Prior to the thousands of Instagram followers and a feature by BBC, Dami “AphricanApe” Olatunde was a relative unknown to the audience when he performed in Toronto back in 2014. I attended the comedy show promoted as a competition between African comedians against Caribbean comedians. AphricanApe was one of the comedians representing Africa. This show featured a few veteran comedians but really it was a showcase of comedians who gained their popularity through their work on social media. At the time Majah Hype was the more popular comedian on the set given his incredible ability to mimic the accents from various Caribbean islands. As such, he was the last to perform and I could sense the anxiousness and excitement in the audience. Honestly, I felt he had a flat performance, which I believe was mostly due to the hype surrounding him as the main act on the show. The audience as well may have mistaken his online ability to make people laugh will result in a seamless transition into standup comedy.
A relative unknown comedian was also at the show by the name of “AphricanApe”. At the time I thought the name was degrading and I think the audience felt the same way. As I think back to the time, I may have internalized the name a bit more than necessary and failed to adequately judge his abilities as a standup comedian. I later discovered that his name was based on his African background with a slight twist to the spelling and the Ape is representative of his fraternity.
Two years after that show Dami “AphricanApe” Olatunde’s online skits have gained some ground and he is one of the more popular satirical comedians across social media. In April of this year he was the Master of Ceremony at my sister’s wedding where he was able to command the room with his comedy and capture the attention of those in attendance. Last month, I decided to reach out to him to see if he would be able to provide answers to a few questions to learn more about him and he was gracious enough to grant 36 STATES some of his time.
Femi Adeyinka (FA): You currently reside in Houston; can you speak about the car culture and have you been influenced by the culture?
AphricanApe (AA): Well I’m not really a car guy so I don’t pay much attention to the car culture, unless I see something extraordinary. I used to live in Miami, where the car culture is a little more pronounced, as people “pimp” up their cars in several ways like painting it in ridiculous images. So you’re more likely to see a “water melon” or “frosted flakes” themed car in Miami than in Houston.
FA: Do you like any artist from Houston? Is Chamillionaire still a popular figure in the music scene and Nigerian community?
AA: Bils is my favorite Houston artist; he always kills it every time he hits the stage. I haven’t heard anything about Chamillionaire since I was in college, over 5 years ago so I don’t know whether or not they embrace him.
FA: Do you attach any responsibility to your comedy?
AA: Absolutely. Making people laugh is a huge responsibility. People look up to you for daily humor, relief from stress, and a mini get away from whatever challenges they’re dealing with. I’ve gotten so many messages from supporters about how my videos helped them get over certain trying times. And I don’t just make funny videos, I also perform on stage. I have a huge responsibility of delivering laughter whether on stage or online.
FA: How do you handle the respectability politics of Nigerian culture in relation to your comedy when you are in a traditional Nigerian setting?
AA: Once you command and demand respect from the beginning of the event, letting it be clear that you may be younger than them but you’re able to grab their attention, and you’re fully in charge, everything usually flows easily from there. Once in a while though, you’re bound to run into some older folks who love going against the grain just to shove the age thing in your face..
FA: What prepared you best for the business of comedy?
AA: I honestly think it’s a gift. Comedy for me was never planned or anything. I didn’t go to school for it or take any class or anything. I just woke up one day and started tapping into the gift, slowly but surely.
FA: Artists tend to lose some of their hunger over time due to growing wealth – are you worried about your comedic art suffering when you get to this point?
Not really, I have plans of venturing into other things besides just comedy so I believe and hope the hunger and fire will always be there, regardless of what I’m doing at any given time.
FA: You are popular – as your career grows, are you anxious about the responsibilities that come with fame?
AA: To a certain extent, yes; like they say, with great success comes great responsibility. Humans in general are very demanding, so I know a lot will be required of me. I just hope and pray I’m well equipped to meet those demands and responsibilities in the very best ways possible.
FA: What quote do you live by?
AA: It’s easier to go down a mountain than it is to go up; but the view is best from the top!
Thank you Dami "AphricanApe" Olatunde for speaking to 36 STATES.