AY: Comedy is no laughing matter
Ayo Richard Makun is a stand-up comedian, who has become a household name in the world of showbusiness. Popularly known as AY, the comedian ... who hopes to take the world by a storm soon, spoke with ADA ONWUANUM.
How is life with you?
Life is good and beautiful
How was your show in Abuja?
It was nice. It was splendid. We had a wonderful show.
How long have you been in showbiz?
I have been in showbiz for close to 10 years because I started from my University days. Then, I was organising campus beauty pageants and campus award nights. So, if I'm counting from that point, that means I have been in showbiz for 10 years but as a stand-up comedian, I'm just three years-plus.
How did you come about the name AY?
AY is got from my name. My name is Ayo Richard Makun. We Africans, Nigerians know how to abbreviate our names. For example, Patricia will tell you her name is Pat and Ayo will tell you that his name is AY.
What motivated you into starting the 'AY Show'?
Well, the motivation was not far. I have always wanted to organise shows because I had been organising shows right from my days in the university but, the 'AY Live' part of it came where it was necessary for me to take my brand to another level. You know, as a stand-up comedian, you will have the opportunity to perform on other people's platform and all that. There, you don't have enough time to express and entertain yourself the way you want to express it. So, I decided to create my own brand where I will have the opportunity to do everything I had planned to do and they will see it and appreciate me even more. I will invite other people to be the part of what I do as well.
Are you saying that you did not start 'AY Live' because of some of your colleagues who started before you?
No, no, no, not really. Even if I mention one or two comedians, I will say they inspired me by the way of making me believe in myself to know that if they can do it, then I can do it as well. Not because of any form of competition; you know that the sky is too big to contain all the stars. I have my market they have their markets. So I'm doing it because of my market. I'm doing it because of my family and not because they are doing it.
Talking about live shows, we know very well that starting a new thing is always difficult. What were the challenges you faced?
I remember the first one we did, I was very young in the industry. Then I had just won the best upcoming comedian award. I said to myself: 'you can imagine an upcoming comedian winning an award. I decided to do my own live show. But a lot of people in the industry were scared for me. They were kind of skeptical. They wanted to even encourage me to think of a smaller venue and make it look small, but I was determined that I was just going to get it right. So I decided to go for a big venue; that was Civic Centre. Now, challenges as you said, yes. Sponsorship, which up till today is still a major challenge almost to everybody that is in the entertainment business. It was one thing that was a major factor for me then, but I will always tell people that when you are determined to do something, you just assume the character of trying to get it right. Trying to believe in yourself in a way that you will go in there and do it the way you want to do it and at the end of the day, you have something to celebrate and give thanks to God.
So, you mean there were no sponsors. You did everything with your own money?
Yes, I did everything. I bankrolled the event all by myself and succeeded in pulling it through. I did the second one; it was the same thing. I did the third one; it was the same thing. Even the one we just did in Abuja; the same thing. But the good thing there is that in life, there is a stage you call the sacrificing stage and all of it put together. I see it as sacrifice. A lot of people come to our shows and even claim that this is the kind of show they want to attend. The reason being that we are getting something right and these are things I think all the prospective sponsors need to know; and when they begin to see it, I wouldn't be the one going to them. They would probably be the ones coming to me.
Have you ever been disappointed in any of your shows?
Not at all. Ever since I started my shows, even the very small shows that I do monthly at the National Theatre, people always come out to support me. People love the AY brand and many at times, I just say to myself, 'you are not getting all of this because you are the funniest or because you are the finest or because you have all it takes to put everything together. But I just see it as God's favour.
When you were growing up, did you ever think you were going to be a comedian, Were there any signs?
No, not all. I wouldn't put myself in the position of people who will tell you: 'I started doing this from my mother's womb'. The little I can remember about my character, comedy wise is not perfect; based on the fact that any time I am with people, I get to do something that will just crack them up. But, I didn't see myself as a comedian. I saw myself becoming more of an actor because I always wanted to be like Richard Mofe-Damijo; do home and international movies. I have always seen that side of me coming, but I didn't see the comedy part. It was when I started working with Ali Baba as Personal Assistant; later I became his event manager, that I started seeing the comedy part reflecting. As a matter of fact, I can say authoritatively that I should signpost it myself because I started going out with Ali Baba and realised that people wanted him. People celebrated his brand and I turned to myself, having put all of that together because it makes people laugh. So I told myself, 'oh boy! You have to start making people laugh. As a matter of fact, you are a Theatre Arts graduate. You majored in directing as a script writer. You can script something on the paper; you get on stage, you can act it as comedy. You can write your jokes and put them together, act them out for people to enjoy'.
Now that you are a full-time comedian. Are you still going back to fulfill your dream of being like Richard Mofe-Damijo?
My soap is starting in no time. I'm playing the lead character. The acting part is still very much there because that is an original part of me that has to be exhibited.
