Ushbebe: Knowing if I don’t work hard, I won’t eat, inspires me
Justice Nuagbe, popularly known as Ushbebe, is a stand-up comedian, radio presenter and actor.
The versatile and talented actor was born in Kaduna into a polygamous family. He hails from Aladja, Urhobo, in Delta State.
The graduate of Theatre Arts, Delta State University began his entertainment career in 2006 after his mandatory National Youth Service. Ushbebe worked as a presenter on the popular television programme, AY shows and was an On-Air Personality (OAP) on Naija FM.
He currently produces Chronicles of Ushbebe, a TV show. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, he shares his growing up, passion and drives for comedy.
Share with us memories of your growing up?
I grew up at the Airforce Base in Ikeja, I was born in Kaduna, but I don’t remember anything about my upbringing in Kaduna. At the Airforce Base, Ikeja it was me, my brothers, sisters, dad, mum and uncles. In all, we were about 15 living in a room and parlour. So, imagine what it looks like. Interestingly, we learnt many things at the base; I learnt event packaging growing up inside the airforce base, packaging ‘block parties and street jams. We were doing all of that at the base. That’s where I got the name Usher from because I like to dance. I had my dance group too. It was interesting, growing up was fascinating because you will want to come out and not carry last. The adage ‘Warri no dey carry last, for me, started at the barracks. Every evening, we the young boys will apply powder, wear good shirts and stand beside a heap of blocks so that girls can see us. That was fun. I can’t forget the days we ran along the airport road, selling loaves of bread; that was our hustling ground. I also remember then that I was moving more with the grown military guys, corporals and sergeants because I was their pimp. Hence, I started to think and act like them as I wasn’t so much with my age grade.
Tell us your journey into the comedy world
Comedy, for me, is a lifetime thing because from childhood I have always been the funny one in the house or in the midst of my friends. So I find myself doing stuff that is more tilted towards entertaining people, even my father will always say I am a funny person. I joined the drama group from primary school. I graduated from Unity High School, Oshodi as the president of the drama group. I went on to study Theatre Arts at the university where I met AY and continued in the business. And now, here we are.
You are a multi-talented person. How are you able to hone your skills?
I will say it’s the training I got from being a theatre artist. This is because as a thespian, you are expected to be versatile when it comes to entertainment in general. It is not just being a comedian, an actor or a dancer; it is giving life to every part of my business. So if I am going to be doing stand-up comedy, I want to do it professionally. So, I check out for content, people that will inspire my comedy and me. If I want to act, I look into the characterisations I want to portray. So, it is I gave special attention to the different things that I have to do, radio inclusive.
As a radio personality, comedian, actor, producer and influencer, how have you been able to juggle between roles?
It is a responsibility to which I want to pay particular attention. So juggling between roles is just my job. When on the radio, I understand that I don’t see these people physically, so I have to put in the extra effort. When I go on set to act a movie, I ensure that I play out the characters by ensuring my approach meets demand. If I have a duty to be a stand-up comedian, Master of Ceremony (MC), an actor or go on radio, I do it. It’s just what I do.
What and who inspires you?
The mindset of inspiration, for me, is more of passion. This is something I have loved and I always want to do. I know that if I am a celebrity, I will not suffer because I know where I am coming from; a family of at least 13 living in a room and parlour, struggling to survive, selling ‘pure’ water, eggs and pursuing buses on the express road. I don’t want to be back there, I don’t want my family and my kids to be in that situation. So, that keeps me going. The thought alone, knowing that if I don’t work hard, I will not eat, inspires me. For my mentors, AY inspires me. He is someone I look at like a specimen to study. As an undergraduate, I saw him doing big things in the university even before I started doing comedy and putting shows together. When I organised the Base Merit Awards, AY, Bovi and Gandoki were some of the recipients. You see that the things I understudied from that time is what I have used and it has done well for me.
Having been in the entertainment and comedy business world for over a decade, how would you access your growth?
I will say I am trying. I met a lot of people doing this business so I just try to do mine differently; just like everyone is doing theirs differently. For my growth, going by layman’s calculation, from where I began and where I am right now, I Don try.
What does fashion mean to you?
What fashion means to me is the accolade that comes with it. I like to put on an outfit and someone says ‘Wow, nice outfit’. Fashion is not just the sense of wearing beautiful clothes, but the appeal you get. Knowing that people are comfortable and are enjoying what you are dishing out. I don poor before so I know what it feels like when people address you according to what you look like. I don’t do voluminous fashion but I try to look appealing.
Who is your favourite designer?
I have too many Nigerian designers that make interesting and wonderful pieces from Vody, Yomi Casual. I wear a lot of them and they are all doing well. I like foreign designs too, just that they are too costly. They are not like the Nigerian designs that are cheap.
What is your favourite outfit?
I think I am more comfortable in my jeans and shirts. Not that I don’t slay when I wear my native attires or my suit, I slay always.
What’s your favourite local dish?
Give me Banga and Starch
What do you consider your most cherished possession?
My life because it comes first before money, house, car. And even my wife and son. You have to be alive for others to function.