Humour Strategies And Acts In Nigerian Stand-Up Comedy


Humour, which is associated with amusement and laughter, is produced in comic

performances, particularly stand-up comedy; and Nigerian stand-up comedians (NSCs) use

language to evoke humour and correct social vices. Existing studies have conceptualised

humour, its use and sub-genres but have not given adequate attention to intentionality in

Nigerian stand-up joking contexts. This study, therefore, investigated humour strategies and

context in Nigerian stand-up comedy, in order to identify NSCs’ intentions and how they are

realised in their performances.

Humour acts, a model, which combined insights from general theory of verbal humour,

multimodal theory, pragmatic acts, relevance, and contextual beliefs, was adopted as the

theoretical framework. Data were purposively collected from video compact disc recordings

of 28 routines of 16 male and three female NSCs in editions of Nite of a thousand laughs

and thecomedyberlusconi, which were produced between 2009 and 2013. This is to reflect

the gender composition of NSCs, focus on popular practising professional NSCs and avoid

analysing their repeated joking stories. The data were subjected to pragmatic analysis.

Humour strategies adopted by NSCs involved manipulating cultural assumptions,

stereotypes, representations, corresponding concepts and projecting personal beliefs. The

humour strategies included jokes, voicing, verbal and nonverbal cues. NSCs’ jokes were

categorised into two: the physical appearance class and the socio-political and cultural

situations class. NSCs presented jokes with comic and participants-in-the-joke voices. While

comic voice was used to articulate comic image, comedians used participants-in-the-joke

voice to dissociate themselves from the activity-in-the-joke. They articulated voicing

differently through code-switching, reported speech, mimicry and change in pitch. Female

NSCs favoured English as the matrix language of their narration, but male comedians

primarily used Nigerian Pidgin. Verbal cues in their jokes included joke utterance,

participants-in-the-joke, especially the targets of jokes, and activity-in-the-joke. Two kinds

of nonverbal cues, physical and prosodic, were found in NSCs’ performances. The physical

cues included gestures, which were categorised into iconic, deictic and metaphoric; posture,

which was primarily open; dressing, which connoted professionalism, costume or affiliation

with the audience; layout/space, which denoted NSCs’ superior conversational role; dance,

which mirrored participants-in-the-joke actions; and pauses, which could be a transitionrelevance

place pause or a non-transition-relevance place pause. Prosody was used to

articulate comedians’ attitudes and indicate different performance functions: a change in

pitch signalled a change in voice, accents were used for emphasising comedians’ focus,

whereas intonation enhanced the textuality and musicality of narrations. The NSCs

operationalized two contexts: context-in-the-joke and context-of-the-joke. The context-ofthe-

joke consisted in assumptions shared with the audience like shared knowledge of code,

shared situational knowledge, and shared cultural knowledge. By making mutually manifest

context-in-the-joke in the context-of-the-joke, they instantiated humour acts like

commencement, teasing, eliciting, reinforcement, appraisal and informing, which bifurcated

into self-praising and self-denigrating.

Nigerian stand-up comedians consciously design their humour strategies towards building a

positive society. There is, therefore, the need to harness the views projected in the jokes of

Nigerian stand-up comedians for national development.

Subscribe to access this work and thousands more
Overall Rating


5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star

FILANI, I (2021). Humour Strategies And Acts In Nigerian Stand-Up Comedy. Afribary. Retrieved from

MLA 8th

FILANI, IBUKUN "Humour Strategies And Acts In Nigerian Stand-Up Comedy" Afribary. Afribary, 22 Apr. 2021, Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.


FILANI, IBUKUN . "Humour Strategies And Acts In Nigerian Stand-Up Comedy". Afribary, Afribary, 22 Apr. 2021. Web. 23 Jul. 2024. < >.


FILANI, IBUKUN . "Humour Strategies And Acts In Nigerian Stand-Up Comedy" Afribary (2021). Accessed July 23, 2024.