As culturally sophisticated as Nigerians have become, when it comes to books, we have a boxed set of expectations that allows no room for curves, experiments or the unfamiliar.
Men of the 25 – 40 age bracket usually favour motivational books or the ones that preach speedy economics – “How to get Rich in 7 Days”, “How to be Born Poor and Die Rich”, “Why You Are not Rich Yet & What you are doing Wrong” amongst other titles.
Women of the same age bracket will read books about relationships or marriage that claims to teach them how to convert their philandering husband, boyfriend or significant other into a well-mannered partner whose eyes have lost the ability to rove and who can suddenly keep it in his pants.
Both groups, and those older and younger, will read fiction. Some will read fiction that teaches ‘morals’. Some will read things that filter into their consciousness either through social media or word of mouth. Most will read anything that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes.
What then to do with books that tick none of these boxes? It is not clear. In recent time, only one work has tossed out the rules on what a book should be and was still arguably commercially and critically successful. That book was London Life, Lagos Living by Bobo Omotayo. One must however note, the book owes much of its success not only to its content, but to its clever marketing and imagery- a bearded, faceless, bespectacled man wearing a cap on the cover; at the time, the epitome of cool (#beardgang, #raybangang) Everybody wanted a copy. Now another book is vying to go further, where London Life Lagos Living stopped.
Its name is ‘Humour According to Nigerians’, a first-of-its-kind documentation of crowd sourced humour and produced by a company that started its life as an Instagram account and later a website: www.funnyafrica.com
It is already too weird and funny to you isn’t it?
That’s exactly what the book wants you to do. Laugh. Out Loud. Hard. Till it hurts. Till you cry.
Humour According to Nigerians doesn’t answer to any rules. It doesn’t even set any of its own. But it is definitely a refreshing take on what a book should be. The seeds of the book were sown about three years ago when an Instagram account of funny pictures, memes and videos started. It was aptly called @funny_african_pictures. It collected everything African and funny from all around the continent (mostly from Nigeria) and in three years grew to a following of about half a million, one of the biggest African profiles online second only to wedding inspiration pages. The book is an extension of this funny destination that has helped grow a whole new industry – online comedy. Your Bolly Lomos, Oluwakaponeskis? You probably saw them on this account first.
Perhaps because the book is so loose, it’s hard to judge it. It is divided into Funny African Experiences, Funny Memes, Funny Illustrations, Funny Pictures and Funny Stories. 90% of its content is drawn from what it has shared online over the past three years. It’s an uncomplicated read. Flipping the pages is akin to going through your timeline on any social media platform. It’s more or less, for a spell, a timeline in your hands, rather than on the screen. The subjects its humour is directed at are diverse.
It first and foremost pokes humour at itself, the people on who it is based – Nigerians. It quite literally trolls hilarious experiences – in traffic, with a boss, between you and a girlfriend or boyfriend, with politicians, with our mothers & fathers, with entertainers; everyone is included and no one is spared. This is perhaps why the book may do well. It zeroes in on the uncanny Nigerian ability to make a joke out of every situation. Just on Twitter this week, a gentleman after lamenting that he had been in traffic for hours, wondered out loud via tweet if the traffic was a conspiracy by UAC Foods to sell more Gala. At first one thought it was silly. Upon as second read, noised gurgled at the back of my throat, my head bent backwards involuntarily, my mouth stretched wide, the edges, pinching, taut with Harmattan and I laughed. I kept going back to it and kept laughing. It’s these kinds of tweets and more than one finds in this book.
The book is also big on nostalgia. It recalls to memory how life was, decades ago when we lived with our parents and we were their assistants, car washers, gardeners, remote control pickers, shoe shiners, and just about every other errand they could think up for us.
Most importantly, the book is a great distraction and its release is timely too. When you’ve been in traffic for five hours, burning up the fuel you won’t see to replace, when you get home after been in traffic for so long, to be greeted by darkness, when your boss has announced the office is not closing for the year even though there’s little to do and one week off won’t kill the company, when your customers owing you money have chosen to collectively put their phones on silent mode throughout the holiday, when your lecturer is charging N10,000 for a five-page handout, when living in Nigeria is the thing around your neck that threatens to choke you, this is the book you need. To distract, to forget.
I daresay it makes a great Christmas gift too, that you can give yourself, and give others. Why?
Laughter is priceless. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
Humour According to Nigerians can be bought at TerraKulture, Jumia, Glendora (palms) & Cafe Neo