Joe Ulaeto is an Associate Creative Director at SO&U, one of Nigeria’s leading Creative Agency. The humor merchant in this interview with The Nation shares how he shuffles between his career and comedy, his plans for comedy, advise to upcoming comedians and how government can drive-forward the comic industry.
You are a creative art director in a leading Advertising and marketing Communication Company, how do you find the time to create these amazing content on your Instagram that attracts such interactions amongst your followers?
As a creative person, my mind is always active, developing content and thinking of new ideas. Before bringing any content to life, I must have concluded the script, the location, the team I need to work with, the models and the cost implication on my mind before putting it on paper.
When it’s time to do the shoot which is usually outside my official hours, it’s mostly under an hour, because I have already spent time conceptualizing the whole content.
One of the shocking moments for some of my close friends and family was when I posted my first comedy skit. Nobody had ever thought of seeing me acting comedy, I have always been known to be a corporate person to the core, a quiet straight jacket Christian brother that could only fit into a particular box.
On the inside of me, I have always known that God has given me a gift but I have struggled for years with how this would fit people’s perception about me. Right from when I was younger, I have always loved comedy. I remember in my primary school when my mum would buy me exercise books for core subjects, I would use some of them to draw comedy stories.
I was amongst the best students selected to act a stage play in my secondary school. Again I might look quiet like most people assume but just spend a little more time with me, you will see a different side of me. Never a dull moment with me.
The mood of the Nation at the moment has taken away smiles from people’s faces, comedy does the magic in bringing laughter in people’s faces pulling them out of that moody hole. I used to spend hours on TV watching comics like Tom and Jerry and I still do. I love funny movies as well.
Do you intend to go full-time into the entertainment industry at some point?
I don’t see myself going full time into comedy yet, though I spent a lot of resources developing and producing each content, money is not what’s on my mind for now. It’s just my way of entertaining my friends, followers and viewers online as well, I do appreciate every one of them.
The truth of the matter is that all influencers, whether you have 10 Million followers or 50k followers etc. it’s your followers that make you look big on social media that’s the truth. That’s why you shouldn’t feel like because you’ve arrived, you can’t relate with them any longer, what if you wake up one day and found out that they have all unfollowed you, what would happen to your popularity on social media?
I know It could be a major challenge relating with every one of your followers especially if you have a large number of followers, but you can still find a way around it, find time to chat with your followers no matter how busy your schedule. Kate Henshaw is one person that I know does that so well, she finds time to like and respond to almost all the comments on her post, I don’t know how she does it.
How do you see the future of the entertainment industry in Nigeria?
The entertainment industry in Nigeria has already gone global, the future is pretty bright. When Burna boy and Wizkid came back with Grammy awards it was a major boost to the entertainment industry in Nigeria.
I was talking with some of my friends in America, it gladdens my heart how Nigerian artists and actors are gaining fame abroad. There are likely going to be more collaborations between the Nigerian entertainment industry with the American and European entertainment industries as well. We’ve paid our dues, it’s time for harvest.
What does it take to create a funny post like yours?
You have to be very creative first and then you must be someone that likes comedy and good at cracking funny jokes that would make people laugh. There’s no need to crack jokes that are not funny and you call yourself a comedian. You can’t give what you don’t have.
You should always think of how you can turn any situation into comedy, sometimes familiar situations that people could relate with. I was sitting with Lasisi Elenu and AY at the premier of Mambas Diamond, you can’t be around these guys without laughing out tears from your eyes, Cracking jokes come naturally with them.
They are many contents out there, for you who’s trying to penetrate that space and gain attention, your content must be damn good, it must stand out, it must be original, avoid copying other people’s content, use good camera or Phone, lighting, a good video editor and Director of Production as well.
If you can’t write scripts, get someone who’s good at it to do that for you. Every situation you find yourself in, it’s an opportunity to create something out of it. Comedy skits can be done with minimal budget unlike movie production
How has it been with the whole Pandemic since no shows, event among others, how has the comic industry and comedians like you been able to cope?
Like I mentioned earlier, the impact on me wasn’t really felt, I was giving out food items and money to those who were really in dire need during the lockdown because I don’t make a living from comedy yet, my core source of income is advertising and marketing communications, we were equally affected, but not as bad as the entertainment industry.
However, for some of my colleagues whose main source of income is comedy shows, it was a hard hit for them. However, tough times call for thinking out of the box.
I believe the first comedian to come up with online comedy show during the lockdown was AY and because he is very versatile, one comedian that I know who have assisted many upcoming comedians and actors, he is like a mentor to them as well, he’s someone with a large heart and has that capacity, a lot of comedians took that advantage and started looking for alternative ways of selling their content online as well from what they saw AY doing.
It is believed in some quarters that the emergence of social media comedians who made waves a lot in the coronavirus lockdown has taken the shine off the traditional comedians. What’s your take on this?
No, I don’t think so, because it is the same traditional comedians that metamorphosed into social media comedians, Covid 19 though very challenging to most comedians was an opportunity to think out of the box, diversification and creating multiple streams of income became a new way of life.
Most of the social media comedians now weren’t thriving as much financially on social media as they were on traditional comedy until during the lockdown.
Before the pandemic they were organizing shows practically every weekend and tickets sold out. Lockdown only opened their eyes to other possibilities.
But do you think they are a threat to the industry?
Not at all, every Comedian is practically now online, it’s a major shift in the industry, thanks to lockdown.
As a content creator with thousands of followers, how have you been able to engage your followers? if there was no Instagram how would it have been?
I try as much as possible to keep my page busy with content, very exciting funny skits and career-based conversations. I have featured internationally certified professionals from the USA and the UK in a conversation during my IG Live, the feedbacks from my followers and viewers is always amazing.
I do feature some of my followers as well on my IG Live when I noticed they have some talent that needed exposure.
If there was no Instagram I would switch to Facebook which I have a large number of followers as well. Though Instagram is far more dynamic than Facebook there are always opportunities there as well.
What do you think government can do to assist the industry?
Government can create an enabling environment by ensuring that our cities are secured, people could move around freely irrespective of the time without fear of being robbed or kidnapped since most of these shows are done during late evenings.
The government can build institutions that support entrainment industry as well, they can sponsor some of these shows, it doesn’t have to be corporate organizations all the time. It takes a lot of resources to organize a show, and sometimes actors don’t break even after the show due to lack of sponsorship. Entertainment is one show that bills are 100% borne by the actors or comedians.
You can imagine what government support can do in making funds available for comedians, actors, producers etc. in getting equipment, world-class state-of-the-art venues that Comedians and actors could pay a subsidized cost to stage their shows.
There are good art schools overseas for example New York Film academy the government could grant scholarships to comedians and actors to further their knowledge in film production because it’s good for you to have 360 degrees’ knowledge of your industry. These are some of the support that Government could give to the industry.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
In the next five years, I would have gone global fully, I’m interfacing with some friends abroad on collaboration. I’m deliberately working towards that.
The world has become a global village; I believe we should think global in every step that we take.
Your advice for those who would want to make comedy a career?
It’s a good career, but they must be patient to go through the rough roads to fame. You don’t blow overnight, the current generation doesn’t have the patience that we the older ones have, they are always on a fast lane.
Even on a fast lane, there are processes of starting from the bottom of the ladder to the top of the ladder. Secondly, they have to look for mentors that they can learn from. They need to make good use of any opportunity because that might be their lift to the next level. They need to determine in their mind to succeed. It’s very important to be positive-minded at all times.