I am a famous star Babatunde Aleshe

Comedian Babatunde Aleshe is part of this year’s I’m A Celebrity lineup, alongside, as well reported, Matt Hancock. We predicted big things for Aleshe last year, so it’s no surprise he’s on the show. How long he will last remains to be seen – there have already been reports in the tabloids that he pulled out of a terrifying in-flight challenge before he even got to camp. He admitted he was scared of everything but that’s not quite true, he’s a stand-up comedian, the scariest job in the world

A longer version of this interview below from 2021 was published in the Evening Standard. You can read it here.

A year ago, Babatúndé Aléshé worked for Transport for London in customer service. One of his duties was to respond to complaints about the ventilation of bus number 38 and drivers not stopping. He had been an actor since the age of seventeen but his career hadn’t quite taken off. “It was a side hustle,” he jokes.

It’s definitely not a side hustle now. Since debuting with fellow comedian Mo Gilligan on Celebrity Gogglebox in 2020, Aleshé has been in increasing demand, appearing on projects as diverse as the hip hop quiz show Don’t Hate the Playaz and his own writers podcast. for children, Mission Imagination. Let others appease disgruntled passengers. “Once I got Gogglebox. I was just like, you know what? I think I should leave…”

The optimistic 35-year-old hasn’t been able to play much during the pandemic, but that’s all changing. He is due to host the Evening Standard’s Big Comedy Night at the Underbelly on September 7, featuring headliner Phil Wang, Jessica Fostekew, Huge Davies (not a mistake, her stage name really is “Huge”) and Evelyn Mok.

The aim of the show is to put a smile back on the faces of London, but there is already a wide smile on Aleshé’s face, even if I only see it briefly. When we meet in a bar in Soho after he’s just had a tryout for a voiceover, he chooses to keep his mask on: “I’ve got so much work I can’t risk getting sick.”

It’s a gifted and engaging stand-up with real presence. Modest too. He attributes his current success to Mo Gilligan: “Yeah, I wouldn’t be anywhere without Mo. That’s just the truth. Mo has helped many people. Gilligan showed that there is a huge market for people of color comedy. “It’s a healthy situation right now with a lot of people coming in.”

Aleshe is right. Comedians who used to play on the ‘urban’ circuit, such as Slim and Eddie Kadi, at venues such as the Hackney Empire and the Camden Center, now enjoy greater exposure, while comics such as Nabil Abdulrashid and Daliso Chaponda broke through via the UK. To have talent. The landscape is changing and for the better.

Gilligan’s rapid rise paved the way for others, says Aleshé. “We were in hiding but we were absolutely killing him. Now, we’ve only just begun to reach the general public. I think we just got tired of talking to the same audience. But we also knew that comedy is comedy.

Aléshé does not think the British comedy circuit is harmful: “Not in my generation. It wasn’t because they were preventing us from entering. I think it just took somebody actively going there and getting some status. It’s not that we were held back, it’s just that we weren’t actively doing it.

However, it was not all smooth sailing. Last year there was controversy when the Mirror Online mistakenly posted a photo of Aleshé and Gilligan sharing pizza and laughing on their Gogglebox sofa with a caption stating that the photo featured KSI and SX from the emission. It was a genuine mistake, not a malicious one – Mirror Online later issued an apology – but it caused strong feelings.

Gilligan tweeted about it and the caption was edited. “Mo reacted well. And I congratulate him. What I will say is that people have to do better. I mean, me and KSI and SX – we don’t look alike. So it was ridiculous for that to happen. However, they have been fixed. Pass.”

His father was a Muslim but his mother raised him to be a Christian and clearly had the biggest influence on him, living every inch of the strict Nigerian matriarch stereotype. He grew up in Tottenham where she made the law and it worked: “I’m always afraid of her!

As a teenager, he went to church and stayed out of trouble. “In my area, we were surrounded by gangs. The streets are almost like being in the jungle. There is a lion over there. And you are like a deer, but you learn to coexist in the same space. So many of us don’t cross that line. As soon as you cross that line…”

Could it have gone the other way? “No. I’m scared to death. I think some people desperately need love and hope to get it from the gangs. I got it from my mom. Once you get involved in stuff like that, It only goes one way. Someone gets beaten up or stabbed.

He recently moved to greener Hertfordshire. He jokes that house prices and the prospect of a garden were the reasons, but he also didn’t want his now five-year-old son to grow up facing the kind of prejudice he was experiencing. .

The interview takes an interesting turn here. As someone born and raised in London, I’ve always thought the city was one of the most tolerant places in the UK. He disagrees: “Try to get on a train as a black man. No one will sit next to you until it is the last seat available. Trust me.”

After a moment of seriousness, he laughs again. He has to take the train home. It’s not too far, which is helpful as he will be visiting London regularly in the future. For the Standard’s Big Comedy Night and for more filming. There was even talk of a Gogglebox tour. Put those canapes on stage and enjoy Aleshé and Gilligan’s banter about their fear of horror movies.

He may be used to hearing complaints in his previous job, but he’s certainly not complaining about the way his work as an actor is going.

Babatunde Aleshe Image: ITV1

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