Interview By Bobieh Ansah
A while back I caught up with the charismatic Michael and lovely Antonia. They are the founders of a variety show called Adlib.
Adlib showcases acts ranging from singing and poetry to rapping and comedy. We discussed the high points and low points of their journey thus far and the plans they have for the future.
This is an example of a business born from university, that started crawling, then walking, but was knocked down. But now their back on their feet again!
Check out the interview.
So tell me a bit about yourself first Michael
Michael: Yea my name is Michael master apps aka Mr. fun loving enjoying life Appiah world Appiah life. Ermmm I’m 22 I've been doing what I've been doing for quite a while.
What you laughing for (at Antonia)?
Antonia: because he's not 22
Michael: I'm 24, but I'm 22 that's my acting age and I carry on with that. So yea that's me.
Antonia: I'm Antonia I'm 25 and yea that's me.... (Laughing) I'm Antonia and I'm 25 that's what defines me.
You don't do anything extracurricular?
Antonia: Are you asking me this question because you know the answer?
Antonia:( Laugher)I do cheerleading.
have you won anything?
Antonia: yes we're undefeated.
Ok so what is Adlib and when did it start?
Michael: Adlib is different.
Antonia: Adlib is very wide are you talking about Adlib open mic night or Adlib?
Well everything, imagine I've never heard of Adlib?
Michael: Adlib is a company that we started in 2007, we don't even know why we started it. We just thought look, there’s allot of things going on and they’re not doing quite well and we thought we could come up with something better.
Antonia: Yeah, a new idea.
Michael: that encompasses a variety of things that encompasses music comedy and poetry. But live music, because there wasn’t allot of live music at university. So we just kicked it off from there.
Antonia: it was the first night to have all different acts such as live music, comedy, poetry and lyricist.
Combined, then everyone jumped on board and started copying?
Antonia: your words not mine. (Laughter)
I think you've already answered this but what separates Adlib from the other variety shows?
Antonia: I think it's definitely the live band and the mature crowd.
Michael: We always go for quality that's the thing about us. We can bring in so many people just for the sake of it. I think we're tough on ourselves in a sense that we always go for quality.
Because if you out to other night events and its good the first half and then the second the second half is completely rubbish. We're our own critics and we try to avoid that.
What kind of act do you prefer and what acts do you think get the best reception from the crowd?
Michael: I like that question, well for that one, I'm going to have to say (long pause) I just enjoy people that can vibe with the crowd and bring a good message and for me it doesn't matter what it is as long as you’re good you’re good.
Antonia: I think singers that can sing in tune and make you feel their emotion. Those are the best acts oh and rappers as well, especially the ones that show their personality on stage. I think the crowd accepts them more rather than those who just come to show their talent.
What problems did you encounter when you first set up Adlib?
Michael: Finding a venue.
Antonia: It took a whole year to find a venue.
Michael: exaggeration 7 months.
Antonia: it was a long time because it had to be right.
What been the biggest learning curve for Adlib?
Michael: Erm.... There have been many learning curves. (Laughter) one of our biggest learning curves is understanding your market. What people like, what people don't like, because our crowds can be a bit, how….. can I say "sensitive".
So like we've gotten a comedian who's been a bit brash and it's not gone down well and the whole nights was dead.
Antonia: I think we've trained people to think like that because we don't have any swearing at the show, when people hear swearing they.... It obviously sticks out a lot more.
Antonia: The biggest learning curve would be to keep the business face on. Because everyone wants a favor. You have to stick to your guns and think from a business point of view. But still not being too harsh. It's about finding the balance.
Can you elaborate on that?
Antonia: so say acts wants guest list or they want to be paid a certain amount, people that are coming to watch the show.
Everyone's your friend, you build a relationship with the people that come to watch the show so everyone want freebies.
What's been the highest point for ADLIB thus far?
Antonia: I think maybe our first year anniversary when we had a big show in the Bloomsbury theatre and probably just selling out every month.
Getting to a point where you didn't have to promote anymore. People knew that as the doors were opening at 7.30 if you weren't there you weren't getting in. That was a high point. So then we could just put all our effort into the quality of the night rather than still having to promote the night.
So you mentioned earlier that there was a pause for a while in the operations of ADLIB. What caused that?
Antonia: well.... The structure of the company needed reassessing (Laughter), So we wanted to fix things internally first and get on the new road basically.
So it’s much better?
Michael: No (laugher).... I mean yes. It works better now because we have a greater sense of responsibility. We know it's down to us.
Antonia: there are less people now for the responsibility to fall on to.
So does seeing so many acts reduce the impact they have on you?
With our night the people we bring we try to create a lot of variety. We go to other shows and the same acts go to every show too so, we see the same act over and over, but comedians, I can watch their set 4 times and still laugh.
Michael: For us it doesn't. There are always new acts.
Where do you see Adlib in 5 years?
Michael: Bringing international artist to Adlib in a sense that when they come over to do their promotional tours they'll come and do a set at ADLIB.
Also having ADLIB at festivals so, we'll have a stage, an ADLIB stage I.e. Glastonbury and tea in the park.
So what advice would you give to anyone who wanted to set up a Variety Show?
Antonia: I think the main thing is having a good team, you need to have a reliable team. People that you know will follow through and make the right decisions and have...sense basically. Because then you won't be able to delegate roles, you'll being doing everything yourself.
Thanks for your time guys, hope to chat up soon with you.