The Democratization of Digital Age Comedy

By: Oluwapelumi King

Comedy has been a popular form of entertainment for centuries and has undergone significant changes over the years. Starting from its early stages, Comedy has seen some major evolvements; from being just small scale to being transmitted to stand-ups, sitcoms, and then tv shows. Now, with the advent and rise of the new digital age, the influence and reach of comedy have expounded beyond bounds and have undergone a transformation, unlike anything that has ever been seen before. 

The digital age has profoundly impacted the world of comedy, changing how comedians create and distribute their content and how audiences consume it. With the explosion of social media and online streaming platforms, comedians now have more ways than ever to reach their audiences, and their audiences have more ways to access and interact with their content. There is now the democratization or easy accessibility of comedy. With social media platforms like Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube, anyone can create and share their comedic content with the world. This has led to a surge in new and diverse voices in comedy, as people from all walks of life are able to share their unique perspectives and experiences with a global audience. 

At the same time, the digital age through social media has also led to the rise of comedy stars who have built their careers entirely online. From TikTok sensations like Khaby Lame who was sacked from his factory job before launching into comedy to Instagram comedians like Mr. Macaroni who failed to get big roles after auditioning and Elsa Majimbo who launched into fame during the lockdown in 2020. These digital stars and many more have amassed huge followings and even landed traditional media deals.

The digital age has also changed the way we consume comedy. With streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu, it has become easier to binge-watch entire seasons of sitcoms and stand-up specials in one sitting. This has given rise to a new type of comedy fan, one who prefers to consume their entertainment on their own terms, without the constraints of traditional broadcast schedules. These streaming platforms, like social media, have enabled comedians, particularly new rising ones, to make more money and make comedy content readily available to people. For instance, Chris Rock’s “Selective Outrage” is now streaming on Netflix; it is available to anyone who has a subscribed Netflix account and more streams of the content also generate more Chris Rock’s money. Either way, it is both a benefit to the comedian and his/her audience. The digital age has also made it easier for comedians to experiment with different styles and formats of comedy. With the rise of podcasting, comedians can now host their shows and create content that is not limited by visual media. Podcasts have given comedians the freedom to discuss a wide range of topics and offer their unique perspectives on current events, relationships, and everything in between e.g., popular comedian Nedu’s Frankly speaking podcast

The digital age however has brought challenges to the world of comedy.  The democratization and shift towards short-form content have raised some concerns about the quality and sustainability of comedic content. With so much content being produced and shared online, it can be difficult for comedians to stand out and build a lasting career in the industry. Additionally, the pressure to create content that will go viral or attract a large audience can lead to a focus on quantity over quality. Comedians must also navigate the potential pitfalls of cancel culture and the ever-watchful eye of the internet on social media. 

Despite these challenges, the digital age has brought about a golden age of comedy, with more voices and more opportunities than ever before. As the world continues to evolve, so too will the world of comedy, but one thing is certain – laughter and comedy will always be a vital part of our entertainment landscape.

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