“I’m not a standup comedian” Jay On-Air just wants to show you the funny side of everyday life

Dennis Da-ala Mirilla
Jay On-Air wants to show you the comedic side of everyday life

After Joseph Onaolapo, who you might know as Jay On-Air, finished his NYSC program in Edo state, he got a job at a radio station and decided to stay back. The job was good, but the pay was low and not frequent. Months went by, and he was owed salaries. In his own words, “the situation had become uncomfortable.”

So Jay On-Air packed his bags and returned to Lagos to start afresh and break into the radio or TV scene. It was hard. He knew next to no one in the cutthroat industry of who-knows-who that is the on-air personality economy. “Lagos is a tough space. It was hard to break into radio or TV,” he told Technext recently.

He did other jobs; personal assistant and content writer. He was treated horribly, and they withheld wages. “All the places I’ve worked before, I won’t lie, they owed me salaries,” he said.

So he decided to start a small business on the side for income while he knocked on doors to get on the air. Then the pandemic hit, and his business was on hold.

“It was just a really depressing time for me. It felt like everything I was doing just wasn’t working,” he said.

How Jay On-Air started influencing

With no source of income and all this time on his hands, he started, like most people on the internet: uploading lipsync videos, gradually showing his comedic side, and playing dress up.

But his mimicry of women resonated and got him a following on Instagram. He has done skits about what he calls the SHEO, a young wife who is also a bossy business owner. He dressed like the famous gospel artist Mercy Chinwo. He flicked his hair like the celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In one viral post, he dramatised the lives of middle-aged women working for the government, which was glorious.

“Because these things happen day to day, we don’t see the comedic part of the SHEO or the HR or the newly married woman. But my mind wants to see the comedic side in the day-to-day activities. And people watch my videos and they are like ‘Ooh this is me. This is my friend. This is my dad”

Jay On-Air

Jay On-Air’s observational comedy

He likes to describe his content as “observational comedy,” a tactic that helps him find the humour in everyday life.

“Even though I can make p[eople laugh, I don’t consider myself a standup comedian. That’s just not my style,” he said. “But I’ve always had an observational mind to observe how people act, whether male or female but mostly female. I find women very interesting and I didn’t know it was going to be a thing. I’m not trying to exaggerate. I’m not trying to make fun of anybody.”

It was after Jay On-Air had begun to gain some notoriety that radio came back knocking, and this time in the city he wanted. U FM, where he now hosts an evening drive-time show, was looking for hosts, and a friend contacted him. He sent his samples or clips as they were called and waited for a callback.

“Everyone is trying to get in the door and the people that have been there for a while are not looking to get out. So it’s very hard. But when I fell to content creation more people began to know me,” he said.

Read also: Folagade Banks only wanted to celebrate mothers with ‘Mama Adeola’, but he became Instagram’s next star

The radio station took two months to reach back to him, and their response was positive. “I’ve always done radio, and I just felt like that is what my life will be,” he said of the experience.

He advises those looking to venture into the radio scene to be intentional and not pester those already in the radio industry. “At the end of the day, everybody has got to be intentional about how they do their things because the truth of the matter is that we are human beings. We know when we are pestering somebody. I’ve had people reach out to me and I know when they are overdoing it and I’m like just ‘Chill. I don’t own the radio station.” he said.

The stories of radio stations owing salaries are not new in Nigeria. Why does he think this is so? “the truth is that it involves a lot of agency and not putting your foot down. when agencies bring ads to the radio station sometimes they don’t pay till like 60 days or whatever. That is why when I started influencing if I’m not paid 70 per cent, I’m not going to touch your work,” he said.

Lessons he had learnt

As fame has come, he says managing money is important for a young influencer. In this age of Instagram, it is easy to get carried away by the flashiness of the internet. He says it’s important to position in a way that brands looking to advertise can see, but he also says that influencers should understand that influencers earn on different levels.

Jay On-Air wants to show you the comedic side of everyday life
Jay On-Air at a Meta event

“When you’re a content creator people expect you to buy Benz, buy a house. But the truth is that not all of us make that type of money. Obviously, upgrade your lifestyle, but do it in such a way that you’re not overboard,” he said.

One thing people should realise is that we all earn at different levels so you cannot compare yourself to other people, especially people that have been doing this longer. But you need to position yourself in a way that brands can see you. If you’re up and coming you should be able to reach out to people and make friends in the space, because the truth is people need to have you at the back of their mind,” he added.

But he cautions that positioning should not include forcing relationships with top influencers and celebrities. His advice is that creators should understand the terms of their relationships and not stretch them.

“The thing is, I’ve always never been a clique person,” he said. “Once I see that this situation is getting cliquey I pull myself out. You need to know that you’re a grounded person, secure in yourself and know that your talent will take you far because a lot of people don’t believe in themselves.

“That is why they feel like ‘I need to be in this crowd.’ But what people don t understand is that this person knows that you’re there not because you like them, but because of what you can get from them. They are not stupid. They know fake people. They know real people. Don’t be that person that is in the comment section trying to let the whole world know that you guys know each other,” he added.

He is now looking to explore more creative expression and come out of the box. He has a show coming up with a big media company. He won’t say which media company. But he said it’s big.

Jay On-Air wants to show you the comedic side of everyday life

“I’m going to be thirty next year. I don’t think I will be wearing wigs into my forties. I want to do more stuff on TV, MC and host events. But I want people to see other sides of me. I don’t want to be put in a box,” he said.

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