10, 15 years ago, no one would have believed that there would be a trend called “Instagram Comedians” who would sweep through the industry like a sandstorm in the north. But it did happen and we all but have social media to thank for this liberalization.
So it was that about the time the standup comedy industry in Nigeria began to gather momentum, one was not well regarded as having become mainstream if you are yet to feature in Opa Williams’ Nite of a Thousand Laugh; the standup comedy show that was the darling of the industry then. The shows were held mostly in Lagos, with the organizers moving to some other places like Port Harcourt, Enugu, Owerri, Abuja etc. After each show, the recorded version of how the event went was then mass produced and sold in the market, for comedy lovers who can’t afford to make it down to the venue to watch in the comfort of their homes.
It was this platform that birthed the likes of Basket Mouth, Okey Bakassi, Tee A, Omo Baba Number 1, Koffi, Julius Agwu, I Go Die, Gordons, Buchi, Dan De Humorous, Maleke, I Go Save, Bovi, Teju Babyface and numerous other stars that emerged within that period. AY was also to break out with AY Live, featuring a newer school of comedians, while Julius Agwu tried but could not sustain his Crack Ya Ribs show. Basket Mouth floated Lord of the Ribs and these competitions all but made Opa Williams to step aside, in frustration, at the proliferation of standup comedy shows.
What was the matter with Opa? One would ask. Opa was simply suffering from monopoly syndrome. He wanted it to be only him that would own such platforms. That was why he couldn’t stand to measure up with the newcomers and had to leave the scene. But we have Opa Williams to thank for Nigeria’s huge achievement in the standup comedy industry. Today’s comedians should jointly honour him for paving the way when it seemed practically impossible to achieve, and now, Nigeria has an avalanche of comedians that are shaking the nation and beyond and we should all but look back in gratitude to Opa for having the courage to start this journey and Nigerian comedians, even at the risk of hackneyed repetition and plagiarism of one another, have not disappointed us in the depth they have reached in mining jokes from the well-pool of Nigeria’s socio-cultural and political occurrences.
To be continued
This article was written by Ifesinachi Nwadike