The perks of the internet are many, and so are its downsides. Today, the internet is more accessible than it has ever been, providing access to large amounts of information and different opportunities to connect with people across the world. Social media, as a result of this accessibility, has quickly become an integral part of our day-to-day lives. With the rise of platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, more people are turning to social media as a powerful tool for communication and self-expression. Social media has become the go-to platform for content creators alike to showcase their creativity and successfully make a living by sharing their content on social media. However, the abundance of people sharing content on social media and seeking a large following has resulted in a lack of originality.
One of the quickest ways to go viral on social media is through comedy. From one hit tweet to a few quick sketches, humour continues to be the leading random-user-to-viral pipeline. Most comedians on social media ditch the traditional stand-up acts for which veteran comedians like Basketmouth, Bovi, Ali Baba, Gordons and I Go Dye reigned supreme in the past. In the beginning, comics like Craze Clown and Tega, the hilarious father and son duo made fans laugh in the 15 seconds Instagram originally allotted videos. Now users can upload videos as long as 2 minutes on the app, meaning skits are longer, with more people involved and complex storylines that are, frankly, sometimes hard to follow.
In the multitude of funny guys that have taken over social media, one subsection stands out – male comedians who dress up as women for jokes. Comedians like Kenzy Udosen, Jay On Air and Steve Chuks among many others often put out bits where they dress up like women in a bid to be funny. What is most interesting about these bits nonetheless, is that most times, nothing seems to be happening, other than them just being women. These comedians make exaggerated dramatizations of day-to-day activities women are involved in, like dressing up for an occasion, or interactions with a friend, and elicit such raucous laughter in their comment section that makes one wonder if the joke flew right over their heads.
Employing femininity as a costume for comedy is a lazy, unimaginative direction for any comedian to take, particularly considering the wealth of influences to choose from. Dressing up as a woman and making a mockery of their mannerisms is not inherently funny. Making a joke out of someone’s appearance or mannerisms can be offensive and reinforce harmful stereotypes. A lot of these skits portray women as gossips, nags, and even hateful people to the agreement of many people on social media. Since there is no implicit connection between gender and humour, and many male comedians excel at comedy without dressing like women, then why do men still feel the need to do so? What is so hilarious about a woman going about her day-to-day activities? If a woman walked into a room wearing a dress, would you burst into hysterical laughter? So why is it so funny when men do it? For as long as the world can remember, women have been placed under intense scrutiny, with a proper way to do everything including sit, eat and talk. Why do men feel the need to further heighten the unsolicited observation by portraying women for laughs? Many people who find comedic mockery of women funny would react rather negatively if their mannerisms are compared to that of a woman, in fact, one of the most popular insults in Nigerian society to date remains “why you dey do like woman?”
It is unlikely that crossdressing for the sake of comedy will go away anytime soon, but it remains important that we question harmful stereotypes. While simply laughing at the concept of being “a woman,” structural inequalities and patriarchal principles of women being less than men are reinforced. Gender fluidity does not give you a pass to make women the brunt of your jokes, especially when said fluidity does not extend beyond the lines of comedy. If you have to dress up like a woman or make fun of women to be funny, then maybe you are not funny at all.