A Study of the Interplay of Taboo Subjects and Censorship in Determining the Limits of Humour/Insult in the Four Regions of Africa (North, South, West and East) and their Standup Jokes

Ancient humour arts exemplify how satire creates a sense of community from shared laughter.  They ridiculed behavioural eccentricities ranging from the humdrum to the hallowed. Offence was not an option then, but in recent times, a growing sense of irritationfor “distasteful” jests has emerged sometimes instigating deadly imbroglios. While stand-up comedy has not stirred up such extremities, some of its jokes have been adjudged politically incorrect. Yet, by its nature, stand-up comedy’s mirth mostly comes from abusing its audience; thrives on spontaneity; and requires new joke materials perpetually. The problem is that stand-up comedy is scarcely studied and the threat posed by the growing irritation with its humour and the manner that comedians are countering them are yet to be examined. My work thus critically evaluates how censorship affects African stand-up, given the myriad cultural sensibilities of its cities and peoples. It is also a contribution to the almost non-existent literature on improvised comedy. Humourists are selected from different regions of the continent and its diaspora; with a view to capturing the different cultural nuances that determine the humour/offence boundaries of their acts. The study deploys multiple analytical tools – performance analysis, close reading, audience/participation observation and comparative inquiry.

Project leader(s):
  • Izuchukwu Ernest Nwankwo (Department of Theatre Arts, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University)

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