Jedi Ayo popularly known as “The Well-Fed comedian”, a University of Lagos graduate, speaks on his career, the comedy industry and his marriage plans
You studied Micro Biology, why the change of focus?
Entertainment has been in me, studying Micro-Biology was as a result of coming from a science-oriented family. I didn’t change focus; I simply followed my passion and what I was comfortable with.
Did you at any time after graduating from school try your hand on something else aside comedy?
I didn’t. I actually started while I was in school, so I continued.
So you never regretted not practising what you spent five years in school to study?
No, I never did. I am even grateful I studied it.
What was the reaction of your parents when they discovered that you had a flair for comedy?
My parents thought it was music I was going to do because that’s what I started with. My mother particularly ensured that I finished school first. Today, they both celebrate the greatness of God in what I do.
There was so much noise during the launch of your first album, immediately after that, nobody heard anything about the album, what happened?
If it’s about that first album, I am happy you were part of it when we did the whole press conference which came after the album listening party. As I speak with you today, I am happy that the contract I had for that album is officially over but I am not happy with the marketer. I told the marketer that people are not seeing the CDs on the streets and one of the best ways to know that an album is out is when you see it on the streets, especially in traffic or stores, but we were not seeing anything until he started reacting as if I am the one teaching him how to do his job. Eventually, we had a little fallout. It was on the contract that at anytime we can write a letter to dissolve it. I wrote a letter to him that it’s almost a year plus now and I have a two-year contract with you, yet nothing is happening to the album sales, so please, I think we should end it. He called me for a meeting and started drawing up how much he has spent on the album and I said if that’s the case, make it official, let’s sign so that I will know this is what you have invested. If there is a need for refund I will do that or if there is need to buy off the CDs, I will do that too, but he refused. Till today, a lot of people complain about it. That’s why I have to bring a lot of songs from the first album into the second one.
What is the name of the marketer?
It’s on the CD. I know that if he reads this interview he might want to bring up something. Luckily, I have signed a contract to that effect but the issue is that I did not make a dime from the album.
If the marketer is to be blamed for the sales, what about the airplay because people didn’t hear much of the songs on radio or watch any of your videos?
First, I am not blaming the marketer. I think we came to a point where there was no agreement on how to do the marketing. I love the question you asked that even if there was an issue, on my own part what happened. To an extent, I think I stepped aside to study the whole thing. My videos were distributed to some media houses, how else do you want me to push it? So, it depends on people who want to play it to do so and some people in fairness did that. I was shocked that even Channel O played it more and I don’t have anybody there. The only thing is that the tape was just sent to them and they gave it a heavy rotation. I am happy you noticed that our terrestrial TVs didn’t play it much and at a point I was asking: is it that they don’t like gospel music? People seem to believe that gospel music is just for Sundays alone. So what happens from Mondays to Saturdays? I am running this alone with the help of a few friends. It’s not that I have a record label that shot the video. I handle the management and other things. We live in a system where the artiste will do everything on his own. When the cash is not flowing how do you want to bring out a product? Few other places I went to like the United States of America, they appreciated the album. I even had to go and buy some copies from my marketer and give some as complimentary copies and in some places I sold at minimal prices just for the album to spread. I will still do a concert and album launch but I want the people to feel the album and do a critique, then I can go back to the studio to do the necessary amendments.
Did you do your research to find out what the people wanted because if your songs are good the people will ask for them?
There is a video I did about four years ago before the album came out in 2009. As I speak to you, I can’t count how any people have stopped me on the streets telling me that they needed the CD. I was in the Silverbird Galleria a couple of days ago and I had to promise a man that I will send copies to him and that’s to tell you the extent people want these CDs. I have to bring back that particular track, Jehovah, into the new album and another track, Dance. I will not say there is a fault from me or another person but it depends on the mood of Nigerians and what they want. It’s the same Nigerians that love Asa, Terry G, D’Banj and Tuface’s kind of music.
Your new album has 10 songs and two comedy skits. Why comedy skits?
