Retiola Babafemi Stephen, the popular comedian, also known as Pastor Zualakate, is fond of mimicking pastors in his comedy skits.
Heâ€™s so talented and versatile that his jokes about men of God have earned him a number of awards including Most Creative and Next Rated Social Media Comedian of the Year 2021. In this interview, the Ilesa, Osun State-born rib cracker talks about his journey to stardom. Here are excerpts:
How did you venture into the entertainment industry and become popular within a short period of time?
Itâ€™s not true that I have not stayed long in the industry before I became popular. I came into Nollywood in 2005, went for my first audition as a teenager and wrote my first movie script in 2009. I served tutelage under a producer as a teenager and then served another producer in 2018. Roughly, I have been in the industry for about 21 years.
Of recent, you became the main face in comedy skits where you mimicked and acted the role of a pastor, was that your turning point as a comedian?
Yes, it was a turning point. I was inspired by a ministerâ€™s conference I attended talking about false prophets, and I felt like I could re-create a character around the minister; the conference was in 2014, the same period the character skit also started. I rebranded it in January 2012 where I had to get new costumes and everything needed to make it come out good and gain prominence. So, I would say this particular brand really helped me and gave me prominence.
Give us an insight into your background
I am Retiola Babafemi Stephen popularly known as Pastor Zualakate. I was born and brought up in Warri, Delta State but Iâ€™m from Ilesha, Osun State; and my mother is from Edo State.
Has comedy put food on your table?
Yes, comedy has and is still putting food on my table.
Tell us how rich you are.
I am rich according to his riches in glory. I donâ€™t know if my riches can be measured. I am as rich as God has made me.
How was your growing up, were you into entertainment from childhood?
I was very entertaining as a child, and I think one of the comments I got written on my report cards was â€œrestlessâ€, and my mom would always show it to me. I used to play a lot; I danced and made people laugh. My dad was an engineer, so his desire for me was to also become an engineer, but comedy happened because I never anticipated that I was going to venture into comedy. Growing up with my kind of family and being in art class would mean I was not in school at all, as it must always be science class with my family. My mom is a medical practitioner with a seaport and my dad an engineer with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
How do they see the changes in you now?
I donâ€™t know if my dad would have accepted it although, heâ€™s gone to be with God now; my mom has always been my biggest fan. She supports me even financially and she was the executive producer for my first movie.
Tell us about your first movie and what you are currently working on?
My first movie was Ajino Boy and it was a smash hit, so I am not going to rush into having a sequel until I am sure that I can meet up with the standard I already created and beat it. So, currently, I am working on expanding my brand. I am not trying to prove that I am versatile, I am still working on what brought me out because I believe that what you do to get is what you do to keep. So, I am expanding my brand and exporting it to the world.
Are you currently working on any project?
Yes, I am working on a lot of projects at the moment. Iâ€™m working on comedy series and new contents that I feel can be exported internationally.
Which of the Nollywood stars have you acted alongside with that you have always admired and aspired to be like?
Growing up Iâ€™ve always admired Ngozi Ezeonu as a legend. I have been privileged to work with her. Also, growing up I watched Charles Inojie of the Johnsons Family; I watched Isakaba and have also been on the same set with him, which I considered a blessing. I have worked with countless number of celebrities because I am very familiar and close to some of them.
What closeness do you share with Pete Edochie that you would come all the way to Enugu just to honour him?
I believe that no matter the kind of life you find yourself, the universe is controlled by certain principles, and the principle of honour is something one cannot despise. He is a living legend that I grew up watching. So, I had to come to Enugu to honour him because he is a father in the industry.
Was there a time people didnâ€™t take you serious even when youâ€™re serious simply because you are a comedian?
Even, till now, people donâ€™t take me serious except there are proofs to show that I am really serious. I was first a Christian before I became a comedian, so I would try to preach to people online about the gospel of Jesus Christ and how he saved me, but I see people laughing in the comment section simply because I play fake pastors, therefore they think I am still in character. I think itâ€™s a side effect of comedy because itâ€™s always difficult trying to convince people. For instance, you are telling a lady â€˜I like youâ€™ and sheâ€™s like â€˜stop joking joorâ€™, but you have to start saying Iâ€™m serious in order to convince her.
Are you single or married?
Iâ€™m not married, so Iâ€™m single.
Who is the lucky woman in your life?
There are lucky women in my life. My mother is a blessed one in my life. I donâ€™t have a brother; I have four sisters and many friends.
So, can we say that you donâ€™t have any special woman in your life?
Well, I havenâ€™t proposed yet.
What is your kind of woman?
My ideal woman is one who is a follower and supporter of my career.
What particular misconception do you think people have about you?
People think I blaspheme against God; they think I joke with men of God. But I honour men of God and when I do these skits, I usually do not have a particular man of God in mind.
What impact do you think your comedy skits about men of God have on people?
I think they have impacted a lot, especially with the number of great men of God that I have been privileged to meet.
Whatâ€™s the craziest thing a fan has done to you?
The craziest thing a fan has done to me was to scream and rough-handled me.
Where do you think you would be in the next five years?
By the special grace of God and with the gift of life, I should be an international star