MULTIPLE award winning comedian and 2010 Comedian of the Year, Ayo Richard Makun, popularly called AY, is living his dream. Dubbed Nigeria’s most enterprising comedian, this compere, presenter, promoter and event manager, amongst others, has sure taken comedy out of the box. Apart from his column in The Sun Newspapers (Going AY-Wire), he produces and presents AY Show as well as AY Live and more.
And drawing the attention of the world to his emerging showbiz empire, the successful comedian and Theatre Arts graduate of Delta State University took us on an excursion of the AY brand. He also explained why he can’t stop encouraging up and coming comedians and much more.
Who really is AY?
My names are Ayo Richard Makun. But AY is my stage name as well as my corporate identity. I am the CEO of Corporate World Entertainment, an entertainment organization that is focused on packaging events and providing contents for radio and television. I am happily married to Mabel and we are blessed with a beautiful daughter, Michelle Adeola Makun.
Can you tell us more about Corporate World Entertainment?
Corporate World Entertainment began in 1998 as organizers of DELSU Most Beautiful Girl on Campus pageant. Winners of this campus pageant became top beauty queens in Nigeria, and they include: Queen of Delta, 1998/99; Miss Nigeria Tourism (she represented Nigeria at Miss World Tourism) and the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, Nigeria’s representative to Miss World, and Miss Universe in 1999.
Today, CWE powers AY Live (the always-sold-out comedy and music concerts), the AY Show(the award-winning most-watched TV comedy show) and Open Mic Challenge (the monthly talent hunt programme) that produced the likes of Emeka Smith, MC Shakara, Elenu and Seyi Law.
What inspired the AY Show?
The AY Show television was inspired by the absence of comedy on TV apart from people going to comedy shows. When I travelled abroad, I picked up a DVD entitled Chris Rock Show. I realized that what these guys do there we can equally do it in our country. So, I did some adaptation, then learnt how to put some very serious creative Nigerian context into it. As we speak, AY Show is one of the shows Nigerians look up to.
What about AY Live?
When you are a comedian, it will get to a stage when you would need to have a live stand-up show. I had to tread on the part of senior colleagues knowing fully well that they are part of shows like Nite of A Thousand Laughs and every other shows. So, I had to toe that line. When I started looking at my brand, I said to myself that this would be the right time to take your brand to another level.
Where and when was the first AY Live held?
The first one was held in Muson Centre, Lagos in 2007 and it sold out.
Of all the shows which is the most successful?
Port Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja. There is a strict competition between them. I can’t say, but they were awesome.
We heard you’re planning AY Live in United Kingdom, can you tell us about it?
We are taking it there because our programme is on Sky Network in UK where people watch AY Show daily. A lot of Nigerians see the good things we do and they have been craving, through Facebook, Twitter, phone calls and the small database asking when we are coming to London, so that gave birth to the London show.
So, when are we going to London?
October 6, 2010 in commemoration of Nigeria’s independence. So, while we are celebrating here in Nigeria, we take it to Nigerians in London to enjoy what we are enjoying here. It would be holding at Indigo where Michael Jackson would have performed before he died.
AY operates as a multi media, can you define AY brands for people who don’t know and what drives it?
The AY brand is driven by the sweet passion of entertainment. The AY brand goes beyond comedy, a lot of people say AY surpasses comedy. A lot of people see AY as a comedian and they do not know that AY has been in show business for a while. As a matter of fact, I used to pay a lot of people in the entertainment industry to come and do shows for me on campus before I came in. It’s an encompassing brand. It involves AY the promoter, AY the product, AY the presenter, actor, publisher and PR consultant. So, all these together form and at the same time guide and protect the brand.
What effort are you making to get the attention of sponsors because we know it has not been easy and what are the challenges?
Let’s blame the recession. Apart from recession, some people are still putting money in different projects. I am just believing that a time would come when somebody would pay attention to this brand, AY in terms of sponsorship. What we have is something we can export, I am not boastful. I am talking as a result of hard work, everything we have succeeded in doing now that has given us all the awards is as a result of God helping us through our talent but not with any form of corporate branding but when that happens it would establish the brand even bigger than what it is right now and at the end of the day we would get somewhere. That is why we are encouraging all to log on to our site www.ayshow.tv and buy into our vision.
How do you feel grooming people who would become good comedians like you?
It is the easiest thing for me to do. The truth is, when you understand life, from your growing up to all that you do, you now infuse this knowledge and awareness into something. I have always loved to be a giver because I grew up in the circle of people who were used to giving. I am talking about my parents before they died. In the light of comedy, if I have something to give because at some point in time, I was like them where the likes of Ali Baba was there to give me. I know God will definitely punish me if I ca collect from people and I am not willing to give to others. For me, I create opportunities, I am not the one who gave them the talent, they have the talent, all they need is a platform. So, if I have a platform other people should use the platform. That is why it is something I am passionate about and I will continue to do it because no matter how successful you are if it doesn’t reflect on people around you, then you are a nobody.
How does it feel to know that AY Open Mic has produced new comedians like Seyi Law, MC Shakara, Elenu and Emeka Smith?
It feels good, it doesn’t make me special. If is the joy of every father to see his children surpass him in what he does. As I speak, Seyi Law and I have been nominated in America for an awa4rd as Comedian of the Year. Alli Baba calls me up or sends SMS at times and says, ‘I am proud of you.’ I cultivated that habit. I send SMS to my guys and say, ‘I am proud of you.’ I can remember when I bought my car, I took it to Alli Baba to test drive and he was happy for me. In no time Emeka Smith and Seyi Law have brought their cars to my house and I felt good. These guys are beginning to take in other young comedians into their houses. It is an industry that is united and going places.
Maybe you should tell us some of your awards?
In 2008, I got six awards, all confirming same thing: Comedian of the Year, Diamond Awards for Comedy; Comedian of the Year, Mode Men of the Year Awards; Comedian of the Year, MBG Abuja Merit Awards; Comedian of the Year, Arsenal Award for Excellence; Comedian of the Year, Teens Favourite; Comedian of the Year, National Daily Awards. I am also the United Nations Peace Ambassador. The awards keep coming and I thank God for that.
Can you tell us about this year’s shows?
A show is coming up on August 29, 2010 at ThisDay Dome, Abuja.
What is your take on the controversial issue of stealing of jokes?
I am against it because AY, as a person doesn’t steal jokes and nobody can say AY you’re using my joke. It will be nice for the industry to look into it. Also, comedians should learn to be original because the more original you are, the more accepted you would be.
God has been good to you, so, what more do you want from Him?
I want God to continue to bless, guide and protect my family. To do unto others what He has done for me and to help me get to another level.
– THIS INTERVIEW WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN ENCOMIUM WEEKLY ON TUESDAY, AUGUST 3, 2010