John Don Billy’s foray into the world of comedy began in the most unlikely but probably predictable of ways. While he conversed casually with friends as a youngin’, Don Billy was always came to the realization, mid-conversations, that his friends were always caught up in laughing at the things he says and the way he says them as opposed to actually paying rapt, pensive attention. He always wondered aloud why they laughed. They would then respond unanimously, every time, that he was just too funny to not get that sort of reaction.
Already having drawn major inspiration from Ali Baba (Nigeria’s king of comedy) during his formative years, Don Billy as his older self decided to pursue the art of making people laugh more intricately through skit making, stand ups and acting. Fates’ machinery, of course, led him to people with like-minded passion who could be guiding lights to his path, one of which is Craze Clown, who is a household name especially for his Papa Ade skits which he released during the social media boom period of Africa (between 2010 and 2019). Don Billy recounts thoughtfully the heights of positive effects Craze Clown has so far had on his growth as a comedian.
“Craze Clown is someone whom I know, and he was always willing to give his advice and support. I have to mention that he did a great job in guiding me through”.
In recent years what is most obvious in the world of comedy is that potent switch from depending on live audience to reaching more people digitally through skits and what have you. Don Billy’s craft was borne at the beginning of this switch, and his audience was largely built through the power of likes, shares, comments and follows. According to him, skits really just go viral when friends with large followers repost and when random people who have been enthralled by them tag their friends to also come, watch and also have a laugh.
“We are really going deeper into the virtual era at the moment, and you know, it’s easier to do things you like through the internet because it has become so easy to access. I believe the social media creates wide range of opportunities for youths because it also opens new sources of income. I think that alone makes people happy especially when you consider the economic situation in Nigeria. I can say very well for myself how it has been a source of income for me and I’m pretty sure that it’s the same for many other young people. It is all well and good if we just use it in the right way – something I believe I’m doing”
He however emphasises on collaboration as a key factor to his growth. He states categorically that working with friends is a bonus. He mentions Lord Lamba, Craze Clown, Cute Abiola (whom the Nigeria military recently held hostage and eventually got released due to breaching the military social media conducts) as some comedians and skit makers he has worked with. He also has works with American comedian Michael Blackson, mid-pandemic sensation, FatherDMW and popular skit maker, Sydney Talker. John Don Billy admits that his most popular skits are the ones in which he worked with bigger name comedians, analysing with the case of ZaaZoo crooner, Portable, that working with bigger brands will definitely help one get more attention in the Nigerian market. Hopefully, his own works would help uplift other emerging comedians whom he works with, he expresses.
On his craft itself, Don Billy emphasises that his art is majorly created to represent life in its truest and rawest form. He really thinks that what he does could be open ways through which younger people can learn basic life lessons that can’t be taught formally. Despite the fun and light-heartedness through which he expresses his viewpoints, Don Billy insists that these incidents depicted through his comedy actually do happen. Invariably, he suggests that his works can help prevent people from making mistakes that have been made in time past when they experience the consequences in his skits.
In summary, he says that comedy plays an important role in how people perceive life. “Sometimes when things are said in a serious way people might want to take such opinion as coming from a place of privilege or a show off of knowledge. If however corrections are made through fun and jokes, everyone laughs, everyone learns, and everyone wins.”
Conclusively, what matters the most to John Don Billy is humanity – “showing up for my fellow brother on the street who’s struggling, you know, showing love to the people around me by supporting them to be better or greater versions of themselves. I just believe that in this life a lot of people are going through a lot, and not everyone really can tell you what it is they are going through so whoever it is you see outside trying to be strong or trying to act so smart, they have something deep down that they are going through – the rate of depression is going up every week. Bearing all of these in mind every day, I try to just show love. In this life, at the end of the day we’ll realise that humanity was there before religion and was there before anything else so love and kindness; these are the most important things to me.”