What is the soap all about?
It is a comedy series. I have looked at the industry. We really don't have any comedy series. Apart from Papa Ajasco and Fuji House of Commotion. We are planning to do something that is just going to have all forms of lives involved and at the end of the day, the motive is just to make people laugh and entertain them. It is just comedy, first class comedy.
What is that bold step you took that brought you to this position?
The bold step is believing in myself, nothing more.
Is it true that some comedians steal other people's jokes?
Yes, it is true. I have seen that happen. But I don't have anything against them because if you steal my jokes, what that means is that you have put me in a superior position. Because one or two persons in the audience might just notice that 'I have heard AY say this joke' or 'this joke belongs to AY' and at the end of the day rather than appreciate you doing the joke, they will give all the credit to me.
Some of your colleagues think that it is very unethical to crack dirty jokes?
I don't do dirty jokes, and any of my colleagues who is in the business of doing dirty jokes probably found themselves in a dirty environment, when it is now necessary for them to get dirty. Maybe they were performing in a club or such gathering and all that. But dirty jokes generally is not my style. It is not my brand and I don't subscribe to it. I always want to keep it clean and that is why I have a clean brand.
Looking back over the years, do you have any regret being a comedian?
Not at all, it gives me joy. It makes me a happy man because every stage out of life that I'm branching up to, they are all coming to me as a result of having a brand name as a comedian. Comedy has been able to put food on the table for me and my family. With comedy, I have been able to ask a woman: “will you marry me?” and she said, “yes.” With comedy, I can take care of my little girl and with comedy, I'm quite comfortable. It is my business, it is my life. So I'm happy. I cannot regret being a comedian.
Compared to some of your colleagues, you have won so many awards. How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel good on one side and the other side, it means that if they tell you that an external supervisor is coming, it means that you need to defend your project. So, I see those awards as some form of external supervisors, because what the awards are doing to me is making people pay extra attention to my brand. To see what I'm doing that is worth the awards. And if I allow those awards to distract me, it means that before you know it, I will kill my brand.
You also perform as an MC. Which of the jobs make you smile most to the bank?
Everything. They come together. The person that employed me as a Master of Ceremony is employing me not just because I can speak English but because I can equally add value to the event by making people laugh . So it goes together for me. I have never for once heard anybody call me to come and just perform as MC. It has to be, do your things. So it goes together.
If you have any chance now to change something in the industry, what will it be?
If there is a chance to anything industry, I will like to change the little beef that comes in once in a while from one entertainer to another entertainer. So I think the earlier we start seeing ourselves as one, the better the industry will become for others that want to come in.
Now that you are married, how do you cope with this your job that takes you places and your newly married life?
The good thing is that I'm a very upwardly mobile person today. I'm either in Abuja, Port Harcourt or outside the country. Because my wife is a very beautiful woman, she is not the kind of woman I want to hide. Sometimes we make most of this trips together. We just came back from Abuja together for this last show I did. Sometimes, we work together as staff of the business as well. If I'm on stage, she is at the gate counting the money. Good enough, she read Business Administration, so she administers a better part of my business.
So, this is family business?
Who really is AY?
AY is a very down-to-earth individual. He is very lovely and caring. He is somebody who doesn't take or see life as a do-or-die affair. He is somebody who believes that the race is not always for the swift; neither is the battle for the strong. He is somebody who believes that time and chance can take control of your life at any point in time.
What do you have passion for? As in giving back to society that has given you so much.
I'm very passionate about helping upcoming comedians to grow because the reason I am AY today is because somebody gave me that opportunity. Ali Baba created that opportunity for me so I'm always very passionate about helping upcoming comedians, share my ideas with them, share my platform with them. I always do that because I know that is how I get blessed in return.
What was growing up like?
Growing up for me was rough, pretty rough.
Why do you say that?
Because I was born, bred and buttered in Warri, Delta State. That has influenced my career as a comedian, I must confess. But growing in that reality of thinking of where your next meal will come from. Sometimes, it affects growing up. Knowing that you have to go to school and as they give you assignment, knowing that you need to borrow your classmate's textbook for you to be able to submit your own assignment. It was harsh then, but it is something that made me what I am today.
Do you know that you are a role model to so many people?
By God's grace, I believe.
So what do you have to tell people that are aiming to be like you?
If you want to be like me, you have to tell yourself, “Yes, You Can.” Even before President Obama came up with his slogan. You have to imbibe it as a culture. You need to roll in your system. You need to believe in yourself and tell yourself that, that thing is do-able no matter what people think about it, in as much as you are dedicated, in as much as you are passionate about it, in as much as you are not doing it because Ali Baba or Basket-Mouth is doing it and making money and for that reason you want to go in. No, you need to have serious ideas. You need to be original. You need to create your own style and your own brand. And let me tell you if you have all these put together, the sky will be your starting point.