Monday , June 14 2021
Ajebo: I earned my first pay as a comedian at age 14

Ajebo: I earned my first pay as a comedian at age 14

THE name Emeka Erem might not readily ring a bell but at the mention of Ajebo, fans and followers of this young Nigerian humour merchant will regale you with tales of his exploits. Famous for infusing cartoons into his style of comedy after being mentored by Ayo AY Makun, Ajebo opens up to SAMPSON UNAMKA on how he earned his first pay as a comedian at the age of 14, marriage, plans for kiddies content while striving to become a billionaire before turning 40.

 

How did comedy start for you?

Comedy has always been there and that’s why people call me ‘Ajebo’. I was not born with the silver spoon. We were not poor but far from broke, so I started with church drama. I used to sing in secondary school. I was the school music coordinator. We used to compose songs, stand in front of people. I used to watch a lot of Night of a Thousand Laugh by Opa Williams, learned a lot of stuff, and started cracking jokes. In SS2, I hit the stage for the first time and I shut my school down. When I said shutdown, everybody was on their feet clapping and funny enough my classmates till now still remind me of the jokes I started with, they see me and just start to crack it because those were my killer jokes. I have converted those jokes into a skit that I will be releasing the skit next month so that was how it started.

When did you decide to pursue a career as a comedian?

When I graduated from school and of course in that era, every parent wanted to be Mama Doctor or Mama Lawyer. My parents had already seen that the way this guy was going he was special and they didn’t want to drag with him. When I said I wanted to be a comedian, funny enough my mum told me if you want to be a comedian, you have to be the best there is, you will study to become a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) so that one day if you have to teach comedy, and that was it. So when you hear others say ‘we suffer o, we dey trek,’ sorry I cannot relate. I will go for a show come back and complain that I wasn’t paid and my mum would count money say about N2500-N3000 as at that time and pay me and say that is to encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing so I was attending events like if I got paid cool and if I don’t everything was still going to be okay. My father had a brand new Toyota Corolla back then in 2006 and when I wanted to go to events, the corolla was mine, if my father had anywhere to go, he would take a yellow cab, literally that was the kind of support that I had.

Can you share some of the early moments when you started out after discovering yourself in secondary school?

When I was in university, I did my first show and my mother bankrolled it, but she would remind me that I would pay her back. I remember my first show when she lent me N80,000 while I was at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. When I finished, the hall was full and the show was sold out but you know students, some people got in through the window, so I told her, see mum it was successful but we didn’t make money and she was like but you did your show? And it was successful and people turned out right? I said yes and my mum said don’t worry you are owing me N80,000, you will pay me sometime in the future but just know that you’ve learned, you have the experience, so when you come out you are not coming to make those mistakes afresh, first show, second show and that was it. So I’ve towed that path of creativity from the get-go and then I was still in my third year when I wrote down that one day I would crack jokes with animations so when I got out of school I started it immediately, I think that is my journey so far.

What was the main idea behind you going into comedy using animation?

I just wanted to be different. Before I got into the university, I literally searched for Universities that one can study comedy anywhere in the world and that is why I think that one-day comedy will be studied in Nigeria, if I have to champion it. I just wanted to chart a different cause from my colleagues and those before me.

You ply your trade excelling in animations and stand up comedy. Which is more tasking and which do you prefer?

I do not prefer anyone, they are both who I am. Wake me up anytime, anyday, I will give you a script. Something that you love comes effortlessly, so I can’t say one is more tasking than the other you know, it is about what you give your attention to, whichever one I sit down to do, I do well. Over time, I have been giving my attention to the animation because it is online that has been thriving, although my show is coming up on August 29 and it’s going to be like a premiere of Tegwolo series. A lot of people have been asking for a series, so we will just do like a short 8 series episode, it is still a stand-up show but then in between, we will give the audience a series and then it will be available for streaming on some certain platforms.

Does it bother you that you are more popular as an animation character than a standup comedian?

It does not bother me at all.

Can you recall the first amount you were paid as a comedian?

I was 14 years old and I was paid 4,000 Naira.

Why the choice of AY as your mentor?

