Thu | Jun 20, 2019

Sitcom star Ity takes on the orange economy

Published:Friday | May 24, 2019 | 12:12 AMKimberley Small/Staff Writer
Ian ‘Ity’ Ellis at the podium with his bag of oranges as he talks about the orange economy.
Ian ‘Ity’ Ellis at the podium with his bag of oranges as he talks about the orange economy.

At the recently held 12th annual Small Business Expo and Conference staged by the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), keynote speaker Ian ‘Ity’ Ellis engaged participants with the potential of developing the orange economy and shared how he entered and sustained his presence in the field, otherwise known as the creative industry.

Despite the general perception of the comedian as just that, Ellis packed his humour, sensibilities and industry wisdom into a green mesh sack of oranges that he gifted to the willing audience as encouragement to venture, like he did, into the creative industry.

Offering up some key motivational terms like ‘self-determination’, ‘perseverance’, ‘preparation’ and ‘opportunity’, Ellis used his time on the stage to impress upon the audience that joking around is merely a result of being himself and that his success came from creating his own lane and manoeuvring his ‘self’ through industries with high barriers to entry.

To demonstrate the potential of creatives paving their own paths, Ellis referenced the Ity & Fancy Cat Show, a weekend prime-time favourite that aired for 10 years.

“The first year of the Ity & Fancy Cat Show was a colossal loss because it was absorbed by technical production at that time because we had to pay people to shoot the ting. We, who were in front of the camera, earned zero dollars. But I tell you something, though, success is 99 per cent preparation, one per cent opportunity,” he said.

The duo tried for theatre first, but there was a high barrier to entry, especially for two unknown comedians.

PILOT SEASON

“I don’t think any of you remember the first year. We interviewed guests on the show: Lady Saw (now Minister Marion Hall), Richie Stephens, Tessanne Chin. Nobody paid [us] any mind until the second year, when we started to do some skits,” he recalled.

It was then that he learned about competitive advantage. “Compared to theatre, after doing the analysis, television was the better business. It was difficult for us to compete with [theatre] – that was in my estimation. We needed a place to call home that we could stay and develop. But when you think about television and that genre of entertainment that we discovered, sketch comedy, when we looked at the competition, there was no other product like ours,” Ellis continued.

After a decade of a successful sketch comedy series, he’s trying to do it again with the recently premièred sitcom Bigger Boss. “I’m thinking about exporting. I want to not only talk to Jamaicans. I want to put the show on Netflix. We have to grow the product, and we want the Government to participate and increase engagement for us, too.

Referring to the expo’s overarching theme, Monetising the Orange Economy: The Future is Creative, Ellis concluded: “The future is creative because knowledge is accessible. Anybody can Google anything now. Knowledge is becoming devalued compared to creativity. That’s why I thank the JBDC for stepping out boldly, deciding that they are going to put their efforts into monetising the orange economy.”