(Originally published via The Source Magazine)
When Heanyi Bob-Nwachukwu – known to his social following as FOXY P – identified a void in the industry of African comedy, he sprung into action with hopes of filling it and creating opportunity. Foxy’s goal was to assemble a team of the world’s most talented and hardworking African comedians, and collaborate with them towards a common purpose: to share their unique art form with the universe and elevate Africa’s influence.
Rather than waiting for the validation from existing platforms, the thought-process was ‘why not pool individual influence together and create the platform ourselves?’
The byproduct of this mentality led to the inception of something special for the diaspora: The African Princes of Comedy.
African Princes of Comedy (APC) emerged from humble beginnings on the college circuit – particularly via providing stand-up/MC entertainment for African Student Association’s across the United States. Between 2013 and 2014, the collective (then comprised of FOXY P, Akam D’Boy, Kapone and Chief Obi) fired off nearly 100 shows under the APC umbrella, to build brand awareness.
Three years later APC has fine-tuned its focus as a tour, morphing into a platform that helps its acts transcend traditional African entertainment. It has peaked in popularity and has continued its national success, with sold-out shows in Maryland, Houston and more recently, New York City. Africa’s most popular social media comedians, from Craze Clown and Aphrican Ape to Mama Tobi, Chief Obi and Clifford Owusu, have bought into the vision and subsequently jumped aboard, cementing the comedy tour’s status as a must-see spectacle. In addition to supporting the giants, APC spreads the wealth by using its platform to cultivate “dark horses”; under-the-radar comedians on upward trajectories. “Come for [Tega], stay for Lesley and Henry Asuzu”, says Bob-Nwachukwu.
In total, the APC tour has united a community of over 20 acts from all over the world; 17 of which performed at their October 25th New York City show.
Unification, commitment and sacrifice from the guys, according to Bob-Nwachukwu, have been the main reasons why APC is where it is today:
“The sacrifice has been incredible on their part. They’re giving their ALL in order for us to have this dream happen. They understand that we’re bigger together and united, than we are separately. They understand that this unity is necessary for us to take this art form to the next level”.
Fresh off of his APC NYC set, Clifford Owusu – the popular Ghanaian comedian and dancer – elaborated on this sentiment of unity:
“To see us all together shows people that, honestly, even though we’re doing separate things, there’s unity and harmony in everything we do. It shows the rest of Africa that we’re working together (and separately) to bring African culture to the world”.
Chukwunonso Ofili and Andrew Ogale of The Wowo Boyz (a popular YouTube comedy collective) spoke to this same idea, and dispelled any notion of competition between the comedians:
“We are not in competition. We’re family, and we feel very honored to be a part of this […] We’re happy and we’re trying to spread this culture across the board”.
Sam Okafor, the social media star famously known as SamTakesOff, sang praises of the tour during his NYC show guest appearance. To Okafor, African comedy acts as a gateway to cultural exposure. “We’re bringing African comedy to light in the U.S., says Okafor. “When people see shows, they want to learn more about Africa, so it opens up that door.”
Adding to their main goal of expanding African culture beyond the motherland, according to Dami “Aphrican Ape” Olatunde, is debunking stigmas. Olatunde sees comedy as a way of giving young Africans confidence to be themselves, unapologetically:
“The whole idea of being African was always frowned upon. People were not really proud to say ‘I’m African’, but based on what we’re doing on the social [media] front, I think we’re putting Africa back on the map in a good light where a lot of people are now coming out and identifying – as well as associating – with being African. It’s just about encouraging people and letting them be themselves as opposed to them being someone else.”
NaMò, the multi-talented APC affiliate (MC, comedian, public speaker & actor ) with 17 years of entertainment experience, went a step further. He called comedy a medium for social awareness and a universal language:
“Laughter is independent of whether you can hear it or see it. It’s a real tool by which we can bring about social awareness. We can bring out desires in the hearts of people to make a difference.”
And making a difference is exactly what Bob-Nwachukwu envisions as an end-result for the African Princes of Comedy in the immediate future. In addition to assisting his fellow comedians in realizing their potentials, Bob-Nwachukwu wants APC to become the go-to collective called upon by multinational organizations – like the United Nations – to help mend violence in Africa through humor.
Armed with a team of self-starting, unselfish entertainers focused on the grand scheme, this lofty aspiration may very well be within reach.
Hot Take: #APCNYC
#APCNYC, the third official stop of the African Princes of Comedy tour, was a hysterical, star-studded evening of high-quality entertainment. The sold-out show featured 20 acts, including 17 of Africa’s most promising stand-up comedians and 3 talented musicians. MC/comedian Young Prince spearheaded the festivities, while celebrity disc jockey, DJ Tunez, provided a steady supply of eclectic melody that kept the crowd entertained.
After a few hours of individual stand-up sets, the comedians gifted the audience with a special live comedy skit, featuring Chief Obi, Wowoboyz, Craze Clown and Akam D’Boy (among others). For fans, these skits presented a nostalgic feel as they recreated hysterical moments typically reserved for Instagram, Vine, and YouTube.
Special guests in attendance to show their support for APC included T-Boy (Don’t Jealous Me), by way of London, Sam Okafor, Thanasis Antetokoumpo (NY Knicks 2014 draftee) and Mr. Cocoyam.