By: Olamilekan Oke
In recent times, stand-up comedy has changed in Nigeria. Now, we hardly know most of the comedians we have in the country. If you were asked to mention names of some stand-up comedians, I’m sure you’ll mention the ones that have been dominating since we all were kids. The likes of Seyi Law, I go Dye, Bovi, Basketmouth, Alibaba, etc. Just the mention of the names of these guys will make you laugh once you remember any of their jokes. I mean, who doesn’t know the “there are two things involved” joke by Basketmouth? Almost everyone does. Stand-up comedy in Nigeria could be traced back to the time of Alibaba – he popularly refers to himself as the Grandfather of Stand-up Comedy in Nigeria. Gbenga Adeyinka, Tee-A, TejuBabyface, Koffi, Julius Agwu, AY and co. all contributed immensely to the development of stand-up comedy in Nigeria.
The Gen Z grew up watching these guys mentioned above on TV; we had their CDs at home and we hardly got bored. Comedy shows were even more sold out than music shows. You remember Nights of a Thousand Laughs by Opa Williams or Stand-up Nigeria by Bunmi Davies? All these shows made our adolescent and early teenage years, but what happened to stand-up comedy in Nigeria? Do we even know the new stand-up comedians apart from the dominating ones? What caused this change?
Actually, nothing changed. It only took a new dimension, because social media changed the game and all we are left with is skit making. Skit making and stand-up comedy are quite different, even though the aim is to make you laugh at the end. Skit making means making short funny videos, usually less than a minute. We have a lot of skit makers these days and the history of skit making can be traced back to when Instagram started gaining ground in Nigeria. Crazeclown (Papa Ade) started skit making by posting 15 secs video on Instagram because Instagram didn’t allow one to post videos longer than 15 seconds (that was way before the introduction of IGTV).
As time went by, Instagram increased the length of videos that can be posted and we now have the likes of Maraji, ClintonCod, Twyse, Taooma, Broda Shaggi, Mr. Macaroni and the list is now endless. Stand-up comedy means a comedian standing before an audience to deliver their jokes and make people laugh. Sometimes, it involves more of acting, stage management and live performances, unlike skit making where the actor has the opportunity to edit their videos just to make them as appealing to the viewers as possible.
Recently, there seems to be a decline in the talents produced in the comedy industry and these are some of the reasons:
- Social media: YouTube, Instagram, and other social media platforms brought about a change in stand-up comedy as some people find it difficult to “blow” as a proper stand-up comedian and they therefore use skit making as an escape route. After all, no matter how boring and watery your content is, you will get your followers and audience as a skit maker.
- Most people in Nigeria vibe with musicians more than comedians these days. We attend more of musical concerts than comedy shows, and we’d rather watch videos online than attend live comedy shows
- Also, truth be told, most of these guys crack the jokes of other comedians, which shows lack of creativity especially among upcoming comedians. To stand out and make good jokes, you need to be creative. Instead of this, Nigerians believe that Nigerians are naturally funny and they go on Twitter to read funny tweets and laugh. I mean that’s the goal after all, to make us laugh.
Generations coming after ours might not have the opportunity to laugh at the jokes of these guys, because social media (skit making) has gradually taken over stand-up comedy. People now go online to watch Emmanuella, Twyse, Shaggi and co. than they go out to watch live performances of comedians. We have quite a number of new stand-up comedians such as Destalker, Akproko, Laff Doctor, Remote, Pencil, etc. This is not to say that stand-up comedy is dead in the country, but it’s gradually losing its standard compared to what it used to be before.