Case Study A New Magazine In Nigeria

***** RHODES *********** EJC/REC Vol. 4, Nos. 2-4, 1994 **** RESEARCH REVIEW: AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE ON MAGAZINES Leara Rhodes University of South Carolina Abstract: A limited number of studies have been performed on magazines published outside the United States. The approach of this paper is to describe some of these studies and their methodologies, to review articles found to be important in discussing international magazines, and to offer some suggestions of types of studies that could be performed and why. When the type of scholarship being published about international magazines is examined, several conclusions emerge: First, there appears to be little linking of data to theory. Second, there seems to be little research on how to disseminate ideas. And third, there is a real void in many areas of magazine publishing; for example, looking at magazines as vehicles for sociological study, examining content categories, and investigating types of specialized magazines. Introduction Magazines published throughout the world find their way onto our major city newsstand racks and bookstores, or they come through the mail for the subscription price. In ethnic communities, the presence of foreign periodicals is greater than in other communities. These magazines bring a new voice to our culture, a new way of looking at similar issues. So how do American scholars use these periodicals in their research? The purpose of this paper is to survey the literature as to the types of methodology used in magazine research, offer some insights as to relative theory or methodologies magazine research can use, and suggest a direction for future magazine research. Historically, there have been two approaches to the study of magazines: one approach defines magazines in terms of form as physical commodities, and the second approach defines magazines as vehicles for ideas, understanding, and reader service. The first approach is often found in our trade publications, the second is found among our scholars, for the latter often view magazines as agents of socialization and as media for dissemination of popular culture. If then magazines are seen as reflective of culture, studies should also mirror that culture. What may be logically presumed is not what my survey of the literature indicates. On the contrary, my survey suggests that these studies do not provide scholarly information on magazines that is consistent with current norms of our culture. The question then is what types of studies have been performed using international magazines, and what, if any, are their importance to advancing scholarship in magazine research. Methodology A limited number of studies have been performed on magazines published outside the United States, and few are accessible to American scholars. This paper will attempt to first describe some of these research studies and their methodologies. Thirty-four studies have been surveyed as representative of world-wide studies during the period 1980-1993. The parameters of the survey are as follows: only studies using periodicals published outside the U.S. are included, with the exception of comparative studies that also include U.S. magazines; dates investigated were 1980 to present; sources of inquiry began with the _Social Science Index_, _Humanities Index_, _Communications Abstracts_, _Journalism Abstracts_, _Carl Uncover_, MLA Index, ERIC, Dissertations Abstracts, Paine and Paine's _Magazines: A Bibliography for Their Analysis, with Annotations and Study Guide_; and no studies are included that use U.S. magazines covering foreign events, people, or issues. Second, the paper reviews articles I found to be important in discussing international magazines. These articles, I would argue, come closer to the norms of scholarship that currently operate in our culture. Third, I offer some suggestions of types of studies that could be performed and why. The Study: Part One The significance of evaluating what has been written on magazines is that it identifies gaps which scholars can begin to fill to provide a better understanding of our global patterns of communication. The scholarly journals have already recognized this pattern of globalization in the case of print news media. It is my view that the scholarship on magazines needs to develop an awareness of corresponding patterns of globalization. As literacy increases, as radio and TV broadcasts dominate the immediacy of the news, magazines are being forced to adapt their pages to provide in-depth coverage of news events. Magazines confirm and expand what people have heard in other media. Whereas the circulations of daily presses have remained about the same for 10 years, circulations of magazines and startups of magazines have increased. This is not to say there are no problems. Throughout the world, the cost or even availability of newsprint is an important obstacle to magazine production.[1] These difficulties are further compounded by the loss of advertising revenue to radio and TV, the reluctance of the public to pay what a newspaper costs, high illiteracy, lack of printing presses, inaccessible rural areas, and a variety of languages besides the official language. All of these factors contribute negatively to the growth of magazines. However, magazines are highly significant in terms of the reproduction of what has been called consumer culture.[2] They provide a unique combination of pictorial and popular literary expression that is not found in either newspapers or broadcast. With regard to the study of magazines as vehicles for ideas, understanding, and reader service, the work of Paine & Paine has been path breaking.[3] They have advanced and brought more up-to-date the important bibliographic work of Schacht[4] on magazines. In their work, Paine & Paine suggest that magazines may be examined from many different perspectives and offer the following categories as examples: a. Writing, editing, design, and production b. Business management & money making c. Advertising in them or buying space d. Distribution, display, and sales e. Selection and access by librarians f. As a vehicle of sociological study g. As a popular culture medium h. History (contemporary or general) i. Law, ethics, free press in a democracy j. Use in educational institutions k. Innumerable magazine content categories l. Types of specialized magazines Of the studies identified for this survey, the categories that match Paine & Paine's examples include advertising (c), culture (g), and history (h). The readership and trend studies fall into the business management category (b). Advertising studies made up 34 percent of the survey. Three of these studies were gender-related studies. One was a Norwegian study which used content analysis to examine a "general gender stereotype model" which treats women's and men's roles as opposites on an abstract continuum. The two-part study analyzed advertisements in three Dutch magazines published from 1965 to 1973 and then Norwegian magazines published between 1965 and 1976.[5] A German study also used content analysis but used _Time_ and the West German news magazine _Stern_ between 1969 and 1988 to examine how advertising reflects changes in social reality using depictions of gender roles. Jobs, activities, interactions, and situations were used as items of gender role depictions, but posture, gestures, and facial expressions were added as a special feature.[6] A Hong Kong study used six magazines to illustrate through a content analysis the restrictive and distorted nature of gender images in advertising.[7] There was some degree of methodological sophistication in the German study. A substantial time period was covered, but I felt in spite of this that the information that came out of this was basic at best. Counting images in advertisements to prove gender bias cannot be a strong method of argument to initiate change. Other advertising studies used Resnik and Stern's typology for classifying advertising, such as a 1983 British study of women's magazines,[8] a Thai study looking at 24 U.S. and Thai magazines, and the cultural differences found in advertisements,[9] and a Chinese study of 349 magazines examining the use of performance and quality in advertisements.[10] None of these studies offered new theory, they only confirmed existing information. The Chinese study, although it used 349 magazines, only reported on a total of 472 advertisements. It was by far closest to useful information in that it proposed that advertisers entering this market should use performance and quality appeals rather than symbolic advertising. Subjects varied in the remaining advertising studies. There was an Australian study using content analysis of 36 magazines to examine product prices in advertisements,[11] a Canadian study using eight magazines to examine how older people are portrayed in advertising,[12] and a study examining humor in advertisements of U.S., British, and German trade publications.