He has over the last decade delivered some of the most memorable comic entertainment content across various platform. Ayo AY Makun has effortless diversify his brand from stand-up comedy to creating blockbuster Nollywood feature films. His ’AY Show’ is one of the flagship events in the comedy space in Nigeria and beyond. As a movie maker his very first project ’30 Days in Atlanta’ broke box office record grossing over 100 million naira and had a Guinness book of record recognition for it too.
AY is a complete family man as a loving husband and dad. He sits as the chief executive office of corporate world entertainment based in Lagos, Nigeria. He sits with Itunuoluwa Ajayi for a very insightful conversation.
TELL US HOW THE AY BRAND STARTED?
Well the AY Brand started from when I started working with the King of comedy, Alibaba, this was immediately after I graduated from Delta State University, so I came into Lagos and started off as his personal assistant and from being is personal assistant to his event manager and more so against the background of where we are from Warri, I noticed that making people laugh is serious business around here in Lagos and in Warri it is something some of us just do for fun, So I decided to convert the talent to a money making venture, I started up with him I usually opened shows for him at his comedy club way back then at VGC and from doing all of that put together I progressed to another level so he was able to set me up with uhm, getting me involved with ‘Night of A Thousand Laughs’ and from there the AY brand just started picking up and today this is where we are.
WOULD YOU SAY ALIBABA IN ANY WAY INFLUENCED YOUR STYLE OF COMEDY?
One hundred and twenty percent, I mean as a matter of fact, he is somebody who, when you see him you just don’t call him a comedian he has a balance if Alibaba is working with the law sector now you would think he is a lawyer if he is working with doctors I mean his humour is going to resolve around, you know, that circle, so he is somebody that is filled with the kind of talents that I can’t even talk about here on one show, as a matter of fact I was able to tap from his expertise and it help to build and guide the AY brand, side of comedy, as a matter of fact you will hardly hear an Alibaba talk about, do dirty jokes on stage, he is a total package, he is a corporate brand and when you see AY you see a corporate brand also
WHEN YOU WERE IN SCHOOL DID YOUR SOCIAL LIFE INFLUENCE YOUR DECISION TO DO COMEDY?
Back then in Delta State University (DELSU) I was the number one campus MC and then there was no comedy attached and apart from that I also ran the biggest shows on campus from DELSU most beautiful girl on campus Beauty Pageant, I started that on Campus and as a matter of fact I had three candidates from there that represented Nigeria for Miss World, from there I also organized a campus Awards night which is DAMA, Delsu achievers merit awards, so it been a long time coming in show business for the AY brand
TELL US ABOUT ALWAYS TELLING PEOPLE TO SAY AHAH-AHAH, WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
First of all say ‘ahah-ahah’, okay good it came from Rev Chris Okotie, that’s something I just grabbed from him I like it, I used it at the earliest stage of my career, you know people connected with it, it became a registered slogan when AY came on stage.
HOW DID REV CHRIS OKOTIE TAKE IT?
Rev Chris Okotie is family, as a matter of fact, you know when you are doing something good and representing an entity, an individual and what you are doing is positive, it is something that the person will definitely encourage and he encouraged my brand and he also formed a major supporter of the AY brand from that very beginning to date.
WHAT INSPIRED THE OPEN MIC CHALLENGE?
Yeah I mean working with Alibaba and how I met Alibaba was enough inspiration for me to impart on another generation and you can imagine having Alibaba one day say to me okay AY I want you to go on stage for five minutes and he gave me the opportunity and from giving me that opportunity in Abuja to “a Night of a thousand Laughs” Opa Williams show and I was able to stir up an apathetic audience, and was able to deliver and from there people accepted me, so I just said to myself there are a lot of people out there with the talent and what they don’t have is a platform to showcase such talent and that was what informed the decision of open mic and open mic was originally designed to gain in roads into the industry, it help to nurture and discover a lot of brand that a lot of people are associated with in Nigeria from Seyi law, Acapella, Pencil, MC shakara, Ajebu, I can go on and on.
IS THERE A REASON WHY YOU STOPPED THE OPEN MIC CHALLENGE?
Well you know the open mic challenge at some point I got all bottled up with engagement, different involvement in forms of show business, and you know the more you grow in business the more you want to expand the more you want to do a lot put together and it is not something we are running away from, we are going to go back to it but it is something that demands for some level of sponsorship and which is the major concern around this part of the world, yes there is no way I want to be discovering talent and at the same time be spending all my resources doing that, so I mean if a brand knocks on the door today, that AY we need to have open mic back, it will happen in the next 24 hours, we will start something, open mic is still very much there and apart from my involvement here and there, it is something we are gonna do because it is something that has really blessed the brand, there are a lot of people who see me on the street and what they usually say to me encourages me to want to do more.
