EntertainmentJAN 19 EDITION

Comedy as Therapy

By Stanley Nwachukwu

The history of stand-up comedy can be traced as far back as the 1800s, stand-up, as it is known today, did not really make any meaningful impact until the 1970s. Patrick Bromley states that in the United States of America, for instance, the 1970s marked the birth of modern stand-up comedy, as it witnessed the appearance of a new generation of comedians and the rise of comedy clubs. According to him, unlike the traditional setup/punch-line joke tellers, the new stand-up acts were faster and looser, mixing the confessional with the socio-political, a comedy art form that was reborn. The new crop of comedians, like George Carlin and Richard Pryor, became not just stars, but icons. Also, comedians like Robert Klein and Jerry Seinfeld ushered in a new style of “observational” comedy – material that sprang from everyday life, accessible to wide audiences that identified with the comics as being just like themselves.

Bill Cosby on stage

The birth of comedy clubs in 1972 in West Hollywood played host to comics like Richard Pryor, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Robin Williams, and Sam Kinison. Some comedians, like Richard Pryor and Steve Martin, became so popular that the attendances of their performances soon outgrew the clubs, and they started shows in amphi-theatres and even stadia. The ’80s then became the decade that stand-up exploded on television, because situation comedies (sitcoms), such as, The Cosby Show, Roseanne, An Evening at the Improv, HBO Comedy Hour, Young Comedians Showcase, and Half-hour Comedy Hour, among others, became massive hits. By the 1990s, a new cable channel called, Comedy Central, offered stand-up comedy a window. Television shows like Saturday Night Live, In Living Colour and The Ben Stiller Show, became popular. By the 2000s, stand-up comedy had undergone transformation and comedians became established stars, and stand-up comedy genre had found new footing, becoming popular and viable again.

Bright Okpocha popularly known as Basketmouth wearing a comic face. Photo Source: pulse.com

The Advent of Stand­up Comedy in Nigeria There is no arguing the fact that stand-up comedians have existed in Nigeria from time immemorial, in the form of village spokesmen, especially at ceremonial occasions. They usually add colour to social occasions, to the admiration of those gathered for such events. This is to the extent that some people even show appreciation by giving such spokesmen ‘dash’ money. Sometimes, they even solicit for such dash, threatening not to talk again, unless somebody ‘opened’ their mouths. Their performances are so recognised that people ‘charter’ them, as it is term, for their events. The absence of such village MCs for ceremonies meant very dull programmes, as people would not be entertained with rib-cracking jokes and punchlines.

It is true that radio and television, as forms of electronic broadcasting, also contributed to the development of contemporary stand-up comedy in Nigeria. Here, the popular Mazi Mperempe programme on Radio Nigeria and the old Anambra State Television, Enugu, in the ’70s and ’80s, readily come to mind. This was a 30-minutes programme that featured Mazi Mperempe, telling various rib-cracking jokes, starting with his call-and-response slogan that, “Oluo n’omume^ onye agbana oso!” Translated literally, it means, “The time for action has arrived… nobody should run away!” 10 greatest Nigerian comedy shows of all time.

(1) The Village Headmaster (1968­ – 1988)

The Village Headmaster is one of the most iconic Nigerian TV series of all time. It ran for 2 decades making it the longest- running series aired on the National Television Authority (NTA). The Village Headmaster which featured greats such as the late Justi’s Esiri, Dejumo Lewis, Funsho Adeolu, and Enebeli Elebuwa. The TV series focused on topical issues such as “inter-ethnic harmony, problem­solving and intervention in public affairs, health education and family enjoyment” according to The Nation.

(2) Super Story (2001 – 2018)

Super Story is the brainchild of TV producer Wale Adenuga who is also responsible for Papa Ajasco on TV and on print. 18 years running, Super Story is a unique format that has appealed to the Nigerian audience.The first season of the show told the story of Suara and Toyin Tomato (played by the brilliant Sola Sobowale).