[13] These three I found interesting due to their unusual twists in looking at a question. Two studies in this survey looking at advertisements expanded the content analysis methodology. A follow-up study by de Kluyver examined eight women's magazines by using a mean-variance analysis as an alternative to existing media planning and scheduling approaches for advertising.[14] A Swedish study used a longitudinal content analysis from 1935 to 1980 and then compared that data with similar U.S. data on advertising trends.[15] Historical articles made up 38 percent of the survey but were disproportionately represented due to _Pucnh_'s 150th anniversary. Six British studies focused on _Punch_ as follows: (1) a profile of Douglas Terrold as _Punch's_ first star writer,[16] (2) _Punch_ as political satire using Thackeray's writings to illustrate the move from political to moral radicalism in 1847,[17] (3) John Tenniel's cartoons,[18] (4) use of full-page engraving in early _Punch_ issues,[19] (5) _Punch's_ first 10 years,[20] and (6) representation of the Irish in Victorian Britain through _Punch_.[21] These articles were largely celebratory, since they were all published in the same volume of a special issue of the _Journal of Newspaper and Periodical History_. Another British study used four historical magazines: _Penny Magazine_, the _London Journal_, _Reynold's Miscellany_, and _Casell's Illustrated Family Paper_ as a group to illustrate how photographic reproduction as art was introduced to the lower and middle classes in 1832-1860.[22] A Canadian study examined the history of Canadian magazines as one that mirrors the Canadian cultural experience. The Canadian magazines and culture were seeking the same kind of independence and protection from American influence as other cultural media in Canadian society.[23] Along similar lines of protection was an Irish study on the _Bell_. As a literary magazine, it began attacking the Censorship Board and raised public awareness on censorship issues.[24] A Chinese study examined the _Beijing Review_ and how that magazine has been used "to influence the global balance of power and highlight the mercurial mixture of China's domestic and international political posture."[25] These four articles provided a much needed basis for historical perspective around the world: Britain, Canada, Ireland, and China. All were involved in raising the public awareness to innovative ideas: photographs as art, maintaining cultural sovereignty, censorship issues, and political posturing of the press. These are articles on which other scholars can build their research. Two studies, both German, focused on historical photographs. The _AIZ_ (Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung) publication was examined along with other illustrated mass circulation magazines in Weimar Germany for "use of photomantages as weapons with which to contradict the truth-claims of photos in Bourgeois magazines by using these same photos."[26] The other German study also examined popular magazines of the 1920s in Weimar Germany as photos became representative of ersatz dreams. Its thesis was that the magazine industry built its success on the curiosity of readers about the world in a fictional context.[27] These studies reminded me of old German movies that had no plot, only images, and I, as the viewer, needed to interpret the meaning. Cultural studies were more varied than the history and advertising studies, comprising 16 percent of the survey. They also included new countries such as Israel and India. One study looked at the presentation of social roles in two Israeli children's magazines, _Ha'aretz Shelanu_ and _Mishmar Li Tyladin_, for sources of abstract and symbolic modeling.[28] The stories were coded and analyzed as to main protagonist, protagonist's role, familiarity, life span, evaluative presentation, protagonist's sex, protagonist's age, journalistic context, and conflict. An Indian study used a qualitative methodology along with a content analysis to examine three Indian magazines with three U.S. magazines for cross-cultural perspectives of the Bhopol disaster.[29] This article used a variety of theories on which to base the study, such as conflict and consensus theories. Then the authors proceeded to use media accounts to test their hypotheses. The study was extremely detailed and resulted in finding little cross-cultural consensus concerning the definition of the Bhopal incident in India and the United States. It was my opinion that both of these studies were so heavily designed for their own purposes that the sum was greater than the parts. Three other cultural studies were all British. One was a study using the four historical magazines that Anderson used in the study on photographic reproduction as art: _Penny Magazine_, the _London Journal_, _Reynold's Miscellany_, and _Cassell's Illustrated Family Paper_ (1790-1860). In this study he proposed to show the initial development of a modern mass culture. Anderson's thesis suggested the audience was not passive, rather that the new pictorial magazines represented society's long-held values.[30] The second cultural study was on the "post-feminist development" in Britain. This was examined using 1980 women's magazines.[31] Finally, a case study of _Sportsweek_ was used to compare sports magazines with the press industry in the U.S., Europe, and the United Kingdom.[32] This study posited that sports magazines were ignored by academic media research. It is my opinion that this study tried to do all: posit an economic picture, compare the industries in the U.S., Europe, and the U.K., and then toss in the case study on the magazine. Readership studies made up only 9 percent of the survey. A Nigerian study used a model of media exposure and appraisal to examine readership surveys.[33] In the model three independent variables--editorial tone, communication potential, and utility--are posited to determine exposure and appraisal. In another readership study by Bar-Haim, a survey and interview format was used to examine how Romanians were living in Israel.[34] The magazine, _Revista Mea_, was used as a commentary on the community's cultural orientations with respect to those of other communities. The argument was that a magazine retains its popularity only when there is a direct correspondence between the contents and the readers. The study used four cultural orientations to profile the readers: cosmopolitan-continuity, localism- continuity, cosmopolitan-newness, localism-newness. Again, I feel that most of this information was something we already know. A final readership study was a Dutch study performed on a feminist magazine and its readership.[35] Since the magazine _Opzij_ was the only general-audience feminist publication in the Netherlands, the authors focused on both the reception and the content of the magazine. Though the number of issues examined was impressive, 10 volumes (1981-1990), only 14 readers were interviewed and these were ones who had responded to an advertisement in the magazine. Finally, there was one study identified as a trend study. A British study examined three features of changes in the magazine industry.[36] These were the continued market dominance of the large publishing groups, the trend toward multimedia ownership, and the growth of international publishing. The study concluded that large publishing groups have consolidated their dominance over magazine markets. Absolutely nothing was new here. The Study: Part Two Whereas the articles in the first part of the study may illustrate basic types of magazine research, the articles chosen for the second part of the study illustrate finer scholarship and offer tie-ins with existing theory or builds on existing research. These articles illustrate the three areas of defining magazine scholarship: ideas, understanding, and reader service. Buckman's article on "Cultural Agenda of Latin American Newspapers and Magazines: Is U.S. Domination a Myth?" is an example of how magazine scholarship can use research to develop ideas.