Allure Cover: AY Makun – The Game Changer
By Rita Okoye
He rose to fame after he performed at a comedy show hosted by Opa Williams in 2006. He has since risen to the top of his game and become one of the most bankable comedians in Nigeria.
Known for blockbuster movies like, 30 Days In Atlanta, A Trip to Jamaica, 10 Days in Sun City, Merry Men 1&2, on Easter Sunday, he set a new record by hosting online, his annual comedy show which was earlier called off due to COVID-19 pandemic!
Born Ayo Makun and fondly called AY, the Comedian, Movie Producer, Actor, Writer and Entrepreneur is arguably, one of the most creative comedians that has influenced the Nigerian entertainment industry in recent times.
The happily married, father of one has a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from Delta State University, Abraka.
In this interview, the multiple award- winning Entertainer opens up on life as a seasoned comedian, surviving the COVID-19 meltdown and lots more.
How has life been since the lock down?
Life has been quiet but eventful. I am typically a home guy so, the lockdown did not really affect me socially.
You were at the verge of having a show when this pandemic swept through. How much loss does that translate to?
Yes, we were at the verge of hosting our 2020 Easter edition of Ay Live Comedy Concert when the pandemic hit Nigeria. We had to postpone it due to government directives, and the restrictions that resulted from the health implications. Though the loss was enormous, I try not to think of it as a loss because, there is no price that can be placed on human life. As long as we are still alive, then Ay Live Comedy Concert is alive and will hold in due course.
You did something novel by taking the show online. How did you pull that off?
This was an interesting concept we did in partnership with HipTV. As a team, we were aware of the challenges staying at home was having not just on Nigerians but, for humans across the globe. As a result, everyone was either in front of the television set or mobile device. So, we decided to put together an online show, in keeping with the tradition of holding Ay Live on Easter Sunday. We discussed the idea with Mr Ayo Animashaun, and worked out a plan that will allow the show to be seen by both the social media viewers across the globe, and television viewers via the HipTV platform.
Do you think this is something that may catch on even after the lockdown?
I believe the lockdown has given everyone a new appreciation of the power of social media, and this trend of creating content specifically will definitely outlive the lockdown. For example, I created an online version of The Ay Show which I streamed to YouTube and Facebook. This is a show that I will definitely continue even after the lockdown because, it gives me the ease of presenting the show wherever I may be.
For the first time we saw celebrities dressed in their never-before-seen outfits for an online show because you told them to. How did you feel about the positive response?
The lockdown period removed the need for pretence because, our primary concern was about survival. The positive response from the viewers was overwhelming. Myself and every other comedian who participated at the event, enjoyed the positive energy we got from the viewers. We even did an online red-carpet competition and a lot people participated by posting what they were wearing to the online event.
You have become versatile with your craft taking comedy from stage to the big screen with international collaborations.
How were you able to break these grounds?
By not taking no for an answer. Those who are close to me know that I am a restless person, always looking for the next platform to showcase Nigeria to the world. I have done this by bringing international acts to Nigeria for my annual comedy concerts, and by creating movie projects that took Nigerians on a tourism adventure to various cities such as; Atlanta, Johannesburg and Jamaica. I have also brought in international talent, cast and crew, to work with us in the 2 movie projects we wholly produced in Nigeria.
Your movies are steadily becoming blockbusters and high budget. Do you write your scripts and how do you fund your movies?
I come up with my stories, and I get talented screenplay writers to turn my stories into movie and television screenplays. I have worked with talented screenplay writers like; Kehinde Joseph, Kenny Ogunlola, Patrick Nnamani and Diane Diaz. My movies are usually self-funded, but I have partnered with Filmone Entertainment in co-producing 2 of my projects.
What challenges do you face when you have to shoot in other countries?
Travel logistics and cultural differences are the major challenges we face when we shoot overseas. While the travel logistics affects the budget, the cultural differences affects the shoot because we must learn to live and work with each other. That we all speak English does not mean we are effectively communicating because our cultural uniqueness affects our communication. So, every movie we have produced outside Nigeria, has been a learning curve for me and my team.
Delta state and Warri in particular have been over exaggerated in comedy. How would you defend yourself?
Delta State and the city of Warri are always evolving because people live there. So, the comic materials from this area can never run dry.
Some youths called you out on social media recently alleging that in spite of all that you have used Warri to gain, you didn’t do anything to help during this pandemic. How would you react to that?
It is a factor of the information they have access to. While I may put some of the charitable acts I do online, there are some that very personal to me that never come online. Warri is personal to me, so I do some things for Warri. I consider it as doing something for family and family matters are not for public consumption.
What would you say has helped you reach this height looking back from your days of little beginning?
The grace of God is my explanation for my successes. God opened doors for me and gave me vision helpers to carry me across.
Did you get mentorship from your seniors in the industry while you were starting out?
Yes. Everyone who knows my history knows how Alibaba took me as his Personal Assistant, and I understudied him and his style of doing business.
What trade lessons did you learn then that you can pass to aspiring comedians now?
Always be innovative. Never be so comfortable with your current success that you stop planning on new ways of reinventing yourself for the future.
Beside comedy, what’s your side hustle?
I do not have a side hustle. Everything I do is done with all my might and attention.
Should your fans look forward to something wonderful after the lock down?
We are planning multiple projects for post lockdown. So, they should definitely, look forward to something unique and entertaining. We will start production of our new movie and also the season 2 of the call to bar series.
What would be the first thing you’d do after the lockdown?
Depending on the day the lockdown is called off, if it is a Tuesday, then I will go for a football exercise.
How does your wife and daughter react to your jokes?
My wife and daughter are my biggest fans and meanest critics. They review my content critically and if I can make them laugh, then I know I have gold.
You are beginning to score points in the fashion department. How would you describe your style?
I have always loved style and even whilst in school, I won awards as the fashionable student on campus. My dress sense is about how I read scenarios and events. I dress to compliment event themes and that is unbelievably valuable in my line of work.
Why do you like white a lot especially with your sneakers?
I love the colour. It speaks about how much I love excellence in my work.
Who’s your favourite designer beside your brother?
Vodi is another talented designer that makes stuff I love to wear. He partnered with me when I produced Merry Men 1 and made the attire I used for the Agbada Challenge. I also like Needles and Stitches, Labaleo and Michael Black Collections.
Taking a look at your wardrobe, what would you say is your most expensive fashion item?
Hmmmmm. Let me get back to you when next you come around to interview me.