fa l l a r t s
The five founders of Bull City Laughs: Terrell Wilder, financial officer; Omar Helms, chief technician; Brandon Wright, “laugh engineer;” Akili Hester, president; and Q Randle, business ambassador.
PHOTO BY JOSHUA STEADMAN
“Yeah,” he says with a smile. But that’s only half the story of how this quintet came to own Durham’s only comedy tour bus business. “We did a North Carolina hip-hop documentary – that was me, Omar and Q,” Akili says. “Before that, I used to do battle rap events, and Terrell did my security. Before that, I was doing film, and I was doing work with Brandon.” Brandon, who worked for the Funny Bus in Charlotte, a similar concept, was driving there every weekend. Akili encouraged him to think about starting one here. Once Brandon was convinced it was viable, Akili asked if he was ready to pull the trigger. “I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he said, ‘Cool, cause I’ve told a few guys who are interested to hear what you have to say,’” Brandon says. “We met here one evening, and we were all like, ‘Let’s do this.’” Akili says, “Everybody I pulled in, I had worked with before. I knew they had a good work ethic, and good character. And they all had the urge to do something different. Everybody’s conversation was, ‘Man, I want to start a business.’ Sometimes it wasn’t exactly specific, but everybody had the urge to do something special. [We wanted to] do something for the city that nobody’s ever done before. So when I put the word out, it was like gasoline was already on it. Everything moved pretty quickly after that.” That conversation happened just a year-and-a-half ago. The Bull City Laughs bus went on its first tour March 15 – Omar’s late mother’s birthday – after months of hard work, and a little help. They bought the bus from a woman Akili knew through cutting her husband’s hair. “It’s the haircut network,” he says. The material and labor to build and install the seats was essentially donated by a man who had been in Brandon’s military unit in the Air Force (Omar and Terrell are also veterans of the Army and Air Force, respectively). Some of the audio equipment was donated by audio-visual company
Jokes on the Bus Go Round and Round
he five founders of Bull City Laughs are all standing in a packed barber shop off of Fayetteville Street. This is where it all started for them. And one of them just wrapped up with a customer. “Who’s next?” Akili Hester, Bull City Laughs president, aka “the Bull,” calls out to the small waiting area of Black Wall Street Barber Shop. “Do you cut everyone’s hair?” I ask Akili about this group – Brandon Wright, Omar Helms, Q Randle and Terrell Wilder – standing around us. 56