[37] Buckman uses dependency theory to anchor his argument on the cultural flow between the U.S. and Latin America. He defines dependency theory in its broadest context as a tool for analyzing the disequilibrium between developed and developing countries. This theory originated from economic theory but has evolved into cultural theory. He then defines cultural dependency as a condition in which the measurable coverage assigned to the domestic culture in the nonadvertising space of a newspaper or magazine is equal to or less than the coverage assigned to the culture of another country or region. He then uses basic magazine assumptions that "any society's tastes are reflected in its newspapers and magazines, and in an age when literacy is rising in Latin America, these media have acquired a mass appeal akin to their U.S. and European counterparts."[38] Buckman posited two hypotheses: one, that measurable U.S. cultural coverage in the sample newspapers and magazines is significantly greater than the coverage of the domestic culture; and two, that measurable U.S. cultural coverage is significantly greater than measurable European cultural coverage. Both hypotheses were tested at the .05 level of significance, applying the chi-square method to the frequency of cultural articles. Buckman used samples of magazines from 1949 and 1982 to examine changes in the Latin American cultural agenda over a third of a century. These were chosen to compare the changes of agenda before and after the advent of television. The sampling procedure was well documented for both newspapers and magazines. Eleven magazines were used in the study. Reliability of the coding was tested by five faculty members and graduate students at the University of Texas. The sampling was impressive: 6,397 cultural articles from newspapers were coded and 2,950 articles and vignettes pertaining to culture were coded for the magazines. Both hypotheses were rejected. The domestic cultural coverage was significantly greater than the U.S. coverage in all three samples. Where Buckman's article excels is not only in the data gathering but in the qualitative assessment. He gleaned seven basic generalizations as a result of his study. These were as follows: the cultural triangle and the preoccupation with Europe, the Hollywood monoculture of the United States, cultural newcolonialism: the fascination with La Madre Patria, the growth of intraregional influences, national cultural protection, national cultural projection, and the "mixed" category and the hybridization of culture. Buckman ends his piece by tying his discussion back into dependency theory with a look at whether the flow of culture is still somewhat lopsided. He uses a quote from novelist Vargas Llosa to address the issue of cultural borrowing and hybridization: The way for a country to fortify and develop its culture is to throw its doors and windows wide open to all intellectual, scientific, and artistic currents, stimulating the free flow of ideas, wherever they many come from, in such a way that its own tradition and experience are constantly put to the test, corrected, finished, and enriched by those who, in other countries and languages, share with us the miseries and greatness of the human adventure. Only by submitting to this challenge and encouragement will our culture be authentic, timely, and creative--the best means of our social and economic progress.[39] Buchman's article was a good blend of theory, quantitative methods, and qualitative research. He furthered the research on how to develop scholarly ideas. The second article in my review advances the scholarship of magazine research in the area of understanding. Grube and Boehme-Duerr look at "AIDS in International News Magazines."[40] They base their study on a 1965 Galtung and Ruge study for factors valid in selecting foreign news: frequency, geographical, political and/or cultural closeness, surprise and/or unexpectedness, involvement of elite persons and/or nations, personalization and negativism.[41] Their study compared how five leading news magazines used these news factors in the case of a life-threatening and long-lasting event like AIDS. They tested five hypotheses with variations of each hypothesis. They examined _Der Spiegel_, the _Economist_, _L'Express_, and the European editions of _Time_ and _Newsweek_. Their results revealed that not all of Galtung's and Ruge's news factors hold true. No straightforward relationship was found between the number of AIDS infections in a country and the space/number of articles devoted to AIDS in that country. In conclusion, the authors suggest that their study should be replicated with other news magazines in other countries and at another period of time. Grube and Boehme-Duerr give a solid description of a social problem and how news magazines are handling it. Their findings were revealing. Whereas _Time_ and _Newsweek_ carried most of the articles on AIDS, _L'Express_ carried none. This article is a start on how scholars should view research on social problems portrayed in the media. The third article in my review advances magazine scholarship in the area of reader service. Frith and Wesson[42] ask the question: should advertising be standardized around the world, aiming at homogeneous buyers, or should advertising reflect individual cultural differences? The authors base their study on the arguments for standardized advertising posed by other scholars who down-play cultural differences and treat the world as if it were one homogeneous market.[43] Frith and Wesson compare the cultural values in British and American print advertising. They used the Sunday magazine supplements: the _London Sunday Times Magazine_ and the _New York Times Magazine_ as well as _Harper's and Queen_ and _Town and Country_. The findings in the study suggest the following: While the United States and Great Britain are superficially similar in that they are both urbanized, industrial, politically stable, and English-speaking, there are underlying ideological, cultural and communication differences between these two countries.[44] Even though there were problems with the study, like choosing elite magazines to study homogeneity and the fact that the countries were so similar, the findings of the study indicate that if there are cultural differences between these two using these four elite magazines, then what else is out there to find? Discussion When we examine the type of scholarship being published about international magazines, several conclusions emerge. First, there seems to be little linking of data to theory. Second, there seems to be little research on how to disseminate ideas. And third, there seems to be a real void in many areas of magazine publishing. Theory is not that hard to use in magazine scholarship. Since the print media has established a series of theories that have been tested in the scholarship, magazine scholars should use these as starting points. Examine the print theories as to how they may fit magazines. What kinds of changes have to be made to use them? Which ones are most applicable to the needs of the magazine industry? We need to move past crude empiricism and take numerical data and use it to test more substantive theory. Ideas are a major part of magazines. How then can scholarly research avoid the editorial content needed to keep magazines alive? More research needs to be conducted on magazine ideas and on content categories. If we are indeed moving in a more global manner with magazines, what ideas are transferrable across cultures? Which will help relationships across cultures? Take for example, the censorship issues of restricting the import of magazines, as Singapore has done recently with the London-based _Economist_.[45] How does these affect globalization of magazines? Which ideas are taboo? Which ones can be combined for countries to give new perspectives to old problems? Which ones have been used too much? Too little? Not at all? For an example of how to research magazine ideas, I found an interesting article on magazine design. Hall writes that magazine design is a new British explosion.[46] He suggests that as the economy downturns, a reaction against the status quo has resulted, and the only place for these new ideas is the underground. Now a lot of techniques in magazine design are emerging from the underground presses in Britain. There are Half-Way House magazines using half print, half electronic to get the message across to the reader. There are magazines that use themes in their issues. There are a lot of ideas in content that can be developed into academic research. Idea research needs to be expanded to make magazine scholarship more useful. Voids exist in magazine research. Just in Paine & Paine's categories alone,[47] according to my survey for this review, only four of the 12 categories had articles for the time span analyzed. There is still a lot of work that can be done. Magazines can be looked at as vehicles of sociological study, examined for their content categories, and investigated for types of specialized magazines. There are publications all over the world and studies produced which are not easily accessible to the American scholar. I know of Romanian studies by Virginia Gheorghiu and Yolanda Staniloiu that I cannot obtain easily. And studies that I cannot read because of language problems, like some of Fernando Reyes Matta's work and Ariel Dorfman's. Even with distribution or language problems, there are areas of the world where magazine research can begin as new publications start. One area opening up to the magazine market is the Caribbean Basin. Cuba has had several publications including _Bohemia_ and _Cuba_. Jamaica has a number of magazines and so do Barbados and Trinidad. Now there is a regional magazine, _Caribbean Beat_, that is distributed by BWIA. This magazine records and projects the ideas, events, art, sport, music, books, food, and fashion of the region.