That’s because those are the two elements of my life. It’s not that I can’t do a comedy album or just a musical album, why not just combine the two in one album? The skits are just like interviews. Two comedians, MC Abbey and Sly came to play with me in the studio that day and that was how the thing came up and if you listen to it you will love it. As we speak, the new video is doing well, especially on Youtube.
Your fans would have expected you to sing either hip hop, high life or other genre of music and definitely not gospel?
First, I have a deep relationship with God and I believe I express myself better with Him. It’s not that I don’t have love songs I can write. I believe gospel music is about good news music, it’s like we are passing a message. I can write a song on unity and the fight for justice and to me, it’s the definition of the gospel but the problem is that the world we live in, the mentality and psychology is that gospel is Christian music. Apart from that, I actually started with gospel music. I was like already comfortable with comedy but my Pastor, Cyril Yerifor, who knew me when I was growing up was the one who called me and asked me what I was doing. To him, music is my calling. But he also advised that comedy has also given me a face that I should ride on that success. After that meeting, I got into the studio to do my first track and that was how the album came out.
Don’t you think if you can mix both the conventional and the hip hop type of gospel music, it will gain much acceptance?
I actually summarise my genre of music as African contemporary. It has a combination of hip hop, soul, R&B and all that. It is not that there is a particular direction at which gospel should go. In fact, most places I go to, one of the ways I express myself in music is through worship, that’s my first platform of connection to God. If you want to get the best of me, it’s through worship except you are telling me that I can now start writing a worship song and maybe do a worship song. It is a good thing you said it, it could work but I am not yet convinced if that’s the pattern I should go.
You call yourself the “Well-fed comedian”; does that mean you have fed well on comedy?
The name was given to me by Ali Baba himself. This was because of my look. I think at that time I was the only one on the big side that looked well fed.
Your Christian background is not reflected in some of your jokes because sometimes you crack vulgar jokes?
I don’t do vulgar jokes and that’s the wrong perception we have here. I am a comedian from the church but if I have a joke to talk about the streets I will do so and I don’t have to be vulgar about my material. That’s why I asked where you heard that from.
Some comedians attack and make jokes of men of God, what do you think?
Who and who?
You and your colleagues
But you know that’s a false accusation. Why would I disrespect men of God. I don’t do that with managing directors of companies not to talk of men of God. I am sure if some of my colleagues, like you said, have cracked jokes about men of God, they often apologise immediately. First, whoever has a good sense of humour will know that it’s just a joke. Sometimes, I still think they are not out to disrespect anyone.
Some people believe that comedians charge exorbitant fees, do you agree?
I don’t think we are well paid. How much do you think music acts are paid and why should people be talking about the money charged by comedians? I am happy that my boss, Ali Baba, has analysed it. If a musician can come and sing in a show, he can sample the chorus in the middle of his performance and sample the chorus at the end of the performance; the same musician will come and sing the same song at an event today, tomorrow and next week and for a year the same song. Now a comedian cannot crack the same joke at the beginning, the middle and at the end of the performance. He cracked it at this event where there were 200 guests and at another event, maybe just about 1,000 people were there, it doesn’t mean that the whole Lagos has heard it. Because someone was at the two events, you say that he is repeating jokes. Finally, you are paying a comedian that will anchor an event from 12 to 6pm, and an artiste will come and sing just for 20 minutes and go. So who is really doing the hard work here? Let’s be realistic about this. So, I don’t think we are paid well. When you are calling me, you are calling a brand.
Among entertainers, comedians have been spared of controversies, what’s responsible for this?
It comes in two ways. I believe that most comedians are just conscious and they know how to approach issues and make sure it does not affect their image. It’s not all comedians that are loose. In the comic sense, almost everything we do, people just don’t take us serious, they think we are joking. You are talking to a woman, she will say, “Oh stop it, you are just funny”. So what else will they want to take you serious for?
So if you fight on the street, they will see it as part of comedy?
Do you know that it’s possible you fight in the street and people will be laughing, that’s the situation? I am not trying to justify anything but it’s important we understand our role in the society and try to protect and project our image as artistes.