‘I made Basket Mouth, Gbenga Adeyinka real comedians’
He is a show business impresario. But he's more known by his largely successful Night of A Thousand Laughs, which has become an annual event in Nigeria. A graduate of University of Miami in United States, Opa Williams, who hails from Isoko North in Delta State, is also a TV and movie producer of repute. He was in the forefront of what is today called Nollywood when about 16 years ago he produced his first movie, Deadly Affair starring acts like Emeka Ike, Sandra Achums, Dolly Unachukwu and Jide Kosoko.
Talking about how he delved into live comedy shows, Williams says he needed to do something different, he needed to do a family show that people could watch and enjoy. “We needed to do a show that a whole family can enjoy and we found out that comedy is it. That's how it all started.
However, Williams went ahead to reveal how through his comedy shows he discovered and made Basket Mouth, Gandoki, TA, Teju Baby Face, AY, Victor Osuagwu, Gbenga Adeyinka and I Go Dye the good comedians they are today.
He says: “There are so many of our youth who need the experience and we want to give them the chance to explore their talents. That's how we discovered the likes of Basket Mouth, Gandoki, TA, Teju Baby Face, AY, Victor Osuagwu, Gbenga Adeyinka and I Go Dye who came up through our comedy shows.”
As Nigeria prepares to celebrate 50 years of independence, Williams has unfolded plans by his Virgin Organisation to join the nation in the celebration. But first of all, the producer is set to repackage his premium brand, Night of a Thousand Laughs, which was established 15 years ago, and for the independence anniversary has unfolded a three-tier plan tagged, 15/50 Project.
“As a first step toward implementing the project we are embarking on Backward Integration Plan (BIP) which comes in the form of a Comedy Challenge programme where new talents will be discovered to replace ageing practitioners. We have been doing the same thing for years in Benin, Calabar, Owerri and Port Harcourt,” Williams asserts.
According to the boss of Virgin Organisation, the Comedy Challenge will be hosted by a young and talented professional dancer, Mr. Effiong Edet Anthony, a member of the National Troupe who was trained in University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University.
In his words: “There is need to reinvent and repackage so as to take the industry to greater heights. We don't want the comedy industry to suffer the same fate that has befallen football; where the same old players are being recycled every time.”
Comedy Challenge will hold in Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Benin, Calabar, Owerri and Port Harcourt while Lagos has been slated for the grand finale. The winner, Williams says, will smile home with a brand-new car and an automatic ticket to future in this year's Night of A thousand Laughs.
Williams also explained the other programmes that form part of the 15/50 Project, saying, “activities that will be part of our anniversary programmes have been divided into the regular Night of a Thousand Laughs and the Jubilee edition. The regular Night of A Thousand Laughs holds in Kaduna, Ibadan, Calabar and Jos featuring all our regular comedians and musicians. But the Jubilee edition, which holds between September 30 and October 1-2 in Abuja and Lagos, will have on stage only the best of comedians and musicians.”