[48] Regional publications in the Caribbean are only one area of growth in the world for magazines. This is only the beginning. As magazines grow, magazine research needs to grow too. Endnotes [1] Newsprint is only produced in 36 countries and only six produce enough to export: Canada, Finland, Sweden, Norway, USSR, and New Zealand, according to World Communications: A 200-Country Survey of Press, Radio, Television and Film (Gower Press, Unipub: The Unesco Press, 1975), 3-10. [2] Consumer culture: See Theodore Peterson, "Magazines, 1900-64--An Assessment," Magazines in the Twentieth Century (Urbana, Chicago, London: University of Illinois Press, 1964), 441-451. [3] Fred K. Paine and Nancy E. Paine, Magazines: A Bibliography for Their Analysis, with Annotations and Study Guide (Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1987). [4] J. H. Schacht, A Bibliography for the Study of Magazines (Urbana, IL: College of Communications, University of Illinois, 1979). [5] M. Flick, "Invisible or Lovely: Women in Advertisements," Media Information Australia 34 (November 1984): 23-34. [6] H. B. Brosius, N. Mundorf, and J. F. Staab, "The Depiction of Sex Roles in American and German Magazine Advertisements," International Journal of Public Opinion Research 3:4 (Winter 1991): 366-383. [7] Eva Leung, "A Study of the Portrayal of Women in Magazine Advertisements in Hong Kong," (Masters thesis, Ohio University, 1992). [8] D. B. Taylor, "The Information Content of Women's Magazine Advertising in the UK," European Journal of Marketing 17:5 (1983): 2832. [9] Chanporn Jiramongkhollarp, "A Comparative Content Analysis of U.S. and Thai Magazine Advertising," (Master's thesis, Oklahoma State University, 1990). [10] M. D. Rice and Z. Lu, "A Content Analysis of Chinese Magazine Advertisements," Journal of Advertising 17:4 (1988): 43-48. [11] D. K. Round, "Price-Informative Advertising and Market Performance," Media Information Australia 37 (August 1985): 35-40. [12] N. Zhou and M. Y. T. Chen, "Marginal Life After 49: A Preliminary Study of the Portrayal of Older People in Canadian Consumer Magazine Advertising," International Journal of Advertising 11:4 (1992): 343-354. [13] L. S. McCullough and R. K. Taylor, "Humor in American, British, and German Ads," Industrial Marketing Management 22:1 (February 1993): 17-28. [14] C. A. de Kluyver and F. T. Baird, "Media Selection by Mean-Variance Analysis," European Journal of Operational Research 16:2 (May 1984): 152-156. [15] K. Nowak, "Magazine Advertising in Sweden and the United States: Stable Patterns of Change, Variable Levels of Stability," European Journal of Communication 5:4 (December 1990): 393-422. [16] M. Slater, "Douglas Terrold: Punch's First Star Writer," Journal of Newspaper and Periodical History 7:2 (1991): 25-32. [17] A. Sanders, "Thackeray and Punch, 1842-1847," Journal of Newspaper and Periodical History 7:2 (1991): 17-24. [18] F. Morris, "Tenniel's Cartoons: The Pride of Mr. Punch," Journal of Newspaper and Periodical History 7:2 (1991): 64-72. [19] A. J. Doran, "The Development of the Full-Page Wood Engraving in Punch," Journal of Newspaper and Periodical History 7:2 (1991): 48-63. [20] R. D. Altick, "Punch's First Ten Years: The Ingredients of Success," Journal of Newspaper and Periodical History 7:2 (1991): 5-16. [21] R. F. Foster, "Paddy and Mr. Punch," Journal of Newspaper and Periodical History 7:2 (1991): 33-47. [22] P. Anderson, The Printed Image and the Transformation of Popular Culture, 1790-1860 (New York and Oxford, UK: Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1991). [23] J. P. Desbarats, "The Special Role of Magazines in the History of Canadian Mass Media and National Development," in B.D. Singer, ed., Communications in Canadian Society (Scarborough, Ontario: Nelson Canada, 1991), 50-66. [24] Jacqueline Mulhern, "The Bell on Censorship: An Irish Literary Magazine's Fight For Freedom of Expression in Ireland," (Master's thesis, Ohio University, 1992). [25] R. L. Terrell, "The First 25 Years of the Beijing Review, An Official Propaganda Organ of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China," Gazette 37:3 (1986): 191-220. [26] R. E. Kuenzli, "John Heartfield and the Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung," Journal of Communication Inquiry 13:1 (Winter 1989): 31-42. [27] H. Hardt, "Pictures for the Masses: Photography and the Rise of Popular Magazines in Weimar Germany," Journal of Communication Inquiry 13:1 (Winter 1989): 7-30. [28] Chaim H. Eyal, "Sources of Abstract and Symbolic Modeling: The Presentation of Social Roles in Two Israeli Children's Magazines," Gazette 37:1-2 (1986): 103-122. [29] Michael J. Lynch, Mahesh K. Nalla, Keith W. Miller, "Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Deviance: The Case of Bhopal," Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 26:1 (February 1989): 7-35. [30] P. J. Anderson, "A Revolution in Popular Art: Pictorial Magazines and the Making of a Mass Culture in England, 1832-1860," Journal of Newspaper and Periodical History 6:1 (1990): 16-27. [31] J. Winship, "The Impossibility of Best: Enterprise Meets Domesticity in the Practical Women's Magazines of the 1980s," Cultural Studies 5:2 (May 1991): 131-156. [32] J. Horne, "General Sports Magazines and TCap'n BobU: The Rise and Fall of Sportsweek," Sociology of Sport Journal 9:2 (June 1992): 179-191. [33] J. D. Johnson, "Media Exposure and Appraisal: Phase II, Tests of a Model in Nigeria," Journal of Applied Communication Research 12:1 (Spring 1984): 63-74. [34] G. Bar-Haim, "Revista Mea: Keeping Alive the Romanian Community in Israel," in S. H. Riggins, ed., Ethnic Minority Media: An International Perspective (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1992). [35] J. Hermes and V. Schutgens, "A Case of the Emperor's New Clothes? Reception and Text Analysis of the Dutch Feminist Magazine Opzij," European Journal of Communication 7:3 (September 1992): 307-334. [36] S. Driver and A. Gillespie, "Structural Change in the Cultural Industries: British Magazine Publishing in the 1980s," Media, Culture & Society 15:2 (April 1993): 183-201. [37] Robert Buckman, "Cultural Agenda of Latin American Newspapers and Magazines: Is U.S. Domination a Myth?" Latin American Research Review 25:2 (1990): 134-155. [38] Buckman, 134-136. [39] Buckman, 154. [40] Anette Grube and Karin Boehme-Duerr, "AIDS in International News Magazines," Journalism Quarterly 65:3 (Autumn 1988): 686-689. [41] Grube and Boehme-Duerr, 686. [42] Katherine Toland Frith and David Wesson, "A Comparison of Cultural Values in British and American Print Advertising: A Study of Magazines," Journalism Quarterly 68:1/2 (Spring/Summer 1991): 216-223. [43] See Richand Ransey, Michael Hyman, and George Zinkhan, "Cultural Themes in Brazilian and U.S. Auto Ads: A Cross-Cultural Comparison," Journal of Advertising 19 (1990): 30-39; Theodore Levitt, "The Globalization of Markets," Harvard Business Review 61 (May-June 1983): 92-101; and Arthur Fatt, "The Danger of `Local' International Advertising," Journal of Marketing 31 (January 1967): 60-62. [44] Frith, 223. [45] Philip Shenon, "2 Faces of Singapore: Censor and Communications Center," The New York Times, 4 August 1993, A-7. [46] Peter Hall, "New British Magazines," Print, September/October 1992, 58-64, 120. [47] See Paine and Paine [48] Pat Ganase, "The Magazine Business," Trinidad Guardian, 1 December 1993, 6. ------------------------------------------------------------ Author Information: Leara Rhodes Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication University of Georgia Athens, GA 30602 c/o cmsbah@uga.cc.uga.edu ------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright 1994 Communication Institute for Online Scholarship, Inc. This file may not be publicly distributed or reproduced without written permission of the Communication Institute for Online Scholarship, P.O. Box 57, Rotterdam Jct., NY 12150 USA (phone: 518-887-2443).

