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Title: Humour Strategies and Acts in Nigerian Stand-Up Comedy
Authors: Filani, I. O.
Keywords: Nigerian stand-up comedy
Humour acts
Humour strategies
Issue Date: 2016
Abstract: 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 conceptualized 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 transition relevance 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-of the- 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
Description: A Thesis in the Department of English Submitted to the Faculty of Arts in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Ibadan
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