On this day in comedy May 13, 1949, Comedian, Writer, Actor, Franklyn Ajaye was born in Brooklyn, New York
Dubbed “The Jazz Comedian” by his admiring peers for his improvisational comedic style, Ajaye was always more artist than fame seeker. A contemporary of mega-star, Richard Pryor, Ajaye shunned the confining and debilitating effects of stardom after witnessing firsthand those effects had on Pryor the man and comedian. Ajaye disdained being put under the show biz microscope. He just wanted to be funny and get paid for it. Hanging out at comedy clubs when he wasn’t working or with comics he wasn’t working with wasn’t his style.
Ajaye had dropped out of college to become a comedian. His original goal was to become a lawyer, but all that flew out the window when he gave stand-up a try at the encouragement of classmates who thought he was funny and knew law was history. After giving himself a crash course in the art of levity he was ready to work it. Ajaye’s first national recognition was on The Flip Wilson Show in 1973, the same year he released his first comedy album, Franklyn Ajaye, Comedian. In 1974 he debuted on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and dropped his second LP, I’m a Comedian, Seriously.
Franklyn Ajaye’s known as a strong influence among the generations that followed him. He was smart, insightful and above all funny in a broad range of mediums. There were movies: Sweet Revenge, Car Wash, Convoy, Stir Crazy, The Jazz Singer, starring Neil Diamond, Hysterical, Get Crazy, Fraternity Vacation, Hollywood Shuffle, The Wrong Guys, The ‘Burb, The Yakuza and Bridesmaids. Television: Barney Miller, Partners in Crime, Deadwood, The Greenroom. Albums: Don’t Smoke Dope, Fry Your Hair (1977), Plaid Pants and Psychopaths (1986) and Vagabond Jazz & the Abstract Truth (2004) and the book Comic Insights: The Art of Standup Comedy.
In 1997 Ajaye got tired of the whole crazy scene and went south. So south he ended up in Australia, where he stayed. He made occasional trips to the United States for comedy work, but other than that he made his final pilgrimage to the land he would call home following the 2012 election cycle when Ajaye saw just enough and stated ‘as long as Americas going in this direction, I’m going in another” and he left for good; carving out a comfortable niche for himself in Sydney and Melbourne in particular by appearing on the shows, The Panel and Thank God You’re Here. He also mounted one man shows in his new home at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival: “Nothing But The Truth”, Talkin Vagabond Jazz”, and “Vagabond Jazz & The Abstract Truth”.
Franklyn Ajaye is a two time Emmy nominee for Outstanding Writing in a Variety Series for his work on In Living Color and Politically Incorrect.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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