Helen Paul, aka Tatafo, spoke with reporters about her career, marriage and other issues
The maiden edition of my comedy show
The experience was fantastic. I did not expect so many people to attend the show. I was very happy. We combined two personalities: Tatafo, the radio personality and Helen Paul, the television personality. Both of them were on stage at the same time and the show turned out a big hit. After it ended, some people walked up to me and said they enjoyed the show, that it was worth more than the gate fee they paid. I had to tell them that it was not the money that mattered most. I enjoyed myself and most importantly, the audience enjoyed themselves.
How I became a comedienne
I did not stumble into comedy. I started as a voice-over artiste and singer. I decided to delve into comedy when I was an undergraduate of the University of Lagos. It happened like a joke. A show was being organised on campus and the person that was paid to present it failed to turn up. Then I requested that the organiser, who happened to be my classmate, to allow me to go on stage and help him out. Before that time, I had done the voice-over for P-Square’s song titled Story. Some people already knew about my voice. I told the guy to let me use it on stage and watch the reaction of the audience. When I began to address the audience, everybody laughed and kept laughing. Many people were happy and that was it. Before I knew it, they were calling me a comedienne and I was invited many times to perform at shows. I would name my price, expecting the organisers to turn it down. But they paid me every kobo I demanded.
The on-air thing came when I had almost completed my training at the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria Training School. It was a presentation class. I attended an auditioning in company with some friends of mine and I was selected. Then I started doing it. Another friend of mine, who worked with a radio station, told me that instead of visiting him and talking anyhow, I should come and talk on the radio. I tried it out and before I knew it, I was employed as a member of staff of the radio station. I started working, researching and learning more on the job.
Helen Paul the musician
I started show business with music. I did something with P-Square. As a receptionist at Eko FM Radio, I did back-up stuff with some people. I just feel that I am a complete artiste, not just a musician or a comedienne.
Surviving in a male-dominated industry
I know that this world is not for men alone. It is for every one of us human beings. We are all working together. It is not that women cannot work, but as a woman you have a lot to do. I do not feel intimidated by men. Instead, I feel they make me feel as if I am one of them. I am like their baby when I am working. I relate well with everybody, man or woman.
Why women are not vibrant comediennes
I will not lie to you, it is not easy being a woman. You have to keep your home. You have to worry about school, your parents and your siblings. You have to get married, get pregnant for nine months, and be delivered of a baby. Then you are expected to breastfeed your baby for at least one year. You spend a lot of time doing all that and dividing your attention. To be a woman is not easy at all.
Between male and female comedy acts
As I said before, I do not look at the gender. All I know is that we are enjoying ourselves as human beings and we are all working.
Why I am called Tatafo
I went to visit a friend of mine named Matthew. Most of the time, we would go to a corner and begin to gossip. At a point, he would just shout, ‘Hey, Helen Paul, Tatafo.’ So he was the one that gave me the name Tatafo. It is the name given to a gossip basically or someone that sees something and must say what he sees.
Helen Paul and Tatafo
There was an event I was supposed to anchor as Helen Paul. The woman said that she requested for Tatafo, not Helen Paul. Eventually, I attended the meeting and the woman said she wanted to hear the voice. Then I spoke to her in the Tatafo voice. Another person walked in just then and said, ‘This is Helen Paul.’ The woman began to argue that I was Tatafo and could not be Helen Paul. Then she asked me and I told her that I was both. She was surprised. That is why I say two different brands equal to one pocket. It’s like P-Square. If you like you say you like Peter, or it is Paul you like the money is going to one pocket.
My source of inspiration
I draw inspiration from what I encounter every day and from everything around me. When I am walking on a road and see a car passing by, I could get something from that. I am very alert and sensitive.
Motherhood is my biggest challenge. It is stressful. It is when you want to sleep at night that the child begins to cry. Then you spend the whole night attending to the baby’s needs without enough sleep and the next morning you have a show to attend. Everything is getting better now because my son is almost a big boy. It was when I just gave birth to him that I had a tough time coping with the pressure. I really had a tough time handling the baby, breastfeeding him, and bending down, which made my back ache all the time. My mother had to massage my back for me. That alone was stressful. But juggling everything is fun. I am just enjoying myself.
About my husband
He is my number one fan. He is my best friend. He is the only one I would crack a dry joke to and he would laugh about it. So, sometimes I do not rehearse with him because he would be laughing and an outsider may not laugh. We met through a boss of mine, Mr. Paul, in a studio. He came to see my boss when I saw him and started calling him Brother Femi. He used to be Brother Femi till he went beyond the limit by loving me. Then I started calling him Femi. That was six years ago. It is only a man that has no job that would complain about his wife’s job. Before getting married to him, the woman already had a job. So, why complain? It should not be. It is important to get married to your friend. My husband is my friend and my mentor. He is very understanding and mature.
I travelled to the Gambia for a women empowerment programme. I learnt a lot from Senator Florence Ita Giwa and the First Lady of Gambia. It was an interesting trip. There were women from different parts of the world. Jodie was there. Then I travelled to the USA to attend the Maryland for Nigeria Reunion. Basket Mouth did his show on the same day. My show took place on the day before Basket Mouth had his show. Jedi also performed. It was fun.
My relationship with Basorge
Basorge is like an elder brother to me. He is very vibrant and I respect him a lot. He is an actor, a comedian, a father and a politician. He does all these things at the same time. He is the kind of person who would phone and checkup on you if he hasn’t seen or heard from you in a long while. He has encouraged me a lot. I just respect him and that is why you think I have been hanging around him often.