallurgical and materials engineering. When I got to the US, I decided to get another degree.
You are fond of mimicking babies in your skits, any special reason for that?
My aim when I started was not to be regular; I wanted to be versatile, that’s why I try to do other things apart from my comic dance videos. I don’t even know how I found myself mimicking babies. After I watched a particular video consistently for a while, I realised I could mimic babies perfectly and that was how it started. People loved it and that is why I keep doing more.
Have you ever been bashed by your fans for mimicking babies?
There was this particular video of a baby I mimicked where she was trying to dip her chips into an imaginary dip. I found the video interesting so I created my own version. After I posted that video, some people said the video was not funny and that they felt sorry for the baby because she didn’t have the actual dip. I thought to myself that, the baby was just having fun in her own way.
How did your parents react when they started seeing your videos?
They were not really surprised because they always said I was a brave child. I was that kind of child that could do some things and get away with them. They are proud of me; there was a day my dad was at the petrol station in Nigeria, and one of my fans walked up to him to tell him how much he loved my videos.
You started officially in 2018, and your following grew very fast, how have you been able to sustain them?
I try to have conversations with my fans with the Instagram live feature and short clips; also, I make sure I post quality contents.
Negative comments are inevitable, how do you deal with them?
It depends; sometimes I respond to them and other times, I just ignore them. I get some comments about my videos telling me that I don’t portray Africans the right way with my comedy and dance videos. I try to lecture such people by explaining to them that it’s what I do for fun and to make people happy. In the US, there are people that do more challenging things than I do, and they get support from people and are admired for their bravery.
Have you ever considered closing your social media account?
No, I have never thought of that. Sometimes I don’t even have to respond to negative comments; my fans fight for me.
Do you believe your contributions on social media have made any impact?
Yes, anytime I do my dance moves on the streets, some white people get fascinated and ask me about the name of the dance and my outfit (Agbada). They are always interested in my contents.
Why did you choose to always wear your signature Agbada to shoot your videos?
There was a dance challenge online, and my friends and I decided to do ours in our own way. That video went viral, so that was how I decided to use Agbada as my signature outfit because I realised it made me stand out. Also, from the comments I get from my followers, I know how to improve on my videos.
Which of your skits gave you fame?
It was the video I shot on the plane. The flight was just taking off and I wanted to participate in the kiki dance challenge that was trending at the time; coupled with the fact that people kept sending me messages to take part in the challenge. I just decided to do it on the plane; I just stood up and picked up my Agbada from my hand luggage. The scary part was that when I did that, other passengers thought I wanted to bomb the plane. I had to tell them to relax, that I was an Afrobeat dancer and just wanted to entertain them. They were interested and that was it. The air hostesses also had fun while I danced. I had just one phone with me, so I was just thinking of how to film myself. Immediately I put on my Agbada, a lady helped me record it with her phone while I played music on my phone.
Have any of your posts got you into trouble?
No; not at all. Interestingly, my fans always warn me to be careful when I shoot my videos in some stores and on the streets. Some of them feel I could get arrested, but store managers and people around always enjoy watching me when I shoot my videos. There was a day I was dancing on the road and a policeman came close to me. He enjoyed watching me but told me to get off the road in a calm manner.
Do you think you would have been able to do this kind of videos if you were in Nigeria?
Yes, I would, I believe I would even have more contents if I were in Nigeria. I would have been able to feature some celebrities on my skits. The contents here are different; I get reactions from white people and so on. It would have been a lot easier for me in Nigeria. You know, before I shoot here sometimes, I have to consider my environment. It is so peaceful that I may not want to bother them sometimes.
How often do you encounter your fans in reality?
I see them so many times; they are always excited to see me. There was a time I went to an African restaurant to pick up food and someone identified me. The man went to call his family members and they were thrilled.
What kind of positive things do your fans tell you about the impact your skits have had on them?
Someone once said I made her two-year-old child smile hard anytime she watched my videos; she added that it brought tears to her eyes anytime her daughter did that. Also, someone told me I save lives and shouldn’t stop doing my thing.
Where do you think you have the largest fan base?
Even though I am based in the US, a good percentage of my followers are in Nigeria.
Have you been able to make money from your social media presence?
I feel if I was in Nigeria, I would have had endorsements by now; that’s one of the disadvantages of living outside the country. However, I get paid for the musical promotions I do through my dance videos. It is my full-time job now because it pays my bills. I tend to work with their budget; I am a bit flexible with my fees so I have lots of artistes who come to me.
Has your presence on social media opened doors for you?
Yes, it has also opened doors of shows for me to perform; I get paid for appearances too. It has helped a lot.
How much would you say it costs you to shoot a skit?
It depends on the type of content I want and the location I’m using. Sometimes when I have to shoot in a store, I might have to buy their products or give a tip to their workers. On average, it costs between $100 and $150 to shoot a skit.
Do you get naughty requests from your female fans?
Yes, I get a lot of nasty requests from ladies; some of them send me pictures of their private parts.
How do you react to such?
Most of the time, I don’t pay any attention to such requests. However, sometimes, if I am free, I try to talk to them since I am single. I also get from other countries, some people who can’t speak English. They type in French. There was even one woman that sent me a message to tell me her daughter liked me. I get a lot of weird direct messages.
In one of your skits, you portrayed the happiness that overwhelmed a man after he was granted visa after various failed attempts; was that inspired from your own personal experience?
That skit was shot in a train station, interestingly, I didn’t create the video to portray that, but it was some of my fans that gave it that funny caption.
Have you had any reason to block anyone?
Yes, I block people who attack me on my comments section consistently. If I find people to be insulting, I just block them.
Which of your social media platforms do you have the strongest presence?
Do you believe social media is a viable way for youths to earn a living?
Yes, this generation is about social media, you can do anything with it.