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Nigeria’s Social Media Comedians Are Making Laughter Pay

For many, it started out as a hobby or a lark, but posting funny skits to social media has proven to be a pathway to stardom for a number of Nigerian comedians. With access to an international audience, some funny Nigerians are seeing their videos go viral and followers skyrocket. In the age of influencers, this newfound fame is translating into deals and dollars. Growing up in Lagos, Koye Kekere-Ekun wanted to be a footballer. While working at a law firm in 2013, he acted on a random idea that changed everything. “I just posted a video of myself imitating this Indian Canadian comedian, Russell Peters … And at the time, I guess my followers responded to it — they liked it,” he said. Now with more than 100,000 followers across Twitter and Instagram, his videos, usually laced with dry humor, sometimes go viral. You’ll most likely catch Ope Keshinro in the studio, anchoring her lifestyle radio show, but in 2020, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the forced period of lockdown in Nigeria pushed the radio presenter to try something new. “There was a video trending on Twitter at the time. It was in Yoruba [a West African dialect]. And then I saw people making their own versions of the video. I thought to myself ‘this is easy.’ I downloaded TikTok, picked up the audio, acted it out, and posted it.” Tobi Olubiyi wanted to be many things: a drummer, a lawyer, a scientist. He eventually ended up studying adult education instead. While at the University of Ibadan, in southwest Nigeria, Olubiyi experimented with music and dance. But it was a tongue twister on social media that introduced him to the world of content creation.