One day last July, the five writers of “The Other News,” Nigeria’s first prime-time political-satire show, sat in an office in Lagos, trying to figure out how to make fun of a king. The Ooni of Ife, the traditional ruler of the Yoruba people, had recently made headlines for an incident that occurred on a flight to Ontario. As the Ooni’s entourage boarded, one of his aides, dressed in a flowing white robe, blessed the plane by rattling a couple of shakers above his head. A passenger caught the rite on his phone and posted a video to YouTube, where it quickly went viral. The writers were working on the pilot episode of the show and hoped to begin with a few jokes about recent news items; the clip, some of them thought, would make perfect fodder.

David Hundeyin, a twenty-seven-year-old writer, argued that the video showed how Nigeria’s traditional rulers had failed to keep up with the times. “They are literally relics of the dead past in the modern world,” he said. Hundeyin has an acerbic sense of humor honed by years of watching “South Park,” and he thought that “The Other News” should take a similarly no-holds-barred approach to Nigerian culture. The writers were huddled in a corner of a small room at the headquarters of the Nigerian news station Channels Television, which was producing the show. It was not an ideal environment for writing jokes. Construction on the building, part of an expansion of the station, had stopped months before, after Nigeria’s economy sank into recession. Two rooms on the top floor, along with a studio, had been hastily outfitted with electricity and air-conditioning for “The Other News.” An empty elevator shaft gaped at the end of the hall, there was no running water, and a cinder block sat treacherously in the middle of a staircase. The Internet was patchy, and when Hundeyin pulled up a photograph on his laptop it loaded slowly. The photo showed Queen Elizabeth II driving herself around London in a Jaguar. He suggested that they compare her modest road trip with the Ooni’s preflight ritual. “If it’s good enough for the Queen, isn’t it good enough for the Ooni?” Hundeyin asked.

Some of the other writers urged a more cautious approach. The Ooni is seen by some Yoruba as a descendant of Oduduwa, who was sent down by God to found the Yoruba kingdom. “Sometimes we need to go to the other side of the audience or other people’s culture and try to see how it’s going to look to that person,” Sodi Kurubo, one of the two head writers, said. Nkechi Nwabudike, the other head writer, pointed out that the host of “The Other News” was Igbo, another major ethnic group. “We have to be careful, because we have a host from the east, so we can’t really make fun of someone’s traditions,” she said.

Ned Rice, a longtime comedy writer from the United States, looked on. He had been hired to advise the writers by Pilot Media Initiatives, a Brooklyn-based company that makes television programs modelled on the news-parody format popularized by “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” with the aim of spreading democratic principles in developing countries. Rice had arrived two weeks earlier. He had run a week of workshops, then the team had spent another week writing and filming a test episode. Now they had just one week to write and produce the twenty-two-minute pilot.

Rice reminded the writers that comedy necessarily offends some people. “If you do a comedy show, you’re going to step on toes,” he said. In Nigeria, there are a lot of toes to step on. The country has three major religions and more than two hundred and fifty ethnic groups, which sometimes coexist uneasily. During the colonial era, ethnic tensions were exacerbated by the British practice of indirect rule, in which traditional leaders were pitted against one another for resources and political power. Since the country’s independence, in 1960, its leaders have continued to exploit these rivalries. Disputes can flare into violence. For the past few months, Igbo separatists in the southeast had been agitating for an independent state, prompting fears of a replay of the Biafran war of the late nineteen-sixties. Judging from the photos of hundreds of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra marching in the street, fists raised, they did not seem inclined to take a joke. “I’m not against starting a crisis,” Nwabudike said, laughing. “Just not in the first episode.”

One writer suggested that they read the comments on the video of the Ooni to get a better sense of the public’s reaction. Rice shot the suggestion down. “Jerry Seinfeld used to say, ‘Never read your fan mail—only crazy people write letters,’ ” he said. The writers decided that they would gently rib the Ooni for the disruption he’d caused on the plane. The brunt of the critique was reserved for Nigerian politicians’ obsession with private jets; no ritual would be elaborate enough for them to fly commercial. It was not the most scathing take, but they now had a few minutes in the can, which is about the most a comedy writer can ask of a morning’s work.

