AFTER 15 years of making people laugh through his comedy show, Nite of a Thousand Laugh, Opa Williams is ready to lay it to rest and move unto greater things which is still under wraps. ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with him in his Surulere, Lagos office on Friday, December 16, 2011, about this latest development. We also took him on life at 50 and how it feels to be a grandpa at 50.
Can you recall the story of Nite of a Thousand Laugh?
It started in 1994, it came out of the desire to create something unique outside what we had. I wanted an avenue for a family time out, something that could bring people together in a relaxing atmosphere.
Which was the first edition?
The October 1, 1994 edition.
What would you say you achieved with Nite of a Thousand Laugh?
I think I have been able to bring comedy to the forefront. I have been able to create an industry out of comedy. I have been able to make comedians strong indices in this country. Comedians are called for every event, even economic summit, comedians are invited to perform.
So, what weren’t you able to achieve?
Basically, it was to create the awareness, making people enjoy themselves. I wanted to create an industry and connect all segments to that industry. Normally, when you start, you don’t have a final goal. As you go along, things change, it is dynamic, things are happening, I wouldn’t say I didn’t achieve anything out of it.
So, why are you laying it to rest?
For now, it is like sitting back and looking at things. Sitting back to rest, maybe out of the desire to just rest, change the game, do a different thing or because of health reasons. It is just like dancing palongo for a long time, you cannot change on the space while dancing. If you have to change to Alanta, you will pause before changing. Either we want to do it differently or we want to change it entirely or even forget about it.
Does that mean we should still be expecting it to resurface in a couple of months or years?
There is something they call due to popular demand, there is another thing we call enough is enough. We have people who moved from retirement to something different from what they were doing before. The most important thing is to be alive and making impact.
There is still speculation that your sponsors have withdrawn their support, that is why you are laying it to rest?
I have had different sponsors. From day one, the first edition of the show, we had no sponsor, second edition, there was no sponsor, the third edition it was from the fourth edition that we started having sponsors. We even dropped some sponsors. I have a sponsor, MTN, who has stuck to us for the past seven years, we had an understanding. Nite of a Thousand Laugh is not attached to anybody, so if somebody pulls out, the show continues. There was a time we had Top Tea, as our major sponsor. We also had Multichoice as our major sponsor. Look at Headies, when his major sponsor pulled out, he still had his show. Sponsors come because they find connection with that brand and their own brand. Over the years, we have stuck to certain sponsors. Nite of a Thousand Laugh is an international show, we have international sponsors as well even if Nigerians withdraw. We are not stopping because of sponsors, we did not start because of sponsorship and we will not end because of sponsorship. Right now, our sponsors have called us they told us they heard this, they heard this, they thought there is a problem and they are looking for ways to come in. But it is not all about the money. I am no more unique, I am old now. I want to change the values, I have to change my looks and all that.
What about the reaction of other comedians, most especially those that pay their bills through the show?
The show is a platform, it is like saying what is the plight of bankers whose banks have gone under. It is not the end of their career, the show actually expose them, it is like a World Cup thing to some of them. Some comedians charge me far less than they will charge in other shows. If the show leaves, it doesn’t mean that other comedians are dead, no. There are other shows they can go for.
So, what is the next step?
The next step is pregnant, we should expect it very soon when it gives birth. The future is pregnant.
Are you creating a similar show?
If the question before this has been answered, then I have answered this as well.
Any regret laying it to rest?
Any man that regrets his life is challenging God. He is asking God questions, you cannot regret life, it is not your doing. Only be the best, if you fall short, thank God. I just thank God for the wonderful years of Nite of a Thousand Laugh.
You turned 50 this year, how did you celebrate it?
I thank God. I celebrate every day, waking up daily is worth celebrating.
How will you describe life at 50?
I am not the owner of my life, so I wouldn’t praise myself. I think I have been living life the way God planned it, that is all.
What is the greatest lesson life has taught you at 50?
Not just at 50, but the greatest thing life has taught me so far is to be fair. I have also realized that whatever you give, comes back to you. I have also learnt to be good because good comes with joy and contentment, it comes with exposure and life. If you do good, you get it back. Life has taught me to be good and fair.
Is there anything you have been doing differently now that you are 50?
What can I change, maybe lately, I have been health conscious. Lifestyle has changed a bit as well. I have to be conscious of this because I am now a grandfather.
How does it feel to be a grandpa?
Nothing, you just look forward to being one, you look forward to having a grandchild you can play with. There is really nothing. It all depends on the mind, age is in the mind. If I want to feel old today, I will feel old, if I want to feel young today, I will.
What target did you set to achieve at 50 and how far have you gone with it?
I keep achieving, I keep raising the bar, I keep moving on. I don’t really set targets like that. Sometimes, I just sit down and start feeling that by 50, I should be this, I should be that. Then, I move towards achieving it. By 50, I feel I should have something to take care of me when I am 70.
How far have you gone in achieving that?
I am doing well, it is evolving like I said. It is dynamic.
Any regret at 50?
I don’t regret anything. I just try to walk in the right path so that I don’t have any nemesis. I live my own share of life and live it good.
What more do you want from God at this age?
I want God Himself, there is a song that says, The more I know you, the more I really want to know you. At this age, I want to get closer to God. When God is close to you, everything is settled. I want Him to draw me closer to Himself.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, December 20, 2011