Linguistics student Idowu Jacob Adetomokun from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) did his Master’s degree research on the performances of Noah and Gola, and Atunyota Akporobomeriere (“Ali Baba”) and Bright Okpocha (“Basket Mouth”) from Nigeria.
He wanted to explore “the trajectories of semiotic resources that the comedians used across modes, contexts and practices”.
“I also trace the translation and interpretation of socio-cultural and political materials by South African and Nigerian stand-up comedians’ performances”, he said in the abstract of his thesis.
“The topic has never been researched before and what interested me is how they convey a message through to their audience using laughter,” he said.
Adetomokun’s thesis is called “Exploring Semiotic Remediation in Performances of Stand-up Comedians in Post-apartheid South Africa and Post-colonial Nigeria”.
“They are very popular comedians and that’s what motivated me to focus on them. They have a coy way in which they tell something to their audiences and make something serious sound funny,” he said.
The thesis focuses on a range of topics that compare comedy to people’s everyday lives, and explores inconsistencies with religion. According to his research, “comedians do touch on religion, possibly because they find relevant materials to satirise in the idea of religion and religious adherents”.
Adetomokun also picks up on psychological problems that contribute to comedians.
He looks too at skits that focus on terrorism and police brutality, and how the comedians form these into something satirical, and he manages to trace the translation and interpretation of socio-cultural and political materials.