Back in 2002, when comedian Akintunde notified his Agents and Management that he would be transitioning from Stand Up Comedy to Christian Comedy, his reps thought it wouldn’t be long before he would be forced to return. “How will you make money?”; “Where will you work?”, they all asked with genuine concern. Unsure himself, Akintunde had no response. But he’d accepted Christ in 1999, and 3 years later, the comedy club life had taken its spiritual toll on the husband and father of 5. However, leaving comedy clubs was still not an easy choice.
Akintunde had rose to Headliner status in several of the top clubs in the country. “I wasn’t a Special Event Act but I was moving up the club ranks Headlining many of the A and B clubs, along with several One-Nighters, the occasional Theater, and a handful of annual College bookings.” Akintunde was also gaining valuable “Industry” exposure, landing prime showcase spots at LA’s Comedy Store, Laugh Factory and Improv comedy clubs. Adding to that prime comedy real estate, showcases at New York’s Caroline’s Comedy Club on Broadway and The Boston Comedy Club in The Village, he’d also begun building his writing resume receiving 2 screenwriting deals without a literary Agent. But, Akintunde knew he had to make a change. To stay, would mean operating in disobedience. Following a meeting with his Pastor (Dr. Herbert Bailey Jr.- Right Direction Christian Church), he knew what had to be done. And so, nine years into his career, he honored his last comedy club engagement Easter weekend 2003 at Philadelphia’s Laugh Factory Comedy Club.
The significance of capping his secular comedy career and transitioning to the Ministry of Comedy on Easter was not lost on Akintunde. “I was stepping out on nothing but pure Faith. We had just one booking at that time.”
Now, almost 12 years later, Akintunde is ready to take yet another leap of faith. Along with Eunissa, his wife, manager and producing partner, Akintunde is taking the leap into television and feature film production under their newly formed production company, Oak View Point Films.
Akintunde is no stranger to production, with multiple writing, producing and directing credits, with more than 325 original television episodes as writing credits alone. “I’ve worked on a television series with a $20 million dollar production budget, and my wife and I have self or partially financed productions with budgets less than $100 thousand dollars.” Both he and Eunissa are ready to pour all of their experience into OVP with a focus on financing, developing and producing compelling Faith Based film and television content.
The company will give particular attention to the vastly underserved, African American audience. Says Akintunde, “Most of the entertainment targeting our community is filled with language and behaviors that blatantly contradict the norms and values of the Christian lifestyle outlined in scripture.” The company already has several projects in development – including a feature film, no less than 3 television projects, and a comedy special (shot this past March) tentatively scheduled for a March 2015 release.
“As Believers, we’re never going to affect culture without dominating in media. More Christians must become effective in this area.” The timing of launching a Christian film company, arguably, could not be better. With four Christian or Faith-Based films released into theaters in the first half of 2014 grossing a combined $234 Million dollars world-wide box office (as of July 7th), the industry at large has been forced to take notice. However, those films featured little to no African American representation. Akintunde adds, “I am extremely excited about the success of these compelling films. But unfortunately, the African American audience at large will most likely not see these compelling films because our overall life experiences and culture is not represented.” Akintunde says his films and tv content will be for all people, but he intends to quickly provide counter programming to the content that is currently being marketed to people of color.
Earlier this year, the Comedian scored his first national DVD release, when his latest Stand-Up Special was released into major digital, online and retail outlets via a partnership with indie distributor, E-One (Entertainment One) who swiftly sold the stand up special to BET. The film was produced in partnership with Atlanta’s Arrow Global Entertainment owned by Drs. Creflo and Taffi Dollar, and Akintunde and Eunissa’s No Joke Entertainment (NJE), the company which houses their ‘Rebirth of Comedy (ROC)’ brand. The hour long special is Akintunde’s best selling title to date. NJE/ROC will release two more comedy specials between now and the first quarter of next year.
The Rebirth of Comedy presents “A Very Funny Holiday” and “The Heavy Hitters” will arrive in digital and retail outlets in November 2014 and March 2015, respectively. OVP will announce its first slate of television and film projects in the coming months.
WRITTEN BY: HERBERT LEE