Over the weekend I was able to catch up with the comedian actor Ime “Bishop” Umoh on the set of his upcoming film “The Champion.” The new film is the project of Morris Sesay (executive producer, producer, and story concept), the head of Believe Media production company which also produced “Cat and Mouse” and “Believe.” The story of “The Champion” follows a comic villager, Ifiak (Ime Umoh), who travels to Lagos after his womanizing lands him in hot water. Old habits are hard to break and Ifiak continues to create conflict and comedy in his new environment. The story resembles Ime Umoh’s most recent hit, “Okon Lagos,” a film that became one Royal Arts Academy‘s highest grossing films, according to the producer/screenwriter, Uduak Isong Oguamanam. I asked Ime Umoh why the scenario of a villager coming to Lagos was inherently humorous. Our conversation honed in on the question, why do we laugh at the incongruity between “civiliation” and “illiteracy” (or rather our social perceptions of them)? Ime Umoh, who was trained in philosophy at the university and is remarkably insightful and articulate about his craft, explained that this type of humor both disrupts the way things “ought” to be and also teaches us the value in doing things from a reasoned standpoint. In his words, “If you learned to read and write a little, you would’ve read somewhere that you ought not to live or behave that way, in this way, taking the spoon, stirring the tea and than drinking the tea like soup. Okay? It’s funny. You’re turning the whole action upside down. It ought not to be that way. So that’s where the illiterate man is funny. And the exposed man and the literate man will just look at him and, ‘Oh my god, where did they bring this one from?!'” But there is a message in this type of humor as well, he insists. The viewer will understand that, “by the time you are educated it opens many many many doors of possibilities for you.”
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