By Goke Ilesanmi
Nigerians are very creative. Some years ago, foreign music held our airwaves hostage. But today, local music has taken over and the industry is growing. The comedy/emcee segment of the entertainment industry is growing too. We now have many “talented” comedians and emcees offering great entertainment. Entertainment is critical to effective communication. As I once said, it is difficult to achieve effective communication without entertainment. Keeping your audience entertained is critical to being able to get their full attention while disseminating your information. This explains why corporate organisations now engage the services of stand-up comedians at their events in Nigeria.
To minimise cost in some instances, those who can function as emcee/comedian are often engaged. Today, organisations now need more than just the two-in-one emcee/comedian, but emcee/motivational/intellectual/comical speaker (four-in-one) to offer audience all-inclusive entertainment. This is because some members of the audience may not be in the mood for conventional humour except by motivational and intellectual entertainment. The emcee/motivational/intellectual/comical speaker is somebody who can professionally coordinate proceedings, tell jokes and psychologically and intellectually motivate the audience, thus carrying everybody along.
Toastmasters International standards
Toastmasters International that trains people on effective public speaking, including coordination of social events says modern-day corporate emcees for instance, must be professionals who can offer motivational, intellectual and comical entertainment in addition to the major emcee requirement of oratorical competence. To entrench this all-round entertainment, Toastmasters International ensures that its certified members go through courses in motivational speech, intellectual development and (corporate) humour delivery guidelines, among others. Toastmasters International condemns ignorant use of off-colour, intellectually-valueless or abusive jokes in a corporate setting by non-professional emcees or comedians, all in a bid to entertain the audience.
Nigeria’s standard assessment
The fact that one has natural ability to speak in public is not enough to just start without learning professional skills that will boost one’s competence. But this is very common here in Nigeria. Against the background of the Toastmasters International requirements for modern-day corporate comedians and emcees, it is a reality that a lot of training still needs to be done by Nigerian corporate comedians and emcees to become not just “talented” but “professional”. Talent alone cannot ensure competence without professional skills of delivery that can be acquired through standard professional training or through reading good books on comedy or event coordination as emcees. The question is, does the fact that one has passion for security matters make one a professional security personnel that automatically carries arms? No. But this is what obtains in the comedy/emcee business here in Nigeria. That is why you see comedians and emcees ignorantly making audience the subject of their offensive jokes. That is why you see them laughing midway into their own jokes even when audience members have not smiled. That is why they ignorantly use highly blasphemous religious jokes or do negative tribal jokes on tribes that they do not belong to. That is why most of them do (satirical) jokes against those that have invited them to perform because they did not do their audience analysis beforehand. That is why emcees that are supposed to be timekeepers turn themselves to chief or keynote speakers and waste time on frivolities. That is why comedians trade accusations and counter-accusations on theft of jokes.
Accusations and counter-accusations
If you are a trained speaker, there is no way you will steal anybody’s jokes. This is because you will know how to develop jokes in different areas of knowledge through your training’s intellectual development module. I was invited by the Cross River State NYSC as joint Keynote Speaker on Friday, 20th May, 2011 to address corps members. At the dinner of the programme at Transcorp Metropolitan Hotel, Calabar, one of the comedians invited was asking if the D.J. had the CD of the Single Ladies song. He wanted to reproduce a popular dance-reinforced joke belonging to another comedian.
Corporate comedy and emcee business is just like journalism. You need to be versatile in different areas of knowledge. This becomes imperative because your corporate jokes must be appropriate for the occasion and audience. They must be relevant. They must have lessons or be serio-comic in most cases. So, corporate comedy goes beyond JUST making people laugh. For instance, how would a bank invite you as a corporate comedian or emcee and you will start telling an over-used joke about how your parents were poor when you were young or how somebody suffering from diarrhoea rushed to the toilet and started threatening the person inside to come out or be shot? The joke maybe funny to a layman, but a professional speaker will score it zero because it is inappropriate for the occasion and irrelevant to the audience. A serio-comic joke whose lesson stresses importance of banking would have been better for the audience here.
Assessment of experience and skills
Early this year, a highly-respected comedian told a joke on phone during a phone-in programme on a radio station based in Lagos, which confirms that professional skills are critical. The presenter was praying for him on phone for granting him audience. He (the presenter) asked if the comedian was not closing his eyes for the prayer and also driving. Instead of answering Yes or No, the comedian just said “But (name withheld) has a car”. He actually mentioned the name of a popular celebrity that has a natural sight problem. I shook my head in disgust. Later, a man that also has a natural sight problem called from Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos to condemn the disability-mocking joke. The radio station apologised.
It is heartwarming that many people are now engaged in the entertainment industry as comedians and emcees instead of being jobless. But there is need for them to undergo professional training so as to get well skilled instead of ignorantly deploying raw talent.
PS: For those making inquiries about our Public Speaking, Business Presentation and Professional Writing Skills programme, please visit the website indicated on this page for details. Till we meet on Monday.
GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Certified Public Speaker/MC, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker and Career Management Coach. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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