The comedy industry in Nigeria is fast-becoming a productive end to meeting other ends. This has become evident albeit popular on television or film, and in today’s sold-out stand-up comedy shows. The manner of wave-making by youthful geniuses at the art and act of jocular remarks is in itself, inspiring.
The truth however is that one has to be richly endowed either physically to elicit hilarity, or naturally gifted with plethora of yarn to inspire crowd to laughter.
The word comedy lends from a greek word, Komoidia, which is a general discourse intended to amuse. In the Athenian democracy, public opinion of voters was remarkably influenced by political satire performed by comic poets at the theaters. Originally of a theatrical genre, it was simply described as a dramatic performance which pits two societies against each other in an amusing agon or conflict. Northrop Frye – a Canadian literary critic and theorist, famously depicted these two opposing sides as “Society of Youth” and “Society of the Old”.
Today, comedies are mostly non-theatrical in the sense of the academe, i.e. without dramatic performances on stage reflecting characters in societies with a blend of elements of surprise, incongruity, conflict, repetitiveness, and the effect of opposite expectations, but have grown largely into a monologue of smart jibes, before an audience.
The gratification for the comedian here is not in the audience’ critical perception of message, after all, there happens to be no true substance modeled into the audience participant, rather the single purpose of eliciting laughter or smiles over jokes, or vulgar gibe. The old trend of theatrical performances, solicits audiences participation by indirectly appealing to the intellect, emotional, and physical via theatrical dialogue and not monologue.
These messages which are typical of stereotypes, and based on evidences of the real world, are highly venerable. They do impact teachings in morals in the end, and discipline too. It should be noted however that although the term comedy is broadly in use for stand-up comedy in Nigeria, both are unique.
However, times have changed and so have needs too especially in the age of today’s media technology where cultural influences have strongly redefined how we view societies, needs or tastes; comedy (now inspired by ‘stand-up comedy’) has become debasing in style and rhetoric. Here, there are no morals but loosely woven jokes that retard the true sense of ‘amusing agon or conflict’.
Nonetheless it is accepted by all; in any case the refined purpose is laughter, amusement and fun and so, by instinct, even any sleepy audience naturally will relate to that anyway. This piece however, x-rays the growth of the hilarity based comedy in Nigeria otherwise called, stand-up comedy.
Born out of general entertainment which comprises of TV, radio, music, film, cinema, home video, drama and theatrical comedy, stand-up comedy has drawn a lot of attraction to its vast and enterprising industry in the last 15 years.
Initially, though not developed on a welcomed ground owing to resolute views as to whether stand-up comedy is realistic stuff or not, it thrived subtly and waned in recognition and eventually gained, till breakthrough in the Music and Home Video scenes in the mid 1990s. Media entertainment generally began to thrive on more music and movies so much that it began to accommodate other amusing trends to relaxation apart from stress. The few who initially toiled the ‘clowning act’ then and endured all through the early period, began to reap seriously.
These ‘first-grade’ stand-up comic acts began receiving invitations to functions, and then gradually, reputation rose albeit attention was drawn to the prospect therein a market that was being populated by fewer humor merchants and ironically, ample media creation outfit. Soon the need for laughter conscription into TV show segments, parties, ceremonies, campaigns and even concerts, further gave rise to the rebirth we now see everywhere today.
Individuals like Atunyota Akporobomemerere aka Alibaba, late Mohammed Danjuma, Okey Bakassi, are among the pioneers of stand-up comedy in Nigeria. Today, there are a great number of acts on the floor, entertaining millions around the globe. Some within the younger generation with amiable style and adaptation to stand-up comedy in fact, include Teju Baby Face, AY, Julius Agwu, Basket Mouth, Bovi, MC Abbey; I go Die, Princess, Gordons and Lepacious Bose among others. Nigerian stand-up comedy which is being touted today, as fair contributor to the entertainment industry is also exported to Europe, America and the entire African continent.
There are stand-up comedy shows today which draw the attention of the classes in society to the humor fold. Attendance in any one of such shows is reportedly high with tickets going on sale for as much as N10, 000! It is business in Nigeria Entertainment all the way so much that comedy is even hyped as an industry already! A popular show like Night of a Thousand Laughs by Opa Williams has been running since 1995 till date. He is also known to have helped start off so many young acts by providing them with a platform to take on the open-mic in shows.
Today, so many have evolved various ways of eliciting public support to their course of business, with sponsorships coming their way from banks, airlines, insurance companies, media partners, and even politicians and entrepreneurs.
These young men and women too have learnt to return back to appreciate the society by embarking on charity campaigns to schools of the less privileged, orphanages and hospitals. It is more like a practical lifeline to others in need.
However their fortunes have turned out for them, some Nigerians still find it hard to accept that comedy is truly serious business to contend with. This group rather, believes in the inestimable value of taking to professional careers out side of the fun of any ‘therapeutic diversion’.
The truth is no matter what our ideas are, regarding what should be accepted in society, people will always be predisposed to anything that agrees with their present disposition i.e. if aspirin will do me for headaches, water will do you for thirst! So the acceptance of comedy today should be normally beyond comprehension of some, even as others continue to seek more ways to relieve themselves of stress.
You may hate them (stand-up comedians), the methods, the rhetoric or delivery, like them or simply accommodate them, stand-up comedy in Nigeria appears resolute to outshine the odds, and enshrine its inestimable enterprise or course to adopt humor as healing balm for the miserable.