With the country consistently battling insecurity, bad governance, police brutality, and an unending recession, many Nigerians have resorted to consuming comedy as a form of relaxation, therapy, and coping mechanism
Comedy has become one of the most profitable sectors of the Nigerian entertainment industry. From the first generation of comedians like Baba Sala, Gringory, Zebrudaya, and PapiLuwe to the advent of new-age comedians like Ali Baba, Gbenga Adeyinka, Lepacious Bose, Basket Mouth, I Go Die, Princess, and Helen Paul, the industry has transformed into a giant worth billions of Naira.
At first, the most reliable way to be experience comedy was to attend live shows and concerts. These were events like Opa William’s “Nights of a Thousand Laughs,” Basketmouth’s “Uncensored,” and Bunmi Davies’ “Stand Up Nigeria.”
The social media boom led to the fragmentation and diversification of the industry. It also led to a sharp decline in the attendance of the comedy shows. By 2013, Kunle Idowu, popularly known as Frank Donga, emerged with skits and rose to fame through the web series The Interview, on Ndani TV, about an unassuming jobseeker frustrated by the tedious nature of job applications.
Since then, there has been an impressive influx of many young digital comedians. Mark Angel, Emmanuella, Craze Clown, Lasisi Elenu, Erese, Taaooma, Mr. Macaroni, Josh2Funny, Maraji, Sydney Talker, Ebiye, and Broda Shagi have since emerged. There is a huge market for digital comedy and, naturally, a boost in social media followership for online comedians.
With the pandemic, the Nigerian entertainment industry witnessed the emergence of new comedy skits by young people, some of whom are not comedians. Because the lockdown made sure everyone stayed at home, these young people, with more time on their hands, began to experiment with Twitter and Instagram as concert venues for new, exclusive skits. This new development forced even stand-up comedians to reorganize their media and content.
Since the #EndSARS protests, there has been a synchronized tilt in comedy towards advocating social change. This is most notable in skits by Mr. Macaroni, one of the vocal figures during the protests. Lasisi Elenu, meanwhile, has mimicked online fraudsters.
Taaooma, whose skits are centered on African mothers and their unique discipline method, infuses comedy, which she calls “something for laughs,” with social issues like rape and gender-based violence. In his own skits, Broda Shaggi mirrors the daily lives of a neglected demographic—touts.
One feature of Nigerian digital comedy is that the audience is both the regulator and critic of the content. Many comedians have been forced to apologize and even to delete problematic skits after social media outcry. In 2019, for example, the comedian Ebiye backtracked after his skit was accused of color-shaming Hollywood star Lupita Nyong’o. A few others have been accused of promoting sexual assault and objectifying women objectification.
With a militant community of young people attentively monitoring social media skits, comedians have to strive to make content that entertains and takes on social issues without encouraging them.