Whether it’s an ASA show, standup show, talent show, or AfroxTrap, if you need a host, look no further. Cue in CJ Obima, 23-year-old host extraordinaire, comedic relief, actor in the making. He’s hosted numerous shows in the DMV area, but he has his eyes set on a larger purpose as he prepares to expand his horizon. Coming off hosting UMCP’s Africulture show featuring Mr. Eazi, we caught up with CJ to get a bit more clarity on what is known as Obima Fever.
“In the tenth grade, I got shipped back to Nigeria, that’s when the story begins”
How did you get into hosting?
When I first came back to America, I tried out for Towson’s football team. Unfortunately I didn’t make the cut and didn’t make the team. I decided to work with my natural-born abilities, which is speaking and making people laugh. I looked for an outlet to express myself and in 2013, I found an opportunity in the Black Student Union’s “Ebony Lounge”. I was very nervous because I had never hosted before but people told me just to be myself and make sure I had fun. All in all, it was a great night.
How do you prepare for a show?
I pray. I really try my best to prepare and go over the lineup and schedule to know what to do, but honestly I just call on God to use me and to be my mouthpiece because without him, it’s not possible. I just pray God gives me the spirit of entertainment and charisma so when I go on, I know that it’ll be a great show. I know he won’t fail me when I go to him.
What are your worst and best host experiences?
My worst experience was my first time hosting “Explosion” in 2013 (Towson). It was kind of disorganized, there was a lot of technical difficulties going on. The crowd wasn’t really rockin’ with me and being really dry. On top of that, during the show, someone stole my phone. But I had to keep going, the show must go on.
I have had a lot of great experiences, it’s hard to narrow down to one but, besides AFROxTRAP, I’d say when I hosted my own show. It was a really big moment for me, it was my first produced talent show, “Showtime at Towson”. It was the biggest venue on campus, I had to fight to get that venue and it was a sold out event filling 1000 seats. The crowd was amazing, they laughed, they booed (the performers), it was a great night.
You host a lot of ASA shows. Is that something you purposely did or it just happened to be that way?
It’s a mix a both. Obviously, I’m African so it’s my demographic. But then again, some of these things just fall in my lap. Being in the African community, knowing a lot of people, it just became a continuous thing. Recently I’ve been the one hitting up schools to host, now it’s time to grind, trying to show everyone who I am. I remember when George Washington University’s ASA said they were really surprised at the fact that I used minimal resources and the amount of impact that I had for their show.
How was the Amateur Night Stand Up show you performed at?
I actually won! Standup is very different from hosting. With hosting I get to feed off the performances, artists, dancers etc. Standup is just you and the crowd. Now naturally I’m funny which is fine, but there’s a difference between natural and skill. I learned with standup, it’s more skill. There’s different methods, skills, techniques. Before I went on stage, I studied the people I look up to and included their formulas with my own personal stories.
How did the crowd react?
Oh they were dying laughing. I was even surprised because it wasn’t even my type of crowd or demographic. It was older individuals, and a few black, it was very diverse, but seeing them all rolling laughing really made me feel good.
Do you use your African background in your standup?
I do. However I don’t use my background to be seen as a clown or use it as a mockery. I use it to embrace and educate people so they can learn more about my culture. Not to belittle anyone else, but I don’t like the ones who use it as mockery in their standup.
Ps. No shade “My dad never did that, my uncles never had to do that and their hilarious in their own being. My dignity won’t allow me to unconsciously emasculate African masculinity. To some people everything is a joke but not everything is to be joked with.
(Check out part of the standup where he jokes about Africans switching their names here
How was meeting up with Terrence J?
He’s a great guy, it was very humbling. He gave me some great advice and told me how not to look out for handouts, grind, know your audience, and know where you want to go. I told him one day we’ll meet again, and I’ll have your job. He said “Okay, if you’re going to have my job then who’s my boss? Who’s the Exec Director?” I was like “uhhh…” He asked me how I’m going to get his job if I don’t know his job fully…do your research. That was definitely very inspiring, he left an impact on me.
Have you ever told a joke or said something on stage that went horrible wrong?
Man I say a lot of outlandish stuff but this one time I joked about this girl’s Hijab. It was a fashion show and I said “Shout out to the shorty with the uhh…what type of hat is that again?”. The whole crowd said “HAT?!?!” *Awkward laughter*…it was pretty bad. It taught me don’t say things you don’t know. A lot of times when I joke about makeup, the women take it very seriously, I think one girl wanted to fight me one time.
Do you plan on doing this full-time?
I’m really planning on using this as a stepping stone to get into a bigger outlet like acting. I’m using this as part of my arsenal–hosting, standup. I just want a general platform to do all things. I really don’t want to stick to one thing. Focusing on one thing is fine but if I focus on multiple things in the same field it’s even better. Hosting gives me the opportunity to enhance my improv skillsHosting is acting. There’s plenty of times where I’m hosting a show and not feeling well at all. You have to tap into another element, that’s what acting is. It all ties together.
Having Nigerian parents, how do they feel about what you’re doing?
They think it’s a joke. My Uncles think it’s a joke, “how’s the clown business?”. They don’t see the vision. God gave me the vision. It’s cool, when it pays off and the money comes, they will understand. Everybody isn’t a doctor or lawyer, some people are meant to be therapist or speakers. There’s a reason God gave me a voice. It’s bigger than hosting, maybe, maybe me making someone laugh could stop someone from committing suicide. My mom is becoming a believer now. I send her pictures, videos, reviews of what people are saying, so she’s praying for me. But when I started, I was originally supposed to go to Law School, I changed my major to communications, she didn’t take that too well. It’s a sacrifice, it’s an investment, and I know God will return on my investment.
What do you have planned next?
Honestly, I’m planning on moving out of Maryland, to go to L.A. or Atlanta. More opportunities for recognition. I’m already putting the pieces together.
What does “Obima Fever” mean to you?
It means keep going, keep pushing. It’s intelligence, self-belief, excellence, mastery, spirituality. Above all, Obima Fever is God Willingly. If God willing, it will be done.