Mc Casino, born Lawrence Osarenkhoe, has no doubt emerged among prominent voices in the renewed push to inject fresh energy and vibrancy into the Edo entertainment scene. He is among a growing list of young and dedicated entertainers working to restore the entertainment glory of Edo, a state that produced the legendary Sir Victor Uwaifo, Majek Fashek, and uncountable others. In this interview with Deborah Olorunfemi and Tobore Jerome, the renowned comedian reflects on the state of Edo’s entertainment scene before and now and the efforts of the new generation of entertainers to sustain Edo’s rating as a state of artistic brilliance. Excerpts:

It’s clear that you are on a mission to bring back the lost glory of Edo’s entertainment scene. Can you take us through the journey of how this initiative began?

Absolutely. Edo State, once the second hub of entertainment in Nigeria, experienced a lull for about a decade. We observed the impact on our lives and decided it was time for change. We came up with innovative ideas, brought in investors, and set out to restore Edo’s entertainment glory. By the grace of God, the entire country, Nigeria, is now witnessing a revival.

We’ve become influencers, working on social media to fight societal issues and uplift our dear state. Edo, known for legends like Majek Fashek and Ras Kimono, used to be a world hub for entertainment. We want to revive that spirit with events like the “Game of Jokes”, creating a platform for people to have fun and relax.

Tell us about your personal journey in the entertainment industry?

My journey has been smooth. Born into an average family, with a civil servant father and a businesswoman mother, I began my foray into entertainment in 2008 while at the University of Benin. I auditioned and travelled to Lagos for skits which marked the early years of my career. I dedicated myself to self-improvement, and my efforts bore fruit in 2015 when I secured my first international performance visa. Sharing the stage with heavyweights like Basketmouth and Wizkid, I earned national recognition, paving the way for more opportunities in the industry. It’s been a fulfilling journey.

Moving on to the shift in comedy trends, how has skit making impacted the industry compared to traditional stand-up comedy?

Stand-up comedy remains my first love and a cash-back business. Skit making, however, provides faster fame. So, I do skits majorly for activism; it’s a tool for positive activism. If you follow my skits, if the skit is not passing a message, I am not putting it out. During the election I also did more than three skits, where I tackled challenges such as ballot-box snatching, vote buying, cultism, prostitution, irregular migration, and cult-related violence. So, it has been my passion to make the society a better place. Skits won’t overshadow stand-up comedy; both have their unique places.

Let’s talk about your upcoming show, “Mc Casino Game of Jokes”, on January 1. Is this your first time of hosting it and what are we looking out for that day?

This is the sixth edition, but also the third major edition. The other editions were not done on January 1, but this is the third January 1 edition we will be having.

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By the grace of God, we have brought 2face Idibia (2Baba) before; we have brought Patoranking, but this episode will be the most interesting one because the theme for this year is “Blast from the Past”. That is my unique selling point of this year because so many artists will be coming to Benin. You know, everyone must have seen the artists but we want to bring back those artists that gave you goosebumps, especially when you were growing up. So, it is going to be a throwback night for the music; it is going to be a throwback blast as we will be bringing back iconic artists like Terry G, Black Face, African China, and others. And, of course, I will be having my brother Babyface Isacaba; I don’t do anything without involving him, my people. Then, for the comedy, the biggest and funniest comedians in Nigeria will be there. People like I Go Die will be there, Gandoki, Destalker, Titus of ‘My Flatmates’, Mc Pashun, Mc Danfo, and, of course, all my other friends, brothers, Mc Edo Pikin – they will all be there. It is going to be a remarkable night, a night people will not forget in a hurry.

You’ve been making efforts through your skits to discourage societal vices like cultism and irregular migration. What is the driving force?

I’m passionate about Edo. Through films, I address issues like cultism and irregular migration, emphasizing the potential within our people. Edo, once a sports powerhouse, can regain its glory, and that’s my aim.

Speaking of impact, how have you supported upcoming comedians in the industry?

I’ve shifted from direct support to mentorship. Over 10 comedians have passed through me, and they’re doing well now. It’s fulfilling to see them succeed. Helping people gives me joy, especially when I see you have talent, I will be the one to hustle for you. If you are an upcoming comedian and have talent, I am the one asking for their numbers, because the comedians that are funny in this country are not many. Let’s be frank, there is so much mediocrity, so we that are funny, if we see another comedian that is funny, we go for them because we want the world to see them, especially when they are from Edo State. I have a special sentiment for comedians from Edo; they catch my heart.

How would you describe the government’s role in the entertainment industry, and what improvements do you suggest?

The Edo State government has done well. I really commend His Excellency, Governor Godwin Obaseki, especially in film production. However, more needs to be done for comedians. I rate the government 70 per cent for film but my primary concern is the comedy aspect, a lot has to be done as the government is not looking our side. Edo is rising in entertainment industry and every government must take advantage, share from the glory. This generation is taking entertainment in Edo State to the next level, and we are begging the government to go and tap from the glory we are bringing to the state, share from it, project us. We have gone to do shows abroad, shut down venues abroad. So, if people like us have gone that far, the government should tap into us. We are qualified. We don’t want them to be calling us, no. Involve us, make some people critical stakeholders in things that have to do with entertainment, look for people that know and have the antecedent, that have the will power and the capacity to deliver, give them that sense of belonging.

This generation is taking Edo’s entertainment to the next level, and we want the government to share in the success, projecting us as critical stakeholders in the state’s entertainment scene.