HOW WAS TRANSITIONING FROM A COMEDIAN TO A PRODUCER?
I wouldn’t say it was easy but I will say it was something that was going to come to place, judging from my background, I am a graduate of Theatre arts and I majored in Directing, I was one of the only students that the university community trusted with the convocation production as a director, so it is something that has been there but you know in the industry you must come in from somewhere first something must give you the necessary recognition that you need, the minute you are accepted by the people you can even start AY pure water, you can do anything else, just get the brand name, so what I needed was to get the brand name and then revisit my core calling which has to do with acting, movie production and of course the result is speaking for itself, all four movies that has been done so far, 30 days in Atlanta, a trip to Jamaica, 10 days in Suncity, and the one presently in the cinemas right now, Merry men the real Yoruba demons, they are all blockbusters and they are doing well.
HOW DID YOU PULL OFF THE GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORD BACK TO BACK?
The world record, I mean is a work itself, and you know this people they also do their research and what gave us that was the fact that 30 days in Atlanta turned out to be the highest grossing movie in Africa, in this part of the world as a matter of fact, it was rated alongside other movie, the number one was from Hollywood and second was from Bollywood, and 30 days in Atlanta landed us in the world record and when we did a trip to Jamaica we also surpassed the gross of 30days in Atlanta so as a matter of fact it was enough to just say okay let’s celebrate this young man and that was how it came
SO FAR HOW IS YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE MOVIE INDUSTRY?
So far so good it’s being blissful, you know there are still people who are finding it difficult to associate themselves with the brand or reconcile with the fact that, okay this is also part of AY’s calling, to some people especially in Nollywood sector, the AY brand is seen as an intruder, somebody who just came from nowhere to you know to just bask in that Euphoria but plus-minus I am beginning to create and make more impact that I believe will pass the message that it is high time we welcome this boy as one of us
HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR FEMALE FANS?
It is always very easy as a matter of fact, it depends on what you pull of as a guy around the female folks, for me I don’t think I have what it takes to make them quiver so it doesn’t really cut across to me like somebody who is going to have a problem with such, it is when they see you and they begin to trip for you or like you for who you are bin that regard, that is when you can say I am having problems managing them, but in this case I don’t even pull it off in a way that (so your DM is dry) very dry, there is nobody sliding when they are sliding in they only sliding in to say oka y I am comedian, I am an actor, I’m am actress, I am this, I am that, it is 100 percent business nobody sees AY as a kind of person that will be like okay, how far? What’s happening? How e go be now?
DO YOU HAVE A FINSTA ACCOUNT?
No, why, no we are bigger than that (are you serious?) no I don’t what do I want to do with it. That’s you being fake and I don’t play my brand around being fake. So if you go on instagram what you are going to see is like a fan page which was setup by two other young men and they have reached out to me and I encouraged to go ahead and I gave them my conditions in as much as they are not going to project the brand negatively or put the kind of pictures AY wouldn’t want out there.
ORIGINALLY WE KNOW YOU ARE FROM ONDO BUT YOU ASSOCIATE MORE WITH DELTA STATE IS IT BECAUSE YOU WERE BORN THERE?
Well I was born, bred, and buttered in Warri, Delta state and yes originally I am from Ifon in Ose local government area of Ondo state, I am like the Obama of Delta state, you know I can even go to Delta state contest for an election and win because Delta state is more like home for me and it is a place that witnessed my birth and is place that loves me till date even when I was in the University I was even receiving bursary as a Deltan, that’s for you to know how much of a Deltan I am, originally I am from Ifon in Ose local government area of Ondo state
HOW DO YOU JUGGLE THE BUSINESS SIDE AND THE FAMILY SIDE?
We create that a balance when it’s for family to have family time we do that when it is time to have family trips we do that but then we always create a balance where by work would be work and when it is time to go and do the jollification we go and do it as well and apart from that I have an understanding family who is fully into show business they understand everything about show business. All the while this recording is going on you will see my daughter roaming around she understands camera, she understands when you shooting, she knows everything that is going on right now and she can even roll the camera to even beat your imagination so it’s a family who understands what we do the kind but we create a balance when we need to create it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CORPORATE BODIES AND THE GOVERNMENT CAN DO TO SUPPORT THIS BUDDING SECTOR
I think they should play less on oil and gas as it were everly believed that when you are from Nigeria the oil business is what keeps the Nation going, Nigeria is everly blessed with different talented human resources, the entertainment sector right now is doing so very well…if we look at what is putting Nigeria on the map of the world its entertainment and entertainers, every other story that goes out from Nigeria is from politics is negative, the way our people behave or react is all negative but when you go to the Apollo’s, when you travel far and wide you see somebody that is talking about Davido, they want to know about Wizkid, you see them mixing up, these are self-made young men who were able to project themselves to a certain level and this is where we think the government should come in and have that understanding, put a structure in place that will support and encourage the entertainment industry to even increase everything that will even benefit them even more and even the Economy as well.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FOOTBALL CLUB?
