Prof. Wole Soyinka, Akpororo, Eboh Bomb, Omo Baba, and the art of self-ridicule

The first is Nigeria’s word pride. A master of English language in its most exquisite form, whether spoken or written. And a Nobel Laureate to boot.  The other three are successful humour merchants of the pidgin variety. And elevators of the art of self-ridicule.

Prof Wole Soyinka has since moved away from making humour out of self-ridicule. Here is why: the recent widely circulated incident involving him and a passenger on one of the more popular domestic airlines in which the much younger man asked him to leave his seat, was a golden opportunity for Prof to serve some humour using self-ridicule but he declined the offer. Look what Nigeria has done to our dear Prof!

He was not always like this. At his first social meeting as a fresher in the University College, Ibadan, in 1952, he introduced himself by reciting the ballad of a man who was about to be hanged. Of all things that a fresher at Nigeria’s only university at the time would have on his/her mind! A couple of months later, the playwright in him pushed out his first offering. It was something many people regarded as a crazy skit. He called it, ‘The Cocktail Party.’ Himself, Pius Oleghe, Ralph Opara and Ben Obumselu, made the presentation over a local radio.

After his inter BA Examinations, as it was called in those days, he proceeded to the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, in 1954. But he maintained close contacts with his friends, back home at the University. In fact, he used to get angry when he did not receive up-to-date gist about goings-on in Ibadan from them. He got angry because he was always sending over his own gist from Leeds. In one of his letters to the Students Union, he told the story of a girl that kept gazing at him. She would not look away. Seeing possibilities for a date, and convinced he had a chance with the girl, he approached her. Only for her to tell him that she had been wondering how many ordinary noses could be made from his nose! He had no qualms sharing such encounters. Those were the days when Prof Soyinka got a kick from persons who took themselves too seriously.

Enter Akpororo, Eboh Bomb and Omo Baba, gentlemen who have stayed long in comedy, enabling humour out of self-ridicule. For years, they have entertained fans chiefly by ridiculing their looks, their parents, their ‘famously poor upbringing,’ and more. They continue to work and rework many of their jokes depending on the audience.

Humour from self-ridicule has made them comfortable and famous, and successfully defended them from mischievous fans who like to throw jabs at stand-up acts. To wit that if the stand-up acts ridicule themselves, mischievous fans would have no power over them if they resort to catcalls or any such thing.

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