+A trip to Jamaica flick out in September
Ayo Makun, popularly known as AY, is arguably one of Nigeria’s top and most successful comedians. He has carved a niche for himself in the Nigerian entertainment industry, has grown from just being a standup comedian to being a host, an actor, TV presenter, writer, movie producer and promoter.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had a chat with the astute businessman on preparations for his upcoming event, AY Live that takes place every Easter Sunday. He also gave reasons he would keep mum on his rumoured marriage breakup and more…
How are preparations for this year’s AY Live?
It is going on steadily, and fine. As a matter of fact, we have concluded arrangements with all the artistes that will be performing. It promises to be kilometres better than previous editions. It is a different vibe and tonic.
People are expected to have loads of fun, come Easter Sunday (March 27).
The theme for this year is Happy Ever Laughter, why did you choose that theme?
We chose it because the situation in the country demands that people should have their happy moments, with the fact that we also have sustained value in terms of delivering quality laughter through AY Live and this would be even better.
Happy Ever Laughter means that even after you leave the show, laughter will follow you for the rest of your life.
What would you be presenting or adding this year that would make it different from previous years?
Those are the things I really want people to come and experience. This year, we have decided not to talk about those things because the things that we are doing form the tonic for this. So, it is best seen than expressed. For people who understand the brand, follow the brand and are lovers of AY Live, it is going to be Happy Ever Laughter for them as soon as they step into the hall to savour the beauty of what we have put in place.
Why do you always choose Easter Sundays?
It is a trademark already. It is registered. It is a holiday weekend. It also defines resurrection for those who are Christians.
On an average, how much does it cost to organize the show?
To put AY Live together is to the tune of millions of naira. It is not something I want to state here because there are people who have different interests for whatever reason, whatever money is involved or mentioned. So, let’s save them the stress. But then, it costs a whole lot of money.
With the situation of the economy and the skyrocketing exchange rate, will it affect the input, in terms of costs?
I would say yes, because it has made us spend more, and as a matter of fact, we haven’t even changed the pricing and the standard of the show. We cannot play down the quality of the show because of money. Money is not the factor because we also want our people to be happy even if the intention is to make money. But it’s also very important that you don’t put money first.
When people are happy with you, there are many ways that it would spin off for the brand. Other people who love the brand will want to do some other things with the people behind such fruitful prayers.
It is less than one week to the event, what has the reception been like?
Tables are almost sold out. We have just few tables to go. It has always been like that every year by the special grace of God. What we are doing now is rehearsing and trying to make sure we deliver the same standard and even above the standard we have set for the brand.
What are the challenges of organizing AY Live?
It is always difficult to get artistes together to rehearse. Nigerians really don’t have that culture of rehearsal. Just the way it is done internationally where you plan it in order to get it right, but all the same we are using the limited time given to us by the artistes to rehearse in order to meet up with the set goals for the night. It is a major challenge.
How has it been getting sponsors for the show, especially going by the tough economy, because that’s always the top excuse by corporate organizations?
So far so good, we have been enjoying a partnership with Maltina. They have been one of our major sponsors for two years. This is the third edition they are going to be a part of. We also have other supporters who are also in the project. We have Globacom and some others who are more of media support.
Sometime last year, you were in Jamaica to shoot your movie, A trip to Jamaica. When would it be released in Nigeria?
A trip to Jamaica is likely to hit the cinemas in September. We are taking our time so that we can give it the Hollywood standard in terms of putting all the elements in place, quality grading, sound, design and all. We just don’t want to make it seem like any other movie that you just rush and put out there. So, we are taking our time, it is in September. We also intend to release it outside the country before September and that would take us to the UK. From the UK, we would do a tour of America and of course, we will go to Jamaica. Then, we would bring it back home, Nigeria where it belongs in September.
What’s the movie about?
It is a love story with a lot of comedy. It is a spin-off from the Akpos character which a lot of people saw through 30 Day in Atlanta which also turned out to be the highest grossing movie in Africa. We are happy to do this one so that people would know that the first one wasn’t a fluke or mistake, but it was something that we would want them to see and enjoy.
What inspired the movie?
Inspiration for me, I would say. It’s the Warri background. A lot of people know that those who have that Warri pidgin English is something they always wanted to find on the international platform just like patois which is synonymous with Jamaica.
We thought the pidgin English is as well unique. So, it would be nice for people within and outside Nigeria to enjoy the beauty of the Warri pidgin English. That was the major inspiration and what formed the Akpos character which is played by my humble self.
What informed the cast of the movie?
The cast in A trip to Jamaica are the likes of Nse Ikpe Etim, Funke Akindele, Eric Roberts from Hollywood, Paul Campbell from Jamaica, who is an iconic figure in the movie industry over there just like RMD here. Of course, we have Rebecca Sivera, who is the present winner of the America Game Show. She is Jamaican as well as former Jamaican representative to Miss Universe.
What informed the cast is that they are professionals in their respective rights with that total ability and gift to deliver. Everybody got used to the Akpos character the same way they loved Jenifa’s character played by Funke Akindele. I thought it would be total madness to have those two come together as one in one movie and I designed all of that in my head and I am making it come through for people to see.
Some weeks back, the internet was agog with rumours of you having challenges in your marriage. We would like to know what really happened?
I am in no position to tell you what goes on in my house. For now, I think that should be skipped. I love my family enough. A lot of people would say silence is golden. Many times you want to be quiet. But sometimes you just feel like you owe people an explanation so they can know all is well in your house then they spin it, and turn it around against you. Now that I am wise enough to have that understanding, anybody who asks me anything concerning my family, I will just say no comment.
ENCOMIUM Weekly might just say that we decided to give him an exclusive interview so that he can tell his loyal fans, but trust me the other people are also reading it. So, they will keep the column they want to pick and use it to form another topic online, while Nigerians who are very conversant with the internet and don’t want to hear another part, will hold on to the only part they have seen and they would go on and start insulting and saying all sorts. People who see you on the road and they won’t say hello to you and you won’t say hello to them but the only opportunity they have to bash you, they will never spare you. Now I know that’s the trend and that we have some social media bullies out there who would just bully you because of the same reason that God has blessed you.
All in all, what lessons did you learn from the whole drama?
There is nothing that really happened for me to learn a lesson. What I gained from all of these is that I noticed that the entire nation and the rest of the world is interested in my marriage. So, I saw people say no, praying this should not happen, you are our role model, this is what you’ve done, this is what we have seen and it just made me love my wife. More so, it was more of benefit than lesson.
Back to AY Live, who are the comedians and musicians your guests should be expecting?
If you noticed in the advert that we put out, we did not put musicians. It is strategically done so that people will know that you can come to shows without having the mindset that you are going to see AY Live, just come open minded. Over the years, we have delivered, so we are saying come and see what we have so that it will form part of the spark that will give you the necessary ginger to get in the mood, because you are not expecting them, just like it is done abroad in some of the shows. Then when people come, they would never be disappointed. They would love to come over and over again.
- TINUOLA JOSEPH