The comedy industry in
Gelotology is the study of laughter. Many researchers have undertaken to study laughter in formal situations and produced interesting findings. To date, I am unaware of any such studies being conducted in
Eliciting laughter is the ultimate a goal in the performance of a comedy routine. We laugh when we find a situation funny. In many instances a situation is perceived as funny when the end of a series of events results in a different outcome to what we had anticipated at the beginning. Hence the first job of the stand up comedian is usually to make his audience anticipate something. That is only possible by sharing a situation that is familiar to the audience. And since most comedy routines are basically stories about people, the easiest way to manipulate the audiences’ collective expectation is to use stereotypes.
Other examples of tribal stereotypes are the Igbos’ love for money, Edo girls in
Apart from absurd or incongruous ends to stories, there is the feeling of superiority, which good comedians evoke in their audiences when talking about the stupidity or undesirable qualities of other tribal groups or individuals.
That may explain the ready success comedians have enjoyed from telling jokes about poor or ‘wowo’ (ugly) people. Everybody tend to laugh at these jokes; ironic in a country where poverty, real or relative, is rife.
Anything that may explain why comedy shows staged in a town will tend to have comedians telling jokes at the expense of other towns or the minority groups within that town- a sort of bullying.
Comedy affords an opportunity to laugh at events and problems that are not funny in any way. The pent up frustrations are given a release through laughter, and this helps to reduce tension.
Of all the tribal stereotypes on offer in Nigerian comedy, the most politically incorrect and vicious lampooning seems to be reserved for the Calabar people. Why?
This widely used term in
The three major language groups in
To the average Nigerian the two states of Akwa Ibom and Cross River are simply called Calabar, partly due to ignorance and also due to the fact that till date many Nigerians have not gotten a hang of the current map of Nigeria! The various languages in these two states are also loosely called Calabar or Efik.
History, Myths and Icons.
Like I have alluded to before, comedy requires the audience to ‘get’ the story as it starts so that the ‘punch line’, usually an unexpected outcome, achieves maximum impact.
The people of Akwa Ibom and
I also suspect that their rich history and culture which features strong iconoclastic characters make them exotic or perhaps enigmatic, thus making stories about them appear much more interesting.
These people of the South Eastern part of Nigeria are not known for rioting, so perhaps the Nigerian comedians and script-writers feel confident that there will be no back lashes from the ‘polite and dignified’ Calabar when they are mercilessly lampooned in the name of entertainment.
The most Dramatic things in
Mary Slessor (1848-1915), the Queen of Calabar, was a Scottish missionary who lived and worked with the people of Okoyong for many years. She learnt the Efik language and died in those parts. Her grave stands there till date. She is credited with stopping the killing of twins in these parts and stopping the trial of witches by the Calabar Ordeal Bean.
People suspected of Witchcraft were forced to eat some of the beans, which contained Physiostigmine. There were three outcomes possible.
Firstly, if the beans are vomited and the patient survives then they were acquitted. Secondly, if they had abdominal symptoms and survived they were sold into slavery. Finally, if they died, they were deemed guilty.
Missionaries at the time learnt to swallow the beans when captured by the ‘natives’ and put through the ordeal. They then regurgitated the beans up and survived. They had learnt that the deadly Physiostigmine was only released after chewing the bean (Na Beans!).
John Newton (1725 to 1807), the author of the world famous hymn Amazing Grace was said to have been inspired to write this hymn after hearing traditional songs in Old Calabar when he was a Captain on a Slave ship. This story has been the subject of numerous writings, documentaries and films, including Jeta Amata’s Amazing Grace released in 2006. These three stories have given Calabar a place in world history and folklore.
Another myth is that Dog meat is eaten regularly in Calabar and its environs and this meat somehow confers a sexual stamina on the women who eat it.
Then there is the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star whose leader is Olumba Olumba Obu, who claims to be God. He is a well-known ‘Calaber man’.
In more recent times the dispute over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsular between
This South Eastern area is on its way to becoming a major tourist attraction with the opening of Tinapa; a business and leisure development. The Obudu cattle ranch is also a much talked about destination boasting of a cool climate due to its high altitude (1,542m) and affording visitors to embark on horse riding, hiking and the like.