Early in my writing career, I dreamed of working for “The Daily Show,” and I contributed jokes to the Onion. As I spent long afternoons staring at the ceiling, trying to come up with the fifteen headlines that I needed to send in every week, I hoped that, by calling out all the ridiculous things in this corrupt and fallen world, I was performing a sort of watchdog duty, like an investigative journalist, only with dick jokes. Or was this just self-serving claptrap propagated by comedy writers? It’s an old question. But the idea that comedy has a positive role in democracy has taken a hit in the age of Donald Trump, when bigotry is packaged into ironic memes by white supremacists and any attempt to caricature the President inevitably falls short of the real thing. These days, comedy seems, at best, a tool too dull to defend democracy—and, at worst, one well suited to undermine it. I wanted Dillon Case, the thirty-six-year-old co-founder of P.M.I., to expound on the power, or lack thereof, of political satire. Case, however, is a veteran of international development, and is practically allergic to making any claim that isn’t backed up by a peer-reviewed article.

In Nigeria, Case had no time to ponder anything. He was never without a small notebook whose cover read “Comedy for Change,” in which he scribbled constant reminders to himself. P.M.I. was trying to make a polished TV show using equipment that, as one member of the team said, you might find at a U.S. community college. The technical staffers assigned to the show were overworked, and were hard to reach when they weren’t on set. There were also cultural differences. The appearance of a bunch of demanding white people and their handpicked team of young writers had caused some tension. One writer told me that, around the station, the crew had earned the sarcastic nickname the Super Eagles, after Nigeria’s national soccer team and its lauded stars.

Case is a tall redhead with a perpetual five-o’clock shadow. Growing up in Park City, Utah, where his mother worked briefly for the Sundance Institute, he had early exposure to the film industry. But, while many of his high-school friends tried to make it in Hollywood, Case got a master’s degree in international human-rights law, at the University of Essex. Case is not particularly funny, but he has a good sense of humor. He is amused by international-aid jargon—“capacity building,” “implementing partner”—but is also fluent in it.

Case first got the idea for P.M.I. while employed as a contractor for the United States Agency for International Development in Kyrgyzstan, after a revolution, in 2010, overthrew the country’s authoritarian President. “We were working on a program that was supporting good-governance activities and conflict-mitigation activities,” he told me. The agency wanted to engage young people in democratic politics. “We had actually had the idea in a brainstorming session and thought, Wouldn’t it be cool to be something like ‘The Daily Show’?” Soon after, a local sketch-comedy troupe had the same idea, and approached U.S.A.I.D. for funding and support. Case designed a project with them, which got approved.

To help the troupe, Case e-mailed Kevin Bleyer, a former writer for “The Daily Show.” Bleyer has a boyish face that is at odds with his deep baritone. He is aggressively funny, seemingly unable to string together three sentences without cracking a joke, and, for eight years, he wrote jokes for Barack Obama to deliver at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. When he got the e-mail from Case, he had just returned from North Korea, where he’d been shadowing Bill Richardson, whose memoir he was co-writing, as Richardson negotiated the release of an American prisoner. “I was in one vaguely Soviet country and here I am getting an e-mail from another vaguely communist, socialist country,” Bleyer said. Six weeks later, he flew to Kyrgyzstan. He didn’t speak Russian, so he relied on his translator, a hard-nosed woman named Gulmira, to act as a sort of barometer. If she laughed at a joke, he figured it was O.K. Four weeks later, the show, called “Studio 7,” aired its first episode.

In 2015, Case moved to New York, after ten years abroad, but the experience of working on “Studio 7” stuck with him. He is a meticulous researcher, and he started to read all he could about political satire and its effects on democracy. He read a study that claimed that the humorous dissection of complex issues helped viewers feel more empowered to participate in political change. He read a book called “Is Satire Saving Our Nation?,” which argued that “one of the strongest supports for our democracy today comes from those of us who are seriously joking.” He began to wonder why nobody had thought to systematically apply satire to international development.

There was a lot of literature for Case to dive into, because of a decade-long boom in political satire that had reached an apex during the George W. Bush Administration. Liberals, disgusted by the Administration’s lies and the media’s seeming inability to check them, had turned to a small army of satirists, “culture jammers,” and pranksters, who offered a more pointed critique. “The Daily Show” became the most potent source of liberal catharsis. Jon Stewart, who hosted the show from 1999 to 2015, paired a pitiless attitude toward hypocrisy and bullshit with a rigorous command of facts, which allowed him to directly address issues that mainstream media outlets, bound by norms of balance and objectivity, could only dance around. A much cited Pew survey, from 2007, listed Stewart as the fourth most admired journalist in the country, tied with Anderson Cooper. And studies found that those who watched “The Daily Show” and other political-entertainment programs were more informed, more critical, and more civically engaged than those who didn’t.

“The Daily Show” was only the latest example of the American tendency to look to satire as a means to advance liberal-democratic values. In the nineteen-fifties, as Stephen E. Kercher details in his definitive history “Revel with a Cause: Liberal Satire in Postwar America,” political cartoonists saw themselves as defenders of free expression and civil rights in the face of an anti-democratic witch hunt. Some of these cartoonists suffered lost syndication deals and F.B.I. scrutiny, but their jokes had a lasting impact. It was the cartoonist Herbert Block who coined the term “McCarthyism,” and though his cartoons, which depicted Joseph McCarthy, in an oversized suit, as a shady peddler of hysteria, may not have put a stop to the Red Scare, they reassured other liberals that they weren’t alone in their outrage.

The idea of satire as a “weapon of wit” became so central to the liberal imagination that Gore Vidal, seeing a dearth of it in the cultural landscape of the late fifties, asked, “Should a home-grown Hitler appear, whose voice amongst the public orders would be raised against him in derision?” In fact, as Kercher details, satire was being transformed by a wave of performers whose barbs came swathed in urbane coolness. The most famous was the standup comedian Mort Sahl, who got his start in the San Francisco club scene and delivered jokes in a rapid-fire staccato frequently compared to the style of jazz musicians. He mocked Eisenhower’s golf obsession and his lax support for the civil-rights movement by saying that he hadn’t walked the black teen-agers who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in by the hand because he had trouble “deciding whether or not to use an overlapping grip.” The new satirists mostly admired John F. Kennedy, who was liberal, cool, and praised by Norman Mailer for his “dry Harvard wit.” The mainstreaming of satire threatened its role as a democratic check on power; Sahl himself wrote jokes for Kennedy’s campaign.

