Comedy as a discursive exchange for social change: a study of the social themes of Papa Ajasco and its interpretation by Nigerian audience
Comedy is any form of social exchange that elicits laughter as responses. Characteristically, it generates simultaneously both pleasure and power. In other words, comedy as a form of funniness involves breaking of rules and making the rules so that correct behaviour is implicitly instated (Purdie, 2003). It is on this basis that this study investigated the discursive process through which Papa Ajasco comedy series condemn some social behaviour and signify them as bad or inappropriate in funny but strong terms. Therefore, the study examined some purposefully selected current series of Papa Ajasco on Nigerian television with a view to identifying and explaining the pattern of condemned social behaviours or affairs of this world in the comedy.It also determined the discursive means by which the social behaviours are condemned as transgressions. Essentially, the study sought to understand how randomly selected audience of 50 members, who regularly view Papa Ajasco series on television, interpret the discursive exchange and jokes in the comedy. This was done through an indepth interview that allowed the audience to air their views spontaneously. The study found that Papa Ajasco series indeed appeal to a majority of Nigerians with its unique capacity to provide high spirit that relaxes their minds and provide them with escape valves with which they relieve tensions of work and life. But, beyond this, the series, in melodramatic forms, condemns some social vices and behaviours that are been deeply rooted as ways of life in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the discursive power of the comedy series in condemning the behaviours is interpreted by the audience mostly as jokes. So, the didactic benefit of the series is mitigated by the agency of the audience who interprets the language, meaning and themes of the comedy series as nothing but just jokes and relaxation. The introduction of the features of sitcom does not even change the interpretation pattern; rather it attacks audience attention more to its funniness.
Keywords: Comedy, Papa Ajasco, Social change, Discursive process, Social behaviour, Nigerian audience