Ayo Makun has come to be regarded as one of the biggest comedians in Nigeria today. With a television show, a comedy competition and popular AY Live to his credit, he has come to carve a niche for himself in the ever growing comedy scene. He talks to Senior Reporter, Ovwe Medeme, on the career that started as a joke and has grown to become a brand. Excerpts:
How did the AY Brand come to be?
It all started as a joke. It began when I was in school. Then a girlfriend of mine won a beauty pageant on campus but she was not given her prize money by the organisers. We did everything possible to get the money. So, we were invited to a meeting with the students’ union government. While we were deliberating on the issue, it got to a point, I said to the organiser that I would go into the same business on campus and run his own down. That was exactly what happened. I registered it on campus and my girlfriend and I organised our own beauty pageant. It became the toast of Delta State University. I did it to the point where I graduated from school. The same pageant has produced two representatives from Nigeria to the Miss World beauty pageant, and of course, one of them has also gone for the Miss Universe competition all from the Corporate World Entertainment started like a child’s play.
As one who runs a business and also does comedy, do you have to split your personality to suit both purposes?
I have come to organise my life to the extent where one minute, I am on stage cracking jokes and the next minute, I am coordinating things in the office. As much as I have been able to develop my brand to be an all encompassing one. I would say that combining both is not easy at all but then, it is something that I said to myself is necessary and has to be done.
What challenges do you face organising shows?
The challenges are quite much. Publicity is key to success. I have done many of my shows without any form of publicity. In a way, it has endeared people to us because they see it as a feat that we could organise big shows without the corporate world present. Their absence is a major challenge to me. Other issues are things I have gotten used to overtime because I have been doing them for a very long time now. I don’t see them as challenges anymore; rather I see it as me challenging myself to do those things in order to get it right.
What does it take to survive in the industry?
What it takes to survive is a strong determination, not to believe that it is not doable, to accept the fact that no matter what the situation is, you will always succeed, you will always grow and you will take your career to another level.
So far, have you had any career threatening experience?
I have. There had been times when I saw myself on stage and I could not feel myself. At those times, I would say to myself that I don’t think I am getting it right I then ask myself if I am sure I want to remain in this business. But then, subsequent events tended to boost my ratings to another level and I would see myself growing again. I have had a very crazy experience where I got booed off the stage where the crowd felt I was too cool for them. They had to cut me to size.
What does it takes to organise a show like the AY Live?
The planning stage is usually fundamental, knowing that you want to bring a certain number of people and have them come watch your show. You need to first of all find out what they like and what you think they would want to hear. For me, what follows is that I draw up the concept. At that stage, I start publicising. It is important to reach out to the public for feedback. That way, you can improve on the lapses. It is also important to know the kind of content you are giving out. When you have these put together, you will automatically know the kind of artists you will bring to the venue. After doing all that, you are good to go.
Is there any show you consider as a threat to yours?
I don’t see any other show as a threat because I don’t subscribe to the fact that there are people out there threatening my brand or what I am doing. The only threat that I have always harboured is AY threatening AY. If AY is doing better this minute, the other AY is already threatening AY to do better. That is how it has been for me.
What was growing up like?
Growing up wasn’t bad. The good thing about my growing up is that I was born into a Christian family. My parents always gave us the proper guidance we needed in life. I grew up. I grew up as the first male child from a family of seven. Being the first, there was no such thing as a silver spoon. We didn’t even see a wooden spoon but it was very good. The fear of God that guided us then and which is still guiding us now is one thing that kept us strong and fit to do.
Would you say growing up had anything to do with your career choice?
Growing up, I had always loved to see the movies. I loved the likes of Richard Mofe Damijo, Hubert Ogunde, and Baba Sala. I used to love the way they got people all excited and I always thought I would like to be the modern version of these people. RMD is one person I always want to be like. At some point, I tried to reach out to him but fate brought us together and we talked.
As a theatre artist, what did you major in?
I majored in Directing, and while on campus, I had the privilege of directing a convocation production. It is rare for a production of such nature to be given to a student to handle and the Faculty of Arts then gave the go ahead for me to handle it. As for going fully, I would say that I am into it already. If you see me on stage, you see the theatre and everything that makes up the theatre. Theatre is all about drama, music, dance and the approaches you give to home. When you see my shows that is what you see. So I would say that I am living the theatre dream.
Is there any difference between AY the person and AY the comedian?
AY the person could pass for Ayo Makun. He is a very daring individual. He is God fearing. He is a husband, a father and he is somebody who believes that everyone has a right to succeed in life.
Does running the family in any way interfere with your business?
Being a husband and a father does not interfere in any way. As a matter of fact, what I do with my brand can be regarded as family business. Those who are used to me always see my wife running the business angle for me. We run the business together.
What is the concept behind the AY Open Mic Competition?
It was designed to discover new comedians and bring out the best in them. The industry is getting larger now and the sky is wide enough for every one of us to fly. So the Open Mic gives room to young talents to come and showcase their skills before a live audience and gain relevance from that point on and they can start making money for themselves.
As an up and coming comedian, were you turned down for shows?
Sure I was. There were times I would be ready and all dressed and even went back stage believing that the time to perform would be there and I wasn’t even listened to. It was that bad. There were times when the senior colleagues regarded me as a nonentity who could not grab the Mic. And at the end of the day, I lost the job.
What would be your message to the up and coming comedy acts?
Believe in yourself; keep on doing what you are doing. If you have the talent, it will definitely create something for you. It will make a way for you in any industry whether fishing, comedy, music, dance or banking. So long as you are passionate about doing what you like to do, you are going about it the right way; you will definitely succeed. It might be long, you may be delayed, but trust me delay is not denial. You will definitely get to the top.
Click the link below to go to ...MORE PICTURES OF AY LIVE 2011