Nigerian stand-up comediennes performing femininity: A pragmatic analysis

Ibukun Filani
Augustine University, Ilara-Epe | Chemnitz University of Technology


Nigerian stand-up comedy has attracted several investigations from different disciplinary perspectives; however, there has been little research interest into the performance of femininity in the genre. Coming from pragmatics, this paper analyses how Nigerian comediennes use the language of humour to (de)construct sociocultural perspectives on the female identity. Data comprise purposively selected routines of three female comics while Kecskes’ (2014) approach to intention serves as the theoretical framework. Comediennes employ different pragmatic strategies that reference their intention to reinforce or challenge the traditional image of femininity. Analysis reveals comediennes perform the popular perspectives on femininity, which are enshrined in the wider sociocultural context of the country.

Publication history
Table of contents

Studies on Nigerian stand-up comedy (NSC) (e.g. Adetunji 2013; Nwankwo 2019 etc.) and on gender in humour (e.g. Hay 2000; Chiaro and Baccolini 2014; Ruiz-Gurillo and Linares-Bernabeu 2020) have yielded fascinating findings. Despite the increasing literature on these areas, there has been little research into the performance of femininity in NSC. Therefore, this article bridges the gap by examining the performance of femininity in the routines of Nigerian stand-up comediennes. ‘Subversive humour’ is the technical term for referring to the performances of female comedians (Gilbert 2004) since stand-up comedy is conceptualised as a phallocentric and male-dominated genre (Lockyer 2011; Adetunji 2016). The females in stand-up comedy, therefore, use humorous enactments to subvert (and sometimes reinforce) the negative framing of women. This research analyses how Nigerian female comedians use the language of humour to (de)construct sociocultural perspectives on femininity.

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