Happily married mother of three, Helen Paul, has risen to be one of Nigeria’s most sought after comedians.
As I drove to her office located in Ogba, Lagos, that cloudy morning, I kept wondering what it would be like interviewing a comedienne. As I pulled up outside her office, I was excited and looking forward to chatting with a lady who has held Nigerians spell bound with her comic baby voice.
On this day, Paul was wearing a pair of trainers and a short dress which terminated just above her knees. Looking all sporty, she was flanked by her publicist, Bayo Adetu, as the pair met me at the gate of Helen Paul Theatre & Film Academy. I followed behind casually as we ascended a staircase and was ushered into a tastefully furnished office.
As soon as we settled down, Paul went down memory lane, recalling how she met and married her husband of five years.
“I met him through my boss where I was formerly working,” the comedienne popularly known as Tatafo says, a look of nostalgia in her eyes.
“He was a friend to my boss. While he always saw me as too playful and jumpy, I saw him as too stingy,” Tatafo continues, laughing.
According to Tatafo, the reason she thought her husband was stingy was that whenever he came to the office, he never bothered to buy anything for her and her co-workers unlike her boss’ other friends who were always generous.
“Those days when my boss’ colleagues came visiting, they always reached out to us when leaving. They gave us money which we used to buy doughnuts and soft drinks but my husband never gave us anything.
“He would just wave his hand and say ‘bye bye guys, take care of yourselves’,” she says, mimicking a stern and unfriendly male voice, adding, “So we always saw him as a selfish lawyer.”
Belling the cat
However, one day, Tatafo and her colleagues were up to the hilt and so she summoned all the courage she could and decided to confront him.
“On that fateful day, I summoned courage and as he was leaving, I told him, ‘sir, you don’t buy us anything any time you come but we really like you. If you can be buying us doughnuts and soft drinks, we would be very grateful’. He started laughing, so I quickly added, ‘sir, it’s not only me o. My colleagues are also involved, so please don’t tell our boss’.”
Indeed, Tatafo’s move paid off as her future husband laughed it off after which he reached into his pockets and gave them ‘something’ for lunch.
“We were so happy I asked for his phone number which he gave me. And then I gave his number to my friends and we all started calling to thank him. He realised that we really desired the doughnuts and soft drinks so whenever he came by, he would give us money for doughnuts and soft drinks. He never failed to deliver whenever he showed up and we never stopped thanking him. And then one day, he took a good look at me and said ‘baby, I love you’ and the rest is history.”
By 2009 it finally dawned on the both of them that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. That same year, the couple had their traditional wedding, and the following year, a church wedding. Today, the union is blessed with three kids.
However, five years down the line, what is that thing the comedienne would want to do differently if she had a second chance at marriage?
Hear her: “I would have loved to give birth to triplets instead of having to visit the labour room thrice. If I was doing triplets, I would have nine kids by now. I love children so much.”
But then, is Tatafo done having kids? “I really don’t know o,” she responds waving her hands expansively. “Because my body is still very soft.”
Helen Paul Theatre & Film Academy
Are you dreaming of becoming a comedian, actor or actress? If that’s your dream then the place to be is Helen Paul Theatre & Film Academy.
On why she floated the academy, Paul has this to say: “The love for impacting people, connecting with people, making people feel impeccable and building or boosting their ego is what inspired me to start this school. Helen Paul Theatre & Film Academy is all about raising impeccable stars.
“When I was at the University of Lagos, I discovered that most people just wanted to come to UNILAG but not everybody could make it. That ignited in me the passion to want to create an opportunity for those who cannot make it to UNILAG and today the rest is history.
“There was this guy who came to our academy who couldn’t speak English but Yoruba. We took him on and let him know that theatre did not start from the English speaking part of Nollywood. It started with the likes of Ogundes and Ogunmolas. In fact, I told him I prefer Yoruba films to English and that he could be like any of the great Yoruba actors. Then he confessed to me that he wanted to act in Yoruba films and by the time we started following him up, we realised he had so much potential.
“We took the English lesson gradually and today he speaks very well; in less than six months. These days, when he talks in class, people no longer make jest of him because we have built his confidence. The school is barely a year old.”