Excerpts From AY’s Interview With Punch:
I was born, bred and ‘buttered’ in Warri. Warri has played a major role in my life because anybody who wants to examine comedy, so to speak, will always want to trace it to the people from that area. It is just the way you think about reggae music back then and Jamaica comes to mind. The core Warri pidgin is highly humorous. It influenced me in the sense that it gives me an insight into any comical situation. I scribble it on paper, write a skit and get the right people. We put it together, put some life into it and it becomes something people like.
Some of your skits have made your friends in the entertainment industry to be angry with you. Does it bother you?
The first time it would happen is the one that was in the news. A lot of people still get it wrong when it comes to understanding that comedians are jokers. It is quite unfortunate that people are taking comedians too seriously and taking the politicians as jokers. There are lots of things we hear about politicians and we say they are jokes but when comedians crack jokes that are meant to be humorous, make people laugh, people take the comedians seriously. I think it is an issue of priority. Because of the way I mimic people, a lot of people before now used to tell me that the day Chris Okotie or Obahiagbon would catch me, I would be in trouble.
When you met them, what were their reactions to your joke?
Guess what, Okotie invited me to his church as a sort of surprise package for the members and I cracked all the jokes, all I did was to impersonate his character. He laughed to the point that tears came out of his eyes. That is somebody with a good sense of humour. Obahiagbon came to my seat when we were flying together. The truth is that we make these people more popular by talking about them. We are social commentators. Gone are the days when comedians would go out there and talk about how lions are chasing monkeys. Nobody is going to laugh. People need to relate to the situation around them. People compare us with our counterparts abroad, they can talk about their presidents. An Obama for example would laugh about it and when he has the opportunity to go on stage, he talks about that comedian and makes reference to what the comedian said. He might even create his own version and life goes on.
What is your opinion on Basketmouth’s ‘rape’ tweet that went viral?
The joke that my colleague shared was an existing joke that had been there for a while. Forget the fact that he came out to champion it and even put it on Facebook; a joke is a joke. These are realities that people have not come to terms with. Comedians did not invent rape, so if I talk about an existing situation in the country, I am calling the attention of those in authority to the problem so that they can take care of it. As I said, comedians are social commentators. The comical part of it, you can just act and re-enact. His tweet does not mean that he is a rapist or does anyone have a record that Basketmouth is a rapist? For a fact, he was talking about a topical situation. For instance, he said that in America, when you take a girl out on a date, day one, this is what happens. Day two, this is what happens but here in Nigeria, you spend this amount of money on day one, two, three and the girl is not forthcoming. The next thing is maybe the guy wants to go and take the girl by force. It is also a message for girls who always want to be collecting without paying. If I were a girl, I would know that if I collect on day one, I wouldn’t do so on day two, so that things would not result in violence. Why can’t people see it from that perspective rather than castigating a comedian who just cracked a joke.
Is it true that you had an endorsement with a property firm and it gave you a house?
There are so many stories behind any endorsement in Nigeria. Some are overrated and exaggerated to get some relevance in the industry. Some think pretending to have lots of money brings respect. In my own situation, yes I got an endorsement and it was good enough but my endorsement did not buy me a house. There are some stories that go round and you won’t be in a position to talk but just let them fly. Tuface and I got endorsed by the same property firm. At the end of the day, it was not a question of AY getting a free house from the people. I worked so hard to save enough to the point of saying okay, your endorsement is worth this amount and I have some cash already so if we meet mid way, I can become a house owner.
Stepping out to an event, what comes to your mind?
Looking good is good business. I have to look good to represent myself and my brand. We are in an era where the social media is almost taking over from the traditional media. If I can socialise with you right here, all the person needs do is ask somebody to take a picture and the next thing, people are analysing what you are putting on. With all that consciousness in place, looking good and getting it right is very compulsory.
What clothes are you more comfortable in?
In recent times, I have begun going casual with Yomi Casual who is my kid brother. I have become so comfortable in them because it is easy for me to go to my closet, pick them up and look good. I don’t need all the make-up like women. In 10 to 15 minutes, I am done.
What addition does your wife put in your closet?
My wife is a fashionista. She loves me looking trendy and anytime she sees trendy clothes, she gets them for me. I always tell her that all the tops she buys for me would make all the young girls in town to be going after her husband. She wants me to go out there looking young and smooth. I have come to enjoy that because the more I dress like that, the more I get all the necessary attention which is not to her benefit though.
What fashion item do you love shopping for and can never get enough of?
I love shoes. Though I have over 100 pairs, I still want to buy more and more. All I need is to find something that I like; it might be something similar to what I have in my closet but I would still buy it.
You have over 100 pairs of shoes. Do you repeat shoes?
Of course, there are shoes that match different attire and suits, so you have to repeat. But I don’t do that often so that people won’t say I am going broke. If you see me repeat a shoe and believe I don’t have any other one and the best you can do is talk about it, I see you as an arm-chair critic. If you have an opportunity to go into my closet, you will be looking for an opportunity to withdraw your statement.
It is believed that you are not one of the funniest comedians in Nigeria although your shows sell out.
AY tells himself that he is not the funniest comedian; I don’t even need to wait for people to tell me. People are entitled to their own opinion and AY as a person knows that he is not the funniest. But there are so many things that are put together to make you a brand. As the saying goes, talent is not enough; there are so many things that make up a talent. For example, you might be very good at Mathematics but when you want to write Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, you would also need English and some other subjects to pass the exam. When we do the general calculation and assessment, I don’t think you have any reason to say that this guy does not qualify to be where he is today.