(3) New Masquerade (the mid-80s – mid-90s)

Could we call this Nigeria’s greatest sitcom? Perhaps. Another NTA classic, the 30- minute show featured Chief Zebrudaya alias 4:30 played by Chika Okpala, his wife Ovularia (Lizzy Evoeme), late Chief Jegede Shokoya (Claude Eke), Giringori (James Iroha), and Clarus (David Ofor). The gang of friends, wives and houseboys dished humour to millions of Nigerians every Tuesday night from 8:30 pm – 9:00 pm. The New Masquerade is one of Nigeria’s most beloved TV shows with an iconic theme song and unforgettable characters.

(4) Papa Ajasco (1996 – present)

This another creation of Wale Adenuga. Papa Ajasco was initially a comic strip in the 80s which turned out to be very successful. After an initial movie in 1983, Wale Adenuga adapted it for TV in 1996 starring the famous characters, ‘Papa Ajasco’, ‘Mama Ajasco’, ‘Bobo Ajasco’, ‘Boy Alinco’, ‘Miss Pepeiye’, ‘Pa James’ and ‘Pa Jimoh’.

(5) Icheoku (80s)

If you watch a comedy skit of a translator wrongly interpreting the words of a speaker, the format most likely came from the TV series Icheoku. The comedy series that ran in the 1980s, featured a court translator who made a mess of interpreting the words of a British judge to locals. The comedic format is still used by many Nigerian comedians till today.

(6) Basi and Company (1986 – 1990)

Written and produced by Ken Saro Wiwa, Basi and Company aired on NTA. Filmed in Enugu state, the TV series touched on corruption and African folklore. The comedy series starred Albert Egbe, Zulu Adigwe, Aso Douglas, Lasa Amoro and was rested after 150 episodes.

(7) Fuji House of Commotion (200s)

An offshoot of Checkmate, the Amaka Igwe directed and produced comedy series hilariously portrayed the unique experience of living inside a polygamous home.

The comedic brilliance of Kunle Bamtefa, Ngozi Nwosu, and the supporting cast made this series one of the greatest comedies on Nigerian TV.

(8) Samanja (1973 – late 80s)

The hilarious comedy show started off regionally in 1973 in NTA Kaduna and also on Radio Kaduna. It’s soaring popularity got it a slot on national airtime. Its format was changed to accommodate a larger audience. The language of the show changed from Hausa to pidgin. Set in a military barracks, veteran actor Usman Baba Pategi played the role of Sgt Samanja- a funny soldier with several rib-cracking antics.

(9) Everyday People (early 2000s)

The brainchild of media entrepreneur, Everyday People focused exclusively on the lives of middle-class Nigerians. The movie featured the late Sam Loco Efe, Carol King, Ify Onwuemene, Seun Soremi, Juliet Marti’n- Abazie, Ignis Ekwe and others.

(10) Cock Crow At Dawn (early 1980s)

This was a weekly TV series that was aired on NTA. Sponsored by the Union Bank of Africa, Cock Crow at Dawn was meant to increase the awareness of farming as a profitable investment among Nigerians.

Bovi a popular Nigerian Comedian.
Photo Source: vanguardng.com
Anne-Kansiime one of South African Female top Comedian.
Photo Source: newvision.co.ug

12 Reasons Stand up Comedy Is Better Than Therapy 21st century fast-paced lifestyles add up to a lot of baggage. It’s important to take care of your mental health and to remain positive. Some people may turn to therapy, and that does a lot of good for a lot of people, but I’m going to offer an alternative to therapy that’s much easier to get a hold of and way better for your wallet: stand­up comedy. I completely believe that laughter is the best way to heal your soul, so here are a couple reasons why the next time you’re feeling down you should turn to a comedian before you call a  therapist.

  1. Laughter is the best medicine.

If there’s one thing that will always make me feel a million times better, it’s laughing. Something about leWng joy burst out of you in the form of a giggle or a chuckle just washes away any problem I’m having. If I’m upset about anything, there’s a 150 percent chance I’m going to try to find some way to make myself laugh, and stand-up comedy is my go-to.

