Digital Comedy’s Fight against Police Brutality, Looting

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On the heels of the End SARS protests, the recurring message against police brutality and mass looting in digital comedy content by Nigerian creatives has become very hard to ignore, writes Yinka Olatunbosun

A whole new chapter is born with the influx of digital comedy into the Nigerian cinema culture of the 21st century. History is being rewritten by a new generation of screenwriters, video directors, producers, editors and other creative thinkers in evolving a socially-conscious body of digital content that tackles front-burner issues in Nigeria.

A quick point of reference is the #EndSARS movement that generated a lot ofnoise as well as creative content online. From photography manipulation to lampooning, the creatives have a no-holds barred approach to projecting their messages through the new media platforms.

Mostly available on social media platforms, digital comedy has become even more popular in the era of restrictions on social gatherings owing to the regulations set to contain Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of these digital comedy videos are usually less than 10 minutes using simple plot with characters that are societal archetypes. Characters are mostly predictable. And the production is of a low-budget with less spent on costumes, props and location.

One of the popular skits are produced by Broda Shaggy, Falz,Officer Woos, Mr Macaroni and many established stand-up comedians have adopted the tradition of digital comedy skits.Bovi, AY, Warri Pikin and many more have explored this medium to showcase their artistry as many live audiences are staying safe at home.

Long before the outrage against police brutality erupted into street protests, the digital comedy had become a disruptive phenomenon in film content production.The content became more relevant to societal issues when the artists behind them found their voices. Asides the rich rewards of brand endorsements and adverts, these internet stars have enjoyed so much followership online that some of their cast have attempted to make their own independent productions.

Undoubtedly, the duo of Broda Shaggy and Officer Woos had blazed the trail in this aspect. For one, they had mimicked the Nigeria police’s often crude methods of fishing out criminals from innocent drivers or taxi passengers. Though ludicrous, their portrayals are truthful and sometimes, the stories end in a humiliation of the unprofessional police officer or imposter.

With Mr Macaroni, comedy is a very serious business. His scripts, whether written or unwritten are crisp, ending with the right climax. Mr Macaroni, in the comedy skit titled, “E Fit Be You” loses his son to brutality by SARS operatives, while stating that the same situation could happen to anyone else.

In another skit by Shaggy Studios with the same title, Broda Shaggy accosts a neighbour who had taken part in mass looting of a warehouse. Their conversation was suddenly interrupted by a call- the neighbour’s mother has fainted after receiving the news that her shop had been looted. The message of caution for the citizenry was loud and clear.

Mr Macaroni’s digital comedy, as well as those of others, also morphed into a tool for civil engagement. Not only did thevideos teach civil responsibilities, they also serve as a means of national reorientation. Perhaps, the best that can happen to this development in digital video production is to set up grants, workshops and organise international exchange programmes.

These digital content creatives may also be the part of the solution to police brutality if they engage real police officers to act or be part of the production as crew members. This can be the best therapy for them instead of committing them into psychiatric homes or disguising them as new recruits into other para-military units. In the end, the widening gap between the police and the public that they are trained to protect can be bridged using the least suspected art form- digital comedy.