In the occasion of the Easter holidays we at fairafric would like to address a very special topic: The development of the Ghanaian comedy scene and its probably most important event: The Easter Comedy Show. Especially on holy days like Easter, there are culture-dependent traditions and rituals. In Ghana, for example, the topic of comedy has a very high significance in the Easter period. An even higher one, than it already has in general. So this is an opportunity to take a closer look at the current state of this industry, which is so popular in Ghana.
Easter Comedy Show and its importance
The Easter Comedy Show is one of the most important events of the year in Ghana. In a big show, which takes place every year during the Easter time in Accra, renowned comedians give themselves the door handle.
One of the highlights last year was the performance of comedian Jephthah “Akpororo” Bowoto. He had taken it especially to heart to get the audience out of their seats. Besides singing, he challenged a spectator on stage to a dance duel.
Beside Akpororo, heavyweights of the scene like OB Amponsah, Senator, Hogan and Waris were performing.
This year there will unfortunately be no Easter Comedy Show because of COVID-19. But if you are curious how this event looks like, you can watch a popular part from the 2019 show here:
Ghanaian humor in general
But what exactly defines the typical Ghanaian humour?
A typical and popular joke in Ghana is for instance “They said it couldn’t be done. “They said I would never become an entire African country. But im Ghana be “
Jokes should be as simple as possible and yet playful, which is why word games are often used, as seen in the example.
The Ghanaian people are proud of their sense of humour. It is widespread among the population and it is considered a balm for the soul to laugh about everything. Even grievances in society like political corruption are laughed away, which shows that the typical Ghanaian uses humour to get out of many uncomfortable situations. The saying “laughter is the best medicine” is probably true for hardly any other nation as it is for Ghana. Even in times of pain, for example in the economically very difficult years after independence, the people never gave up their smile and gained the reputation of being a society which is labelled with the sign of friendliness.
Development of the comedy scene in Ghana
The comedy scene in Ghana has been seriously neglected over the years. Many reasons are given for this situation of coma. There are not enough facilities, hardly any government support and funding, a negative attitude of the audience towards this profession to the point of insecurity. It has created a situation in which trained theatre artists have to try to make a living in other professions, which has a negative impact on the theatre industry.
From general entertainment which includes television, radio, music, film, cinema, video, drama and theatre, stand-up comedy has been a major attraction to Ghana’s huge and enterprising industry over the last 20 years. The entertainment industry has grown steadily and comedy has been a welcome alternation between music and film, which has been abundant. The few who initially ventured into the “clowning act” and endured the whole initial period picked up the rewards. These “first-class” stand-up comic acts received invitations to events, and little by little their reputation and attention increased. Consequently, the market began to grow. No wonder then that the will to bring more fun and finesse to TV shows, parties, ceremonies and even concerts led to the rise and development of the genre of stand-up comedy in Ghana.
It is a well-known reality that there have always been stand-up comedians in Ghana in the form of village speakers, especially on festive occasions. They usually add colour to social events and contribute to the admiration of those who gather for such events. Donations in the form of money are part of this, as this is a way of showing them respect and expressing one’s own appreciation. Sometimes they even ask for money and threaten to stop speaking unless someone fulfils this request. A ceremony or party was only considered a success when a comedian made people laugh and spiced up what was often considered a dry program.
A traditional ceremony in Ghana
Challenges of the industry
Like any other industry, the comedy business in Ghana has its challenges. These include, among others: finance, venues, sponsorship, negative perception, social media and the recycling of jokes. It is necessary to take a quick look at some of the issues.
The organization of a good show does not come cheap. An optimistic estimate for a good comedy show, for example, would be about 200,000 Ghs, which is about 32,000 Euros. Unfortunately, due to these high event costs, there is hardly any way to recoup these costs through ticket sales. Most comedy shows consist of at least five stand-ups and three popular musicians*, some of whom do not charge a fee to support their fellow artists*, who then return the favour.
It is also incredibly difficult to book affordable venues for shows. Statistics show that it costs between 3,000 and 5,000 Ghs (i.e. up to 800 EUR) to rent the Accra International Conference Centre or the National Theatre, Ghana. In addition, a deposit of at least 1,000 Ghs is required, making a total of 6,000 Ghs. This would be nice at just under 960 EUR, which is a lot of money, not only in Ghana. The only logical option for many organizers is to get corporate sponsors for shows. But this is not easy for Ghanaian companies, because they have to see their own advantage clearly.
For women, the biggest challenge is that the industry is seen as a male dominated industry. They are thus seen as “intruders” into a “man’s world”, which means that female comedians have to work very hard to earn the acceptance and respect of their male colleagues.
4.meaning of social media
Comedians today have to deal with the latest developments in the global marketplace – the Internet and the global mobile service (GSM). This means that jokes and acts are on the rise on platforms such as Facebook or YouTube, are rapidly gaining popularity in social media and thus threaten the business of stand-up comedians. Jokes about the mentioned platforms such as Facebook, which have some features similar to those of stand-up comedians, are in abundance and more easily accessible on blogs, websites and Facebook pages, for example.
5.recycling of jokes
Another problem is that comedians recycle jokes, so it has become very difficult for some stand-up comedians* to actually be authentic or really make the audience laugh. Some of them have tried to justify their lack of talent by saying that if some people don’t laugh at their jokes, it’s not because their jokes are dry and not funny, but because the audience has intellectual problems understanding the jokes. This clearly shows that some comedians in Ghana sometimes try too hard to be funny instead of being really funny.
International Conference Centre in Accra
“I’m very, very happy with the state of comedy. Now there is a whole variety of people and they are doing extremely well” – KSM
Until a few years ago, parts of the media in Ghana claimed that Ghanaian comedians were not funny and that people therefore preferred comedians from other African countries. At a time when Nigerian comedians became the main actors in the comedy scene of the Ghanaian market, it was very difficult for Ghanaian comedians to be accepted. After the era of slapstick comedy some young comedians started to do comedy in English. There was David Oscar Foster Romanus and Percy What they did, however, was not entirely new; Tommy Annan Forson , Kweku Sintim Misa/KSM and a few others have been around with the idea before.
“Like it or not Ghana comedy has come to stay!” – Foster Romanus
But David Oscar and his colleagues were not well-liked. They couldn’t impress the ordinary Ghanaian who was used to Nigerian comedy. But this did not discourage the Ghanaian comedians. David Oscar and his colleagues accepted the challenge and continued to organise their own shows to prove to people that they can do it. Today Ghana can boast of having some pretty good comedians, including OB Amponsah , Clemento Suarez , Jacinta , Lekzy DeComic , DKB , Comedian Waris and some others. The Ghanaian comedians are now travelling to Nigeria and can inspire whole events with hundreds of visitors. The organizers have gained a certain confidence in the Ghanaian comedians that they can be booked and still get positive feedback from the audience. Most of these stand-ups have added sketches to their performances to make them more lively.
It is no exaggeration to say that the industry has changed from a state of “nothing” to a hopeful state of “something”, with many of the comedians becoming more and more established and developing. Furthermore, Charter House’s contribution to the creation of a real platform, the “Night of a Thousand Laughs”, which provides a dynamic breeding ground for budding stand-up comedians, cannot be overstated.