Anyone who has had access to ETV’s sole channel, can identify Dereje and Habteb – the pair that defined the essence of comedy in urban Ethiopia, as they followed in the footsteps of the pioneers, Alebachew and Limeneh.
Over two decades and more, and despite his slight change physically, people still smile or even laugh their hearts out just by locking eyes with Dereje.
He had to fight through the loss of his friend, and the transition from being two to one when Habte passed away, making that shift in identity to become a standalone comedian.
Facing the same audience alone was not easy for him. However, for the last 10 years, Dereje remained attached to his friend through others who shared the loss.
Now, Gorebetamochu, a comedy series in which he is a character, is broadcast on (EBS), and has proven very popular with the youth – some of whom would not have known him as one of that inseparable duo.
We questioned him about his life now compared to 20 years ago:
Fortune: Key Priorities
DH: The most important thing in life back in the late 90’s was personal growth, as I struggled to make a breakthrough in the field of Art.
Establishing my personal brand is now my top priority – this will be my springboard to assert my name once more in the industry.
What Tickles the Taste Buds?
DH: That one stays intact – there has been no change, Doro Wot!
Evolution of Earnings
DH: There is a huge gap. In the last days of the 1990s, I used to share the 20 Br we got per episode for the TV shows and close to eight Birr for a radio production.
Now, I earn an average of 1,750 Br per series episode and 85,000 Br for a feature movie.
Splashing Out on Fashion
DH: I remember the style that I really worked hard for then, but not the actual price.
Jeans and leather jacket with numerous zippers. It was the Michael Jackson (‘Beat It’) jacket, with 32 zippers on it.
Today, I like my Aldo shoes that go well with suits and O T-shirts – those shoes cost a lot though.
DH: Most of my time used to be spent reading, but nowadays I prefer to spend time chatting with family and friends.
DH: Twenty years ago, I focused on myself, building my career as a comedian. Now, I want to groom and mentor others.
Perception of Death
DH: I thought I accepted death as a reality and never meditated on it before. Though I believe I still think the same way, I seldom find myself contemplating the idea of death these days.
In Your CD Collection
DH: Tilahun Gesese’s ‘Amsalu’ is my everlasting choice and Teddy Afro’s ‘Etege’ also grabs me.
DH: Individual success is the source of my inspiration. Twenty years back, it was Limeneh Tadesse, my forerunner in the comedy industry. Now, it is Haile Gebreselassie, who has excelled in his field and now runs a state-of-the-art business.
Tipping the Scales
DH: I think this is obvious, as everyone knows how skinny I was 20 years ago – 58 kilos. I’ve gained 12kg over two decades.
DH: If it could be called a brand, jeans are my first preference – I did not know of the brand concept 20 years ago. Nowadays, Aldo is my brand of choice.
DH: Playing football with friends in the neighbourhood (sefer) fields.
DH: Holidays used to be all fun for me and now they’ve turned into responsibilities. I still enjoy visits to friends and family.
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