In the following decades, practitioners of “sick” humor, such as Lenny Bruce and the writers for Mad magazine, used comedy to shock their audience into insight, but softer fare prevailed on television. Throughout the seventies and eighties, according to the media scholar Jeffrey Jones, satire’s profile was limited by television executives, who worried about offending viewers and advertisers. Sitcoms and middle-of-the-road talk shows dominated the airwaves until the rise of premium cable channels, which provided commercially viable spaces for edgier shows, such as “The Daily Show” and “South Park,” and Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect.” This new liberal satire tackled the Bush Administration with the zeal of the McCarthy-era political cartoonists, and was rewarded with high ratings.

That changed with the arrival of Barack Obama, whose wit and coolness were regularly compared to Kennedy’s. In this magazine, Emily Nussbaum likened his White House Correspondents’ Dinner speeches to a “sophisticated small-club act.” As in the Kennedy era, satire came to seem defanged. The image of the heroic, dissenting satirist went abroad, where, it appeared, the struggle between the forces of democracy and authoritarianism loomed larger. In 2009, Voice of America produced “Parazit,” a “Daily Show”-style political-satire program that criticized the Iranian government. A couple of years later, a surgeon turned satirist named Bassem Youssef, often called “the Jon Stewart of Egypt,” who hosted “Bernameg al-Bernameg” (“The Show Show”), became a symbol of the promise of the Arab Spring. His exile, in 2014, became a sign of its failure. Still, it was easy to see political satire as an innovation, like the Internet, that could help democracy take root around the world, not through patronizing and coercive “nation-building” projects but as a natural result of giving people a product that they wanted and enjoyed.

In 2015, Case and Bleyer launched P.M.I., with an international-media expert named Graeme Moreland. Case figured that they would get grants to start; then, since the show would be entertaining as well as informative, they could attract advertisers after the grant money ran out. This fit with the international-development community’s desire for “sustainability.” Yet Case found it hard to persuade anyone to provide funding to P.M.I. Jokes imply an irreverence that is at odds with the serious issues many donors wish to address. Case pitched the idea for months, unsuccessfully, until he and Bleyer were introduced to John Momoh, the Nigerian chairman and founder of Channels Television and a former broadcaster for the state-run Nigerian Television Authority. Momoh required journalists at Channels to wear suits instead of the traditional dress worn by state broadcasters. He insisted on balanced coverage, a rarity in Nigeria, where many news outlets are beholden to political players. Momoh told me that, during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, he had watched “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” religiously, and had started thinking about a Nigerian version. “Some of my colleagues and I thought, Look, we could borrow a little from this,” he said.

Case and Bleyer were thrilled. Nigeria is home to “Nollywood,” by some measures the second-largest film industry in the world, and a ready source of talent. The advocacy group Freedom House lists Nigeria as “partly free.” “That’s the kind of sweet spot we’re looking for,” Case told me. The show could help promote freedom of expression without undue threat of censorship or retaliation. Case approached the Open Society Initiative of West Africa with a proposal to partner with Channels to develop the show, and they were awarded a grant.

One day last summer, weeks before meeting with the crew in Lagos, I stopped by Case’s apartment, in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he and Bleyer were reviewing the applications of prospective writers. They had scheduled a Skype interview with Nwabudike, a Nollywood screenwriter who later became a head writer. It was the rainy season in Nigeria, which interferes with the Internet, and during a conference call with Channels two days earlier the connection had repeatedly cut out. Bleyer made a bit out of it, playing the chorus of Toto’s “Africa”—I bless the rains down in Africa—at inopportune moments, and Case gamely grimaced and shook his head every time. “Kevin has schooled me over time to put aside my international-development formality and just be a little more relaxed,” Case told me. Eventually, they were able to hold a call more or less uninterrupted. They asked Nwabudike what she would cover if the show ran that week, and she mentioned that the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, had been missing for weeks, after going to London for an undisclosed medical treatment. “That’s certainly a ripe premise for comedy,” Bleyer said.

Judging comedy writers in a foreign culture was an inexact process. For one thing, Case and Bleyer couldn’t understand many of the jokes that applicants submitted, since they were full of local references. One had written a sketch with a reference to the Liam Neeson movie “Taken,” in which a call from a kidnapper was interrupted by a lack of mobile credit. Bleyer thought that was funny. But, over all, Bleyer and Case were interested less in whether someone could structure a joke than in whether the person was well versed in the news and had a point of view that could give the show critical bite. “We’re not the ones saying, ‘Do this joke, do that joke,’ ” Bleyer told me. “We’re the ones saying, ‘Here’s how to get the joke to be the best form it can be, and here’s how you get this show done by Friday night.’ ” To that end, P.M.I. had created a manual running to more than two hundred pages that instructed writers on everything from constructing setups to pitching jokes and structuring their workday.

To find a host, Graeme Moreland had haunted comedy shows in Lagos. He settled on a well-known comic named Okechukwu Onyegbule, who performs under the name Okey Bakassi. Bakassi, who is forty-eight years old, has been doing standup comedy for twenty-five years, and has become a household name throughout West Africa for his film roles. He performs to sold-out crowds of African immigrants in London, Houston, and Salt Lake City. As soon as Moreland saw Bakassi perform, he said, “it was just game over for me, because he’s so adaptable. He’s a proper grownup.” Channels had offered Bakassi a four-month contract, the length of the first season. But Bakassi was holding out for a yearlong contract, which, Bleyer explained, is known in Hollywood as a holding deal. As leverage, Bakassi claimed that he was considering becoming the host of a different talk show.

“That’s bullshit,” Case said. “It’s not anything time sensitive. It would still be there if this show tanks.”

Bleyer’s face lit up. “I love it,” he said, gesturing toward Case. “He’s now using Hollywood talk. He says ‘If this show tanks,’ whereas the international-development language would be something like ‘If this show doesn’t find its audience,’ or ‘If this show—’ ”

“ ‘—doesn’t yield the results,’ ” Case said, laughing.

“ ‘—yield the results as prescribed in the grant agreement,’ ” Bleyer said.

“ ‘Too many challenges prevented it from reaching its desired output,’ ” Case said.

Eventually, Channels nailed down Bakassi. The first time I met him, he was sitting at the head of a table in the executive boardroom of Channels, watching the test episode. His assistant and a Channels producer looked on. Bakassi wore a linen shirt with a black-and-white traditional pattern, black linen pants, and an enormous pinky ring, which he tapped against the table when he was thinking. American comedians tend to be ill-kempt and socially awkward. Bakassi has a stately presence and not a whiff of self-doubt. A trained agricultural engineer, he speaks with a measured precision that brings to mind a newscaster from the golden age of American broadcasting. In his view, Nigeria is a great place for a comedian. “Our people, we’re full of drama,” he said.

