YAWA SKITS: A COMEDIC MIRROR OF THE SOCIETY — Adeola Juwon

You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss hold the America’s Cup, France is accusing the U.S. of arrogance, Germany doesn’t want to go to war, and the three most powerful men in America are named “Bush”, “Dick”, and “Colin.” Need I say more?” ― Chris Rock

 

Comedy has always been my favourite artistic expression, even though I have no talents for it. The comedian intrigues me. His perception, his keen observation of life in its myriad shades, his ability to draw humour out of dark life experience and make a joke, a message out of it. The comedian brings meaning out of the mundane and makes extraordinary events sound mundane.

 

Although we can’t confine art into a single purpose, beyond its beatific and entertainment purpose, art, genuine art that has a soul, must be able to reflect meaning. Some people do and enjoy art solely for entertainment, but I believe art should be like a two-edged sword, entertaining yet giving both the creator and the receptor a reason to search their soul.

Tragically, we live in a time where the didactic value of art is almost lost. We have nothing left but entertainment. Not that this is bad, but you only need to go to your social media page to see the kind of society that has resulted from this.

 

For all the controversies it steered, Dave Chappelle’s life Netflix special, The Closer, will persist in my memory as comedy in its most glorious form. Keenly observational. Unapologetically offending in its expression of the comedian’s truth, yet not lacking in depth and humour. At the end of over an hour-long comedy, I was left in a mood for reflection.

 

There is also Ray Wood Jr’s Imperfect Messenger, which explored race and life with the two-edged sword of wits and humour.

This is the kind of comedy I love. And this is why I’ve been a fan of YAWA comedy series from day one.

 

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Today, the Nigerian entertainment space is crowded with a lot of comedy skit makers, giving rise to an era of Instagram and YouTube comedians, a departure from the stand-up era. And though the skit making industry has given rise to a lot of popular names, none of them can boast of the longevity of YAWA nor the beautiful interpretation of characters, humour, and satiric expression that YAWA boasts of.

 

I started watching the Kassim Braimah creation back in 2015. Then, the clownish character, Boma, Kalistus’ partner in mischief was yet to be created. It was just Kalistus, a one-man thespian, running into troubles and mischief alone.

 

What drew me to YAWA is the relatability of every Kalistus’ experience. I see Kalistus in my brothers and friends in the ghetto: able-bodied young men rendered almost useless because of the biting economy winter of the country. Like Kalistus, these young men can’t stay idle, so they make their daily living running one scheme or the other, often dubious, often criminal, but one thing remains the motivation, and that is hunger.

 

The first episode of YAWA went live on April 3, 2014. The title was Man Must Chop. Kalistus, a hungry poor man, stood at the front of a buka with empty pockets but went away hungrily. In the next scene, he was in the market when he saw a madman snatch a piece of bread and made away with it. A mad man is not answerable to any law, both the laws of God and men. The madmen in the market became a motivation for Kalistus. By the next scene, he was dressed like a madman, getting away stealing free food until he was caught. Kalistus never escapes the karma of his mischief.

 

On scene, this may seem farfetched. But I grew up in Oko Oba, a ghetto like Kubwa in Abuja where YAWA is shot, and I’ve seen worse.

This theme, this mirroring of the conditions of the average Nigerian youths, is a constant in YAWA to this date.

 

Kalistus’ embodiment of mischief is sublime. But he wasn’t even an actor when he started playing Kalistus in YAWA, but the director and creator, Kassim Braimah, not only has talents for good angles, he also can see the raw talent that fits the character in his mind, refine and nurture that talent into blossom.

 

Man Must Chop, the first episode of YAWA, was supposed to be a short film, a onetime shot, but the street, the society, is an ocean of inspiration for the comedian, and Kassim Braimah, eyes keen in observation, mind sharp in interpretation, laps into this ocean of materials to birth episodes upon episodes. And yet the characters and the stories remain fresh like a daisy. We laugh at the mischief of Kalistus, we gasp at the length desperation drives him to, but see him in us and us in him, and this is comedy fulfilling the multiplicities of its purpose.

 

YAWA has been running for seven years, and with every challenge it has faced, be it low budget or casting, it has overcome with innovation and creativity. But the director and producer, Kassim, has his eyes set for a loftier future still, one that involves collaborating with Netflix and other big shots—and this is well deserving.

 

Kalistus has been joined by Boma—clownish in appearance, simple in speech, ever waiting for Boma to come up with mischievous ideas. And there is Philo, their female third wheel. Their acts remind one of Key and Peele of Comedy Central, brilliance, humour, satire brought to life with brilliant acting.

***

We seem to be seeing a new drive of creativity in the Nigerian comedy industry today, one that is neither educative nor entertaining; one that doesn’t mirror society, critique it or humour the individual. And because of this, they fell on the judgemental sword of time, many fading into oblivion as soon as they start. But what has given YAWA its longevity in such a space is the originality of its content, the depth of the stories and the brilliance with which the actors interpret their characters.

 

YAWA has been a comedic mirror of society. Like the name, YAWA (Trouble) implies, it is an exploration of the absurdity of life in Nigeria, the mess, the chaos, and everything in between. It is comedy in its most exalted form.

 

 

 

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One Response to “YAWA SKITS: A COMEDIC MIRROR OF THE SOCIETY — Adeola Juwon”

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Not leaving a comment is a dis-service to the author. Brilliant! Brilliant!! I have seen every single available episode of Dave Chappelle act on Netflix. This man is a masterpiece. The fact that I could also relate to your analysis of the YAWA series shows kindred spirit! I wish more people see this and get to enjoy this piece you’ve written.

Great work!

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