Layi Wasabi: The Subtle Genius of Nigerian Skit-Making
Layi’s comedy isn’t about selling outlandish scenarios or over-the-top antics. As the saying goes, “Those that f**k with Layi will rule over those who don’t.“
Chiedozie Oji Ude
●2nd October 2023
Skit-making in Nigeria is at its Golden Age. Business is booming and many entertainers are making an entrance into the industry. At first glance, eyebrows may be raised at the near-sudden opulence displayed by these entertainers, doubting if skit-making is actually the source of their wealth. However, one’s suspicions may be eroded after learning of the assertion of Nigerian skitmaker, Mr Funny (Oga Sabinus), contained in a Tribune exclusive, that reads, “Skit-making is the new oil.” Who would have thought that the skit making industry would turn into something huge considering its humble beginnings?
In an attempt to trace the history of skit-making in Nigeria, one would realise that the first set of skitmakers were merely people who were testing the waters, most likely with phone cameras. Perhaps, they might have been labelled jobless by an ignorant audience. While we cannot point out the first skitmakers outright, we can easily name CrazeClown and Ade as the first to go viral through their father and son parody, which left viewers in stitches. Nowadays, skits transcend mere entertainment as a lot of creators use this avenue to pass across special messages, comment on societal issues and also teach solid didactic lessons. For instance, when popular actor and skit maker, Mr Macaroni, rejects the suitors of his daughter (Motunde) in a particular episode, he is simply playing the role of a dutiful father who wants the best for his child.
With the current rave in the industry, it comes as no surprise that it is rapidly evolving. Those grainy, amateur videos that once littered social media platforms are rare to find as creators now invest heavily in videography. After all, one must take care of one’s source of wealth and fame. Nevertheless, in the midst of all the internet noise as regards skit making, one man, Layi Wasabi, stands out from the rest.
Despite his relative newcomer status, Layi Wasabi, who won the award for “Emerging Force of the Content Creating Industry” at the 2023 Trendupp Awards and has currently been shortlisted as part of the nominees for the 17th edition of The Future Awards Africa, is a comedic giant, both figuratively and literally.
Standing tall at 6.4 feet, you can easily spot him in a crowd of comedians like a giraffe at a penguin party. But it’s not just his height that makes him unique; it’s his comedy style. Layi’s comedy isn’t about selling outlandish scenarios or over-the-top antics. No, his genius lies in his astute observations of the mundane. When you watch a Layi Wasabi skit, it’s like reliving your own quirks and the quirks of life through a funhouse mirror. He zooms in on the moments that make us roll our eyes or shake our heads, and he magnifies them until they become laugh-out-loud funny. To put simply, it’s a shared experience turned inside out.
While others go all-in with sound effects, most specifically voice clips like Asari Dokubo’s timeless “You’re a mumu man” and Apostle Johnson Suleman’s “You’re a bad boy,” which were originally uttered in entirely unrelated contexts but have since been humorously repurposed to provoke laughter, Layi keeps things a little less noisy. His skits are marked by the total or near-total absence of exaggerated sound effects and slapsticks, which are replete in the works of many Nigerian creators. Layi Wasabi’s comedy derives its humour by being just witty and relatable. This, however, is not an indictment on comedians who employ slapsticks and exaggeration.
Moreover, Layi’s humour is so subtle that it is believed to invite rigorous critique where viewers are challenged to demonstrate their analytical skills in order to exhume it. Little wonder his skits are often the subjects of excessive analysis, whereby people task themselves to seek deeper layers of meaning even when Layi himself probably wanted to express something more basic. For instance, one Instagram user praised Layi for his brilliance in one of the skits titled “POV: Family Land.” He said, “By moving the camera backward and showing more of the scene and making him small, showing how isolated and afraid he is, is toptier.” Whether Layi meant this effect or not is unknown, but we can agree that it is perhaps this bookish feel of his comedy that makes some classify him as “not too funny.” The volume of agreeable responses and laughing emojis that pepper the comment sections of his social media uploads really invalidates the “not too funny” claims, though.
Of course, Layi Wasabi’s minimalist storytelling style shines through his skillful use of the Point of View (POV) technique. This approach involves capturing scenes from specific angles to establish a strong connection with the audience, blending comedy with authentic storytelling.
Often, a single character, typically played by Layi Wasabi himself, is sufficient to convey the intended message. He achieves a remarkable level of realism in portraying diverse characters, such as an irascible lawyer, a slick salesman, a corrupt police officer, or even a professor.
Through these portrayals and his uncanny ability to mimic the mannerisms of middle-aged Yoruba civil servants, usually the people he has met while growing up in Osogbo, Layi Wasabi creates content that resonates with an audience that can readily identify with his characters. As viewers, we are familiar with these personas, which makes the humour in his work all the more relatable.
Certainly, Layi Wasabi’s impact on the skit-making scene in Nigeria is undeniable. While he may not be the originator of the POV technique, he currently plays a pivotal role in popularising this approach. Many content creators on social media, such as Gilmore and Aderonke now embrace this style. Some even go the extra mile to emulate Layi’s content. For example, Twitter influencer Smallie once recreated Layi’s parody of how Nigerian police officers harass content creators. While there were some online criticisms as regards the mimicking of Layi’s content, we cannot ignore the fact that these creators are inspired by Layi’s genius. As Japanese literary critic Hideo Kobayashi aptly put it, “Imitation is the mother of invention.”
In all, Layi Wasabi has proven that one need not enlist exaggerated sound effects and actions to be considered funny. Layi does things differently. Through his unique style and relatable characters, he has shown that genuine humour can be found in the everyday, and that, in itself, is a testament to his creative brilliance. As the saying goes, “Those that f**k with Layi will rule over those who don’t.“
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