I am an Arsenal fan, yeah (you are a very patient man) yes I am and we are doing very well, that you can tell we doing well right now, we’ve asked our old man to go and rest, we love him so much but we just want him to go and watch from the side and he too can attest to the fact that we are doing very very well right now and I don’t know what club do you support (it is Super Eagles) oh that’s good we are also doing well Ighalo is scoring now so we are fine.
HAVE YOU AT ANY POINT WANTED TO PLAY FOOTBALL OR WE GOING TO SEE YOU, OR MAYBE YOU ARE GOING TO BE THE USAIN BOLT IN NIGERIA?
I understand playing football as a matter of fact my involvement in football is more than what you see in comedy, as a matter of fact it’s just that the opportunity didn’t come at the right time, right now we have gathered small age so we have let that path go professional but it is something I do week in and week out, I play twice a week and I love football and I am very passionate about the game and I play very well in a way that will beat your imagination, No when you use the word old age now, please na now the thing won affect me e kon be like say I old well well, it is not that bad, I am not saying I am Buhari’s age neither am I saying Oga Ovie’s age, all I am saying I can still play of course I have some clips on the internet just google AY playing football and then it will dawn on you that ‘Na true that guy talk’, and I score very well as well, this one is not comedy this one is not mouth, I do football more than comedy, that is me telling you take it to the bank.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR UPCOMING COMEDIANS AND ENTERTAINERS, AND THE PEOPLE LOOKING UP TO YOU?
Always be yourself guys, set yourself apart from the regular try to come up with something new, try to be creative, Nigerians are not used to stereotypes even if we do it is something that is usually very temporarily, for me what I always want to let young people out there know is you must have the passion for it, don’t get involve because AY is there and is reaping some benefits right now, or because Genevieve is, these people started from somewhere, you must start from somewhere don’t just put that monetary factor in front of you because that’s where a lot of people get it wrong this minute you want to be a Davido overnight it’s not done that way, it is in an ascending other and as soon as you find yourself enjoying what you love to do the money will come.
IN THE WHOLE WORLD HOLLYWOOD, BOLLYWOOD, AMERICAN COMEDY, NIGERIAN COMEDY, AFRICAN COMEDY WHO IS THE ONE PERSON YOU REALLY WANT TO WORK WITH?
That idiotic boy called Kelvin Hart, yeah I like him before now it used to be Chris Rock, this is because he is an all-encompassing show business personality just the way I do around here, if he is not doing standup, he is doing TV, he is doing movies, or he is anchoring a big time gig, I mean that’s what I do here, well I just want a situation where African Meets America and that would be AY meets Kelvin Hart and lets do what we do best, well you never can tell you know someday they just run into what you are doing and they begin to ask question and maybe that day would come and Kelvin Hart would ask for my number, and if it comes through your show you get a commission.
LANRE AND YOMI MAKUN THEY ARE ALSO DOING VERY WELL FOR THEMSELVES ESPECIALLY IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY SHOULD WE LOOK WE LOOK FORWARD TO A BROTHERLY OR JOINTLY OWNED PARTNERSHIP BUSINESS?
There are so many things going on for the Makun brothers so quite a lot I mean it is not something we just have to come in public and say okay we are doing this or we are doing that, when it is time to make some of this things public you will get to see them, as a matter of fact everybody is doing well in their different position, Lanre is an event planner, organizing most of the big time events in Nigeria at the moment and of course we have Yomi as a fashion designer and of course we know his worth, Nigeria loves him as well, AY is AY you know I’m tagging along blending with the boys as well, so good.
SHOULD WE BE EXPECTING ANY BUSINESS LIKE AY GARRI OR AY FARMS?
Well for now we should just stay within the premises of entertainment, more movies will come as a matter of fact I am asking people to go to the cinemas right now to see Merry Men The Real Yoruba Demons which is currently number one in terms of box office gross in Nigeria even with the current Hollywood movies that currently in cinemas. I am asking you to go see that and of course many more to come, follow us on Instagram @aycomedia where I can always give you information on things that we plan to do and we want to go about.
Cover Guest: AY Makun
Host: Itunuoluwa Ajayi
Photograhy: Odeyemi Damilola
DOP: Tolu Olufemi
Production Assitants: Dapo Folurunsho and Emmanuel Ubogu
Directed & Produced by Deji Garuba
Executive Producer: C. Ovie