When I was in the university, I knew what I wanted. I mean for someone that wanted to go and study comedy in the university you’d know that it was a career I had chosen for myself and then when I didn’t see it, I did a swot analysis and I thought the two closest things I could study were mass communication and theater Art. Then I told myself acting was already part of me, with a few online studies we should be able to act so let me learn how to use the media and get professional at it. So I knew where I was going basically, when I came out from school the people that I found out I could emulate to fit my path were AY, Bovi and Basket mouth. I reached out to Bovi – even though he didn’t remember the moment – and he told me to keep on doing what I was doing and that when it was my time, I would know. AY was doing AY open mic, so I had the opportunity to meet him one on one, I walked into his office with my backpack and I told him I was funny, he was amazed at my confidence. So, AY told me to win the AY open mic first. I went the first time and there was a tie and came in second, I went with original jokes from beginning to the end and then I learned that I had to be spontaneous. The next one, we were five contestants when they chose me as the winner and that’s how I now started working with AY but then I wasn’t the only AY mic open winner so I would call him up and just try to be around him, learn from him and that was how I began writing articles for his magazine and then I became the magazine’s editor for like a year and that’s how I used to follow him. During one of the AY Live shows, I missed my opportunity of performing to the audience because I had to go get some stuff for AY – which he eventually didn’t use – I went back to the hotel room and I cried till I slept off. The next morning, Lanre Makun noticed my mood while in the car with me, so he turned and looked at my eyes and saw it was swollen. Then he asked me what happened and I explained. I didn’t know he told AY and two weeks later, AY called me up and was like he heard some people cried in the show and I laughed and he said I shouldn’t worry that he had watched me and I was the only one towing his part, that the rest AY live in Asaba, Abuja and everywhere I would headline it and be the host. That period my name was on all the AY live billboards, television and radio adverts, then he said I know how you have always wanted to go back to the radio, go and meet Olisa Adibua he needs a comedian for Naija FM and that’s how I worked in Naija FM for five years, that was how the career started. I took all the opportunity I had, I served, I was not following him for what to gain, I served to learn, I wanted to learn.

How do you balance your career and family?

It is always balanced. The way I work, I work around the clock. I have animators that work for me from different time zones, so sometimes, I have to be up at night. Most times, I play with my daughter, and I am with the family while working from my phone. I just have a way of just balancing it up. Other times, I just shut down and focus on family.

A lot of people believe that the marriages of entertainers don’t last. What’s your take on that?

How many comedians have you seen that their marriage did not last? That is the first question you should ask yourself. We are loving people, we are sweet. I think it boils down to the personality. Marriage is not child’s play, are you getting married because of family pressure? So, it boils down to the individual, what do you want? You have to be responsible to your family, I am not saying the temptation is not there as an entertainer, because everyone wants to be around you so you have to personally decide to make your family work and put your family first.

What do you regard as the most defining moment in your career?

It was when I decided to leave the radio because I was doing very well on the radio. I didn’t need a prophet to tell me that people loved me on the radio, after a while I was no longer functioning well. I will literally get on air and I won’t be able to say anything from 11 am till 4 pm I will just be playing music and I would just say I just feel like playing music, you know what, I just said to myself your vision is loud, it’s obvious it’s time to move so I went to my managing Director and told him thanks.

What do you regard as the lowest moment of your career?

Can I call it the lowest? Well, I think it was that beginning part of the lockdown. I have been investing in the kiddies brand so I invested all my savings in the kiddies brand. I didn’t know the lockdown was coming. When the lockdown happened, the small money in my account would soon finish and you had to look out for everybody around you. If there is one thing I don’t want to see is to ever go broke. Thank God for wisdom and direction so I sat down and said which way, I already registered a food business, I was ready to start farming and processing food before Youtube entered so I just left the whole food business.

How did you come about the Tegwolo character in your humorous animations and why is his head shaped that way?

I had a classmate in primary school, we used to mock him and call him bicycle seat head, he was very stubborn so when I was creating this character I was like all these children that their head is shaped like this bicycle seat can be very stubborn and then that was it. And then I wanted to relive my childhood experience, most of the things I put out in Tegwolo are my childhood experience, the days of condense, sisi pelebe, Ofio, when we played in the street, we played football in the street without a shirt, we played in the rain, I was a rough player growing up and I was a child that my parent discovered on time that I was different because you know the way you will catch a child doing something wrong and you will beat the child up, my mum still reminds me and tells my wife till now that beating didn’t work for me but guess what just have a proper conversation with me as a child and that was all so for me that was how I grew up.

About admin

Check Also

Lizzy Anjorin, husband kick off baby dedication with 10 cities tour | The Nation

Lizzy Anjorin, husband kick off baby dedication with 10 cities tour | The Nation

By Gbenga Bada Movie star, Lizzy Anjorin and her husband, Lateef Lawal, have announced plans …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.