Female comedians take Facebook by storm
Delta Milayo Ndou #DigitalDialogue
If there was ever any doubt that the Internet can transform lives perhaps an assessment of how local female comedians have harnessed social media to showcase their talent and earn a living will serve as a case study.
There is no denying that video content creators, who focus on comedy strike the right note with Zimbabweans locally and abroad — with the number of comedic performers growing by the day to the delight of digital audiences.
The digital participation of women in varying online contexts has often led to conclusion that women are not adequately visible or active on certain digital forums but the impact of female comedians on Facebook demonstrates that women can use technology to buoy their craft.
Based on stats gleaned from a brief perusal of the audience reach, engagement and appeal of three comedic Facebook acts namely, Bustop TV, Mai T’s Diaries and Madam Boss, the impact of female comedians is growing immensely.
From the last 10 videos on each of their Facebook pages, Bustop TV, Mai T’s Diaries and Madam Boss pulled in a combined audience of over one million views, nearly 5 000 shares, over 20 000 reactions and more than 5 200 comments.
Without the Internet to bolster their reach and showcase their talent, and without access to airtime on mainstream broadcast media — what would it have taken for these women to reach an audience of that size?
From an offline perspective, what kind of logistics would be involved in order to perform before an audience of one million people? If you are online, all you have to do is upload your content and anyone anywhere can appreciate your talent.
These four women have done an amazing job of making the internet advance their careers: Samantha ‘Gonyeti’ Kureya and Sharon ‘Maggie’ Chideu of Bustop TV, then Tyra ‘Madam Boss’ Chikocho and Felistas ‘Mai T’ Edwards’.
In various clips, one or more of them has admitted that they never thought their comic video content would get them to certain places or that they would receive accolades. If you follow this column you know technology is a big deal for me, but before there is a technology to speak of, the most important factor is the agency of those who use technology.
In other words, you can have access to Internet but never do anything meaningful with it and there are many such indifferent people. These female comedians, like others who share their talents online, have managed to enrich our lives.
Would you tip a comedian?
If these female comedians and other entertainers, who post their content for free online have enriched or are enriching our lives, would it be remiss to think of ways to reward or thank them for their craft?
At a conference on monetising digital platforms for mainstream media institutions, someone recommended a tipping system, whereby readers who enjoyed a writer or journalist’s work could pay a tip to the writer to simply express appreciation for the work they are doing.
I think such a tipping system would be a remarkable way for online audiences to show appreciation for the comedians, who enrich their lives and make it possible for them to have a good laugh every now and then.
It is one thing for these female comedians to have such impact online but if it doesn’t also improve their own lives how will they realise the full value of their work? We often treat requests for money with such suspicion and get off-put when we are asked to pay for something that we are accustomed to getting for free.
But what if we were the ones to offer? For example, would you be willing to EcoCash $1 to a comedian whose work has made a difference in your life and if so, why haven’t you offered to do so?
Presently it seems brands have stepped up to appreciate these talented women with the likes of Nash Paints being most notable in sponsoring Bustop TV as well as Senditoo (a UK-based mobile airtime start-up founded by a Zimbabwean and a Guinean).
Madam Boss has done work for Steward Bank hosting its Facebook live show ‘Square Talk’. Mai T has been the recipient of complimentary spa treatments (very commendable in lieu of a tip) and her song “Makatendeka” has been well-received on the back of her rising social media influence.
These women are not just comedians but are also earning from their exploits although more could be done by their fan base to show some love.
Samantha Kureya has been a rising star with performances in Cape Town and the United Kingdom, also featuring in music videos of artistes such as Stunner and Andy Muridzo. She and her talented partner Sharon ‘Maggie’ Chideu won the 2016 People’s Choice Award at the Zimbabwe Women Awards (ZIWA) while Tyra ‘Madam Boss’ Chikocho was recently nominated for an award by the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum.
Mai T, who has done collaborations with Madam Boss and the Bustop TV duo happens to be the lead in terms of viewers based on the latest 10 videos of the respective comedic acts.
Mai T garnered a total of 646 000 views for her last 10 videos with 3 641 shares, 10 066 reactions and 2 732 comments buoyed by her signature comic element of speaking in broken English with commentary based on themes such as baby mama drama, big buttocks and maids that look sexier than their employers.
Humour and marketing: Zimbabwean brands who get it
Brands such as Nash Paints, Steward Bank and Senditoo have sponsored or partnered or leveraged on these female comedians (and others) to market their services and products.
The likes of Rainbow Hotel have also received some visibility with a Tyra ‘Madam Boss’ Chikocho skit being set at the Rainbow Towers attracting over 120 000 views from people who got to hear the Rainbow Hotel’s signature salutation “Refreshing afternoon”.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the likes of Jan Jam, the boutique that showcases its clothing by dressing the Bustop TV cast while the Exotic Scent Fragrances and Cosmetics business got prominent advertorial mention in one of Madam Boss’s skits.
Learning institutions of all kinds have sought out comedians to partner in marketing their business with Madam Boss having done promotional adverts for a driving school as well as a nursery school.
Fans usually humour these promotion-based comic skits, but occasionally complaints are raised in the comments section. These are often quickly squashed when other fans point out that these comedians need to earn a living.
If fans were willing to tip comedians and other performers, that would go a long way in making it easier for them to benefit from their craft and if more corporates stepped up to partner with them it would promote the arts in unprecedented ways.
This article has focused on the impact these comedians have had based on Facebook and on stats from their last 10 videos, so it falls short of truly representing the full impact and audience reach of these talented women.
It falls short because it does not capture their audiences on platforms such as YouTube, Twitter or WhatsApp nor does it account for their audience stats beyond their 10 most recent videos.
The full scope of their talent and following is something Zimbabwean corporates might want to look into and capitalise on as they seek to reach audiences locally and abroad with their marketing initiatives.
Admirably, the Bustop TV duo also has a strong focus on voter education themes such as the biometric voter registration (BVR) and Diaspora voting, which places them in good stead to partner with ZEC, civil society and other stakeholders in communicating election-related messaging.
The possibilities are endless, especially if, like Mai T, you can command an audience of 354 000 with a single video (one in which she admires a plus-size woman’s curve while holding a bottle of water whose brand I couldn’t make out).