Bakassi finished watching the test episode in silence. There was a long pause. Nobody was happy with it. The sound was off, and the editing was wonky. Bakassi had used a pair of white iPhone earbuds as in-ear monitors, and they showed distractingly on the screen. There was a general agreement that the content reflected too much of Rice’s voice, resulting in a watered-down, Jay Leno-as-Nigerian monologue, delivered uncomfortably by Bakassi. “A good effort,” Bakassi said—then he quickly launched into complaints. Some of the team members were “writing for a white audience,” he said. “We still have to make it local in terms of content.”

The son of an Army officer, Bakassi had travelled extensively in Nigeria as a kid, giving him a love for the diversity of the country. His emphasis on Nigerian culture occasionally put him in conflict with the writers, who were younger and well versed in American and British pop culture. Bakassi frequently replaced Western pop-culture references with Nigerian ones, striking a clip from “Harry Potter” in favor of a clip from a Nollywood movie, and simplifying wordplay for viewers whose primary language was not English. At one point, he argued to Case that the talent should wear Nigerian caftans instead of Western suits, showing him a variety of colorful fabrics. “There is a rising tide of nationalism, and they should nod to that,” he said. Case disagreed, saying that the show had to look like other Channels programming.

In the conference room, the P.M.I. staff assured Bakassi that the pilot would be more authentically Nigerian than the test episode. “The first show had a lot of my influence, and I wrote for white TV for twenty-five years,” Rice said. “But this show will be a hundred per cent Nigerian all the time.”

This exchange was one of many times when I thought of an essay by the Nigerian-American novelist, critic, and photographer Teju Cole called “The White-Savior Industrial Complex,” which ran in The Atlantic in 2012. The piece responded to “Kony 2012,” the viral video with which a U.S. nonprofit, fronted by the California-based humanitarian Jason Russell, launched a campaign to encourage the international community to defeat the notorious Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. In the essay, Cole takes aim at the long history of Americans using Africa as “a backdrop for white fantasies of conquest and heroism.” In their zeal to “make a difference,” Cole argues, the members of the White-Savior Industrial Complex, which include TED talkers and development economists, journalists and international charities, have tended to seize on dramatic measures that attract tons of media attention and donor funds but don’t actually help Africans. Although Case and Bleyer were humble about their project’s aims and held a sincere belief in the power of satire to help bolster democracy, I was constantly troubled by the question of whose interests “The Other News” really served.

When I visited Cole in his photography studio, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, he was unsurprisingly skeptical about P.M.I.’s project. “I think you know what I’m going to say,” he said. “It sounds a bit white savior-ish.” One of Cole’s biggest gripes is that the focus on the savior often erases the agency of the Africans being helped. I told him about Case and Bleyer’s idea that they would simply provide the form of “The Daily Show” and let the Nigerian staff fill in the content. For Cole, it wasn’t enough just to transplant a successful American format to Nigeria. For the project to work, he continued, it had to be “something that gives you access to the Nigerian-ness of Nigerians.”

Nigerians are well practiced at mocking their leaders. The country’s first political cartoonist, Akinola Lasekan, was a self-taught artist from southwestern Nigeria, who signed his cartoons, in the anti-colonialist newspaper the West African Pilot, “Lash.” Cartooning was a European art, and the newspapers it appeared in were introduced to Nigeria by European missionaries. Yet, as the art historian Yomi Ola writes in her book “Satires of Power in Yoruba Visual Culture,” Lasekan, in his critique of British rule, drew on a Yoruba tradition of using satire, in the form of masks and statues, to call out bad behavior.

A recurring motif in Lasekan’s work is an oversized Briton perfectly balanced on the back of a distressed African, in an echo of Yoruba sculptures depicting royal hierarchies. In a two-panel cartoon done after the Second World War, Lasekan captured the rising resistance to colonialism: in the first panel, a black soldier and a white soldier are marching together; in the second, the black man serves the white man a drink. The caption reads “Comrade in War, Vassal in Peace?” After independence, Lasekan was succeeded by a new generation of cartoonists, who found countless targets in a procession of corrupt, dictatorial, and incompetent Nigerian leaders.

Cole pulled up a clip on his laptop from the playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa’s classic sitcom “Basi and Company,” in which the greed and corruption that accompanied the flood of oil money into Nigeria in the eighties is represented by the schemer Basi, whose get-rich-quick plans always blow up in his face. More recently, the Internet has unleashed a torrent of memes and viral videos that deflate Nigerian leaders. Patience Jonathan, the wife of the former President Goodluck Jonathan, was a common subject. “She had a persecution complex,” Cole explained. “She thought the Chibok girls”—the two hundred and seventy-six schoolgirls whose kidnapping by Boko Haram sparked international outrage—“was done to embarrass her.” Her outlandishly dramatic public appearances were chopped up into techno remixes that have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube. There is also a more elevated style. A lawyer who writes under the name TexTheLaw has a blog called Chronicles of Chill, on which Nigerian political figures feature as thinly disguised characters in a fantasy novel.

“This is why I’m, like, Why is it two white guys?” Cole said. “Nigeria is already way beyond you guys, doing its own thing. We have ‘Hitler reacts’ videos!” In the famous meme, a movie version of Hitler is made to have a meltdown about a wide range of subjects, including the Seahawks’ loss in the Super Bowl and a Twitter service outage. In a clip Cole showed me, Hitler reacts to a viral video of a Nigerian government spokesman who had forgotten the URL of his organization’s Web site.

Today in Nigeria, there are slapstick comics, who are as much mimes as comedians; comedians who trade in ethnic humor in local languages; and urban comedians, speaking pidgin, who mock Nollywood celebrities and musicians. Nigerian standup comedians m.c. weddings, birthday parties, and burial ceremonies, where they have largely replaced the radio hosts and television personalities who used to preside. The biggest standup comedians sell out large shows and star in multimillion-dollar-grossing films.

While in Lagos, I went to a café that each Wednesday is converted into a comedy club called Unknot Your Tie. Office workers from the nearby business district sat at round tables drinking large bottles of beer. Multiple comedians took the stage at once. Offstage, a d.j. and a keyboardist accented the jokes. The show’s three hosts took turns jumping up onstage to interrupt the performers’ five minutes. The performers roasted the hosts in return. Audience members roasted the comedians and other audience members. It felt like a giddy democracy.

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