  1. It makes you realize you’re not alone.

Comedians are weird people. They are weird, honest, awful, real people. Most comedians have struggled to get where they are. All will turn their personal tragedies into a way to connect with the audience and to make people laugh. That’s a beautiful thing, and it’s even more beautiful to realize that these incredibly and successful people have the same problems you do.

3. Its way cheaper than therapy.

If you have a Netflix account, access to YouTube, or even a library card you can obtain any stand-up comedy routine your heart may desire, and it’ll be way cheaper than therapy. The five minutes it takes to decide which comedian you want to watch and a couple bucks for some snacks is all it’ll cost you.

  1. Stand-up comedians will tell it like it is.

If you’re looking for an honest opinion on your dating life, your social media obsession, your weird habits or literally anything under the sun, a comedian will tell you exactly how and why you’re doing something wrong. Comedians have a twisted form of honest exaggeration that captures our daily thoughts, and they’ll tell it like it is in a way that paid professional therapists just aren’t allowed to do sometimes. Forget sugarcoating, if you have a problem these comedians will call you out on it.

5. It’s a confidence booster.

I don’t know about you guys, but I find that watching stand-up comedy always makes me feel good about myself, and it’s not because I’ve had some life altering self-discovery moment, it’s because I realize that all the weird stuff I do and all the things I think are true to someone else too. I am an animated person, I love to be loud and the biggest voice in a room and watching stand-up reassures that larger than life part of myself that loud voices and weird facial expressions can be pretty and successful and admired.

6. They will reassure you that you are still a good person.

Did you ever think something really terrible about a stranger in public? A thought that surprised you because your mom didn’t raise you to think like that? That’s okay, we all have, and comedians capitalize on it. It’s easy not to feel like a terrible person when the comedian bares it all onstage and throws their worst thoughts out into the world. If they can make a joke about orphans and still be thought of as a good person and show their humanity, your mean comment to your roommate won’t feel as catastrophic.

7. watching stand-up provides the opportunity to socialize.

Bring all your friends over and turn on your favorite comedian. You don’t have to talk if you don’t feel like it, you can just sit and laugh in a room full of your favorite people. You don’t have to be lonely when you’re cry­laughing on the couch late at night, you don’t have to dance with your demons in the dark by yourself. You can turn on a funny routine and just be still for a bit, and it automatically gives you a million inside jokes with your friends that you’ll only understand because you watched the same comedian.

8. Comedians understand your bad habits

Maybe you have a Pinterest addiction, or a drinking problem, or a habit of being very irrationally mean when you’re hungry. A therapist might want to get to the root of that problem, and figure out a way to get you to quit. A comedian is a comrade though, they will support your habit and tell you their stories of the same struggle. It might not be the healthiest way of dealing with your problems but it sure does make you feel better about whatever is going on.

9. Learning to laugh at yourself counts as personal growth.

Comedians use a lot of self­deprecating humor, and that’s a good trait. It’s good to learn to laugh at your mistakes, because at the end of the day we are all tiny humans in a huge universe with no real grasp of where we’re going and if we let  ourselves get caught up in our problems we’ll drown. Learning to laugh at yourself and to not take everything so seriously can majorly improve your daily outlook on life.

10. Comedy allows you to escape from your problems.

Sometimes you don’t need to tackle your problems head on, not every situation calls for an intervention and a total change of life plans. Sometimes, all you need is a small distraction to get through the day, and stand-up comedy is my chosen form. Escapism might not be the best way to deal with every issue, but it certainly helps to alleviate my stress levels. Taking a break from the outside world and just having a good laugh is all you need sometimes.

11. You can borrow their jokes in your own social life.

I am a joke re-teller. If I think something if funny I will use it daily in my life, because I feel that a day without laughter is a day ill-spent. These days, 90 percent of my conversations involve at least one reference to a comedian I love, whether my friends realize it or not, and that’s okay. Not every day will be your wiWest day, sometimes you need to borrow humor to keep things light and watching stand­up routines will give you plenty of material.

