Over time, I have learned not to hold any Nigerian celebrity to any standard. Why? They have none. If the bar was on the floor, Nigerian celebrities will snap it into two and make firewood out of it. On Thursday, rapper MI tweeted that he watched Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy, a four-episode documentary series now available on Netflix, specifically the entry on comedians’ routine use of rape humour and homophobia in Nigeria. ”Powerful stuff” MI described it, then went ahead to say something unbelievably foul: ”I stand with the comedians right to joke about anything.. their job is to find funny in pain…”
Watched the Larry Charles documentary on Netflix about Nigeria on Rape culture and Homophobia. Powerful stuff.. I stand with the comedians right to joke about anything.. their job is to find funny in pain.. as a society though we need to look inwards.. so much is wrong 😩
— Yung denzL (@MI_Abaga) February 21, 2019
I read the tweet several times, hoping for some elaboration or clarification. And although the rapper subsequently tweeted that he wasn’t clear about what he intended to say with that tweet, the message on its face is tone-deaf and outrightly insensitive. Till now, the tweet hasn’t been deleted. It had to take 62-year-old comedy writer and director Larry Charles to document and expose what have internally been calling Nigerian male stand-up comedians for: their material heavily relying on normalised sexism, including rape culture and homophobia. ”Women are the butt of my jokes,” Bovi said proudly to Larry Charles while filming a scene of the episode in Balogun market.
Understandably, Bovi is a straight man and his jokes would only naturally stem from his experiences and interactions with the opposite gender. The problem, here, is not that women can’t be a comedian’s subject matter, but that most times these jokes are so dull, clichéd, and devoid of the upper-echelon critiquing bite that have defined comedians like Trevor Noah, Hannah Gadsby, and Michelle Wolf. More to the point, these jokes do not elevate cultural conversations about sexism and how society cruelly treats women.
And the same thing goes for rape. Rape, even though sensitive by nature, is not some sacred subject that can’t be touched by comedians. Finding humour in something as painful as rape, to a point where it reels back to the audience to subsequently galvanise and act against the issue, would heavily depend on the comedian’s intelligence, dexterity and delivery. As we know it, Nigerian comedians are so insufferably mediocre and incapable of such, from the stand-up bunch to burgeoning pool of comics that has since taken over Instagram. With the aforementioned tweet, celebrities like MI only give comedians more leeway, instead of asking them to catch up with other comedians in the 21st century.