“Laughter is the best medicine,” they say, and it was with great anticipation that I entered the bustling film house cinema in Twin Waters Lagos to watch the premiere of Teetotaler, a comedy special just acquired by the global streaming giant Netflix. As the crowd settled into their seats, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the comedy genius of the night, the presence of industry stars that graced the event ignited an atmosphere of exhilaration. Then it began. 

“2020 was a very scary year for most of us. The lockdown was first of all sweet… People were watching Netflix to the extent of developing accents… I watched Netflix, and I bastardized it. I watched Netflix to the extent that ehn, Netflix started sending me job opportunities. Mr Salako, are you aware Dano is recruiting?

It was also the first time hearing about things like nose masks…Someone was selling a mask of Damask. Why will you do the mask of Damask? Are we from Syria why you wan Damascus?”

A resounding applause rents the air with these opening lines from one of Nigeria’s artful entertainers, Olu Salako, popularly known as SLK or Brother Wasiu, at the premiere of his sophomore comedy special, Teetotaler’, on Netflix Global.

Although I was partly unfamiliar with SLK’s craft, I had heard his mantra “Omo re bi custard, you are not a bastard” being used by many people. But the remarkable performance and overall experience of the premiere night turned me into a devoted fan.

SLK’s Teetotaler showcases his ability to skillfully address a wide range of topics, including sensitive ones like child molestation, suicide, feminism, politics, monarchy, and the complexities of the single life. He adeptly weaves humour into these subjects, taking a lighthearted approach. As expansive and vibrant as the Nigerian comedy industry is, this is not a mastery you see often.  

His repertoire ranged from several clever wordplays ( do not leave me moments) to hilarious anecdotes, capturing the essence of everyday life with a humorous twist. SLK’s comedic prowess shone throughout the 1hr 24 mins comedy special as he effortlessly delivered one joke after another, showcasing his sharp wit and impeccable timing. There were so several highlights from his comedy, and like many others, I was spellbound for the entirety of the event. I couldn’t help but wonder how he flawlessly executed his comedy transitions. At one point, I found myself questioning if it was all scripted, rehearsed or simply his natural comedic brilliance.

Addressing my curiosity during his interview on AriseTV, he stated. “I draw inspiration from things around me and try to embellish most of my jokes from truthful observations. I try to make it as relatable as possible. One of the major features of stand-up comedy is making jokes out of serious issues. It is social commentary, so I try to express myself. Sometimes I have a true opinion on topics, play the devil’s advocate, and sometimes bring out the funny side. Whichever way the joke swings, I follow. If you want more than this, you have to enrol in my masterclass, and I will charge you for that.”

Lest I forget, the production of the event was phenomenal. The lighting played a significant role in conveying emotions, transitioning from the celebratory tone during the praise singer’s energetic moves to a sombre and melancholic tone that reflected his uncle’s demise.

The premiere was not only a testament to SLK’s comedic prowess, but also a reflection of his widespread appeal, even amongst his peers. The event attracted a plethora of renowned celebrities adding an extra layer of excitement and glamour to the night. 

SLK is not alien to the entertainment game and he has been a notable contributor to the dynamic landscape of Nigerian entertainment. As an actor, he has featured in various movies and TV series including ‘Hustle’, ‘It’s Her Day’ produced by Bovi and more recently the Netflix original, ‘Becoming Abi’. He also showcases his talent as a skit maker through his entertaining ‘Boda Wasiu’ skits. In all his doings, he has continued to captivate audiences with his talent. 

For a night where laughter reigned supreme, there is no doubt SLK’s comedy special premiere was a resounding success. 

Success beyond borders. 

The Nigerian comedy industry has undergone a remarkable transformation, and it is fascinating to witness its evolution over time. From the awe-inspiring era of strictly stand-up comedy to the current disruptive age of skits, the industry has embraced change and adapted to new dimensions. Notably, even the long-standing tradition of stand-up comedy has evolved and expanded, reaching the point where platforms like Netflix are now acquiring and showcasing it. 

SLK’s Teetotaler does not exist in a silo, and it joins the growing list of Nigerian comedians like Kenny Blaq and AY, whose comedy specials have been acquired by Netflix. The trio now stands alongside renowned international comedians such as Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, and Trevor Noah, whose comedy specials have also found a home on Netflix.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the streaming giant’s comedy specials were massively popular and so successful that half of Netflix’s 150 million subscribers watched a stand-up special in 2018 alone. While we may not have exact figures on the current viewership of comedy specials, there are over 232 million paid Netflix subscribers worldwide. It is safe to assume the growing number would have also spiked the viewership of comedy specials. 

This is particularly important for Nigeria, which has been on the frontline of exporting African culture to a global audience. This time, the comedy industry presents itself yet as another innovative avenue for exporting the African culture and content at large. Through a humorous lens, content from SLK’s and other players in the industry, showcased on streaming platforms like Netflix, offers listeners, whether familiar or unfamiliar with Nigeria, an insight into the country’s unique character, traditions and experiences as a Nigerian. 

And if this content receives positive reception, it could certainly encourage Netflix to continue investing in comedy specials and consider purchasing more content from other comedians. In the space of 6 years, the company has invested a total of $107 million in sub-Saharan Africa. Netflix’s revenue from sub-Saharan Africa is expected to double by 2026, and deals like this are one of its safest bets to surpass this goal. 

Netflix’s decisions on purchasing comedy specials depend on several factors, including the comedian’s popularity, their style of comedy, market demand, and the overall quality of the performance. Nigeria undoubtedly has talents that tick this box. Naija no dey carry last. 

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