12. Stand-up comedy actually provides a lot of insight on society.

Last but not least, comedians are actually quite observant. They take pieces of their lives and culture to weave humorous tales, but if you look past the expletives and the gimmicks there’s actually a lot of smart social commentary happening. Comedians have given me a fresh perspective on a lot of societal issues and frequently force me to think about the way I treat others. A lot can be learned from what we laugh about. Comedy is a longstanding tradition in our culture for a reason, it makes people happy. Laughter is one of life’s most wonderful gifts, and it’s completely free. So if you find yourself with the blues, watch some stand-up first and see how it can brighten your day.

The comedy industry has become a multi-billion dollar industry around the world and comedy itself has become a lucrative profession. On the Africa continent, comedians are stepping up their game daily and doing well for themselves in terms of fame and wealth alongside the musicians. Comedy in recent time is no longer for miscreants, school dropout as the case used to be. A number of well educated young Africans have started to fancy a career in comedy, so it’s no surprise seeing a Doctors, engineers, lawyers and all kinds of professionals going into comedy.

Ali – Baba, one of Nigeria foremost comedians .
Photo Source: dailypost.com
Nigeria’s comedian AY thrilling his audience ,
Photo Source: graphiconline

Top 10 Rib Cracker Stand up Comedians on the African continent at the moment.

  1. Ali Baba (Nigeria), real name, Atunyota Alleluya Akporobomerere, (June 24, 1965) : is a top Nigerian stand-up comedian and host of Ali Baba Live which is held every January 1st. He began hosting corporate events and grew up to become the preferred Master of Ceremony at several events. Ali Baba now holds the position and respect as the man that brought comedy to the lofty position it now occupies in the Nigerian entertainment industry.
  1. Trevor Noah (South Africa): Africa’s most famous comedian, Trevor Noah is well known for his unapologeti’c approach to race, apartheid and politics. Born to a Swiss father and a Xhosa mother, Trevor’s struggle to identify to a one specific stereotype makes him a genius when it comes to comedy as he both relates to his audience at the same time, sharing a unique perspective to everyday issue.
  1. Bright Okpocha Aka Basket Mouth (Nigeria): Basket Mouth, the man, the myth and the legend was born and raised in Abia State, Nigeria. He is one of the most known African performers and for good reason too. He was the first African to host a show at the Apollo in London. His bar is forever high with performances at big events like The Lord of the Ribs, Comedy Central Presents and The Basket Mouth Live at the O2 Arena in London.

4. Loyiso Gola (Ghana): Loyiso is a very high profile South African stand up, with 12 seasons of his two -time International Emmy nominated satirical news show Late Nite News with Loyiso Gola under his belt, and is the African correspondent for Charlie Pickering’s The Weekly on the ABC in Australia

5. I Go Dye (Nigeria): Francis Agoda is a Nigerian comedian from Delta State Nigeria, who has organized different shows, such as “Igodye Standing” across the globe.

6. Riaad Moosa (South Africa): an Indian born South African comedian, actor and Doctor of Indian-Malay descent. He is popularly known for drawing his jokes from the Indian heritage and Muslim faith.

7. Nik Rabinowitz (South Africa): Nik Rabinowitz is a South African comedian, actor and author, wh o h a s m a d e gu est appearances on several comedy shows, including the British panel show Mock the Week. He currently resides in Cape town.

8. Michael Blackson (Ghana): Blackson is a Ghanian who is surely understood for his dry jokes which are constantly adequate to make his garthering of people reel in giggling. Born in November 1972, he is famously known as the African King of Comedy.

9. Anne Kansiime (Uganda): Referred to by many as the “Queen of Africa Comedy”, Anne Kansiime is a Ugandan comedienne, entertainer and actress.

10. Bovi Ugboma (Nigeria): was born on the 25th of September, 1979. He hails from delta state, Nigeria. He is a graduate of delta State University, Abraka. He was born and brought up in Benin city and has been active in the comedy industry since 2007.

Gordons mixes music with comedy .
Photo Source: graphiconline
Comedy is in-complete without Michael-Blackson.
Photo Source: dailypost.com.

 

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