Debo Adedayo: Skit, Culture, and Politics
BY Toyin Falola
This is the final interview report with Debo Adedayo (alias Mr. Macaroni) on June 12, 2022. Viewership figures on television, radios and over a dozen platforms reached over fifteen million by June 15, 2022. For the transcripts: YouTube: https://youtube.com/watch?v=9D_2yJLa5hQ Facebook: https://fb.watch/dB-JNrcbQI/
Debo Adedayo is easily one of Nigeria’s most popular comic skit creators. Known to many as the randy, an agbada-wearing wealthy man called Mr Macaroni, Debo has successfully made himself the favourite across demographics — among the old, the young, male, and female. I mentioned his huge following in the first piece I wrote, pre-interview, and if anyone were to doubt that, watching the recent Toyin Falola Interview and the reactions from members of the audience drawn from different demographics within and outside Nigeria is proof that Mr Macaroni is the beloved of many.
I recently came across the comedy skit about a Jesus-like character in a white flowing robe. It was a comedy skit in full Yoruba that featured a young man telling tall tales to his two friends. Then, the Jesus-like character appeared and advised the young man against telling lies, “an attitude common among Nigerian politicians, especially during elections,” he said. While I was not necessarily fascinated by the content of that skit, I could not help but notice that the skit makers contributed their two cents to political awareness and voter education in the best way they could. That was not the case three or four years ago. The comedy skit creation niche of the Nigerian entertainment industry has primarily brought full entertainment to the watchers, having little to no consideration for socio-politically didactic and satiric content.
This is not to say that the content productions were not didactic; they were often based on social scenarios. However, before the 2020 #EndSARS movement in which Mr Macaroni played an active role, there had not been much conscious production of socio-politically didactic and satiric content. The movement, which was a call to end police brutality and extrajudicial killings of young and hardworking Nigerian youths by officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, drew more attention to social injustice in Nigeria. From 2020 onwards, Mr Macaroni began to release more intentional content, and today, more skit makers are focusing on entertaining their audience and making socio-political impacts in the process.
Debo Adedayo’s success in the entertainment industry is worthy of study and analysis. He went from someone who ventured into comedy skits out of desperation to a household name. It is common to see people initially reluctant to try new trends, just as Debo was. Being a theatre arts graduate who had undergone the teaching of such respected names as Prof. Ahmed Yerima, Debo cannot be blamed for having an initial disdain for comedy skits. There are marked differences between the processes, resources, and strategies needed for creating comedy skits and those needed for theatrical plays like he was used to. Also, he acquired additional certification in movie making and acting from PEFTI Institute. Therefore, comedy skits, which require little to no prior acting experience or certification, could not have been on top of Debo Adedayo’s list when he freshly graduated from the university.
Today, he is not only a successful skit content creator, but he has also made his mark as a different breed, which has earned him roles in movies, among which is Tunde Kelan’s widely acclaimed Ayinla. When asked which is more daunting between the comedy skits he currently creates and the theatrical plays he was exposed to while at Redeemer’s University, Debo Adedayo confessed that the latter requires more intellectual resources and creative concentration. Comedy skits are more improve-like, often with informal creation processes such as improvised dialoguing.
According to Mr Macaroni, comedy skit creation is relatively stress-free that he could almost create one with little to no preparation. But it appears he might not have given conscious consideration to the spontaneous nature of the comedy skit creation process, which has helped deepen his creative reflexes over the years. Spontaneity is the lubricating fluid for creativity. The rate at which Debo Adedayo generates comedy skits and the creative style and process, which might not earn consent in the traditional and academic world of theatre arts, all contribute positively to making him a better theatre and performing artist.
As a discipline, theatre arts can draw several lessons from the life of Debo Adedayo. First, new media should be introduced as a course to theatre arts curricula in Nigerian universities if it is not already being taught. The reason is simple: social media platforms are increasingly becoming creator-friendly. Thus, performing and theatre artists do not have to wait on auditions and roles that may never come before they put their skills to work and monetize their talent and content. There is also a change in content consumption behaviour that favours video content, particularly short-form video content. Short-form video-making platforms such as TikTok and YouTube Shorts record never-seen-before user activity statistics running into billions of views, user signups, and usage.
A combination of creator-friendly policies and provisions and the rising trend for short-form video content has brought about a niche boom among skit content creators in Nigeria. Thanks to social media, Debo Adedayo has monetized his content and attained incredible heights within three years — heights that would have been practically impossible within the same number of years in the traditional Nollywood industry or as a dramatist.
Another valuable lesson that can be tapped from Debo’s professional life is relatability and social consciousness. The young comedian has created an impressionable brand for himself that readily makes him a force of recognition, even in matters unrelated to entertainment. He has achieved this by not making entertainment and comedy the only attributes of his brand. The Debo Adedayo or Mr Macaroni brand is known for social activism, youth engagement, voter education, and social satire, among other socio-political concerns, and for creating relatable and time-sensitive content.
Debo Adedayo’s contributions to Nigeria’s voter education, political consciousness, and awareness cannot be overlooked. Engaging this young Nigerian comedian and activist shows that he is knowledgeable, current, and has an understanding of issues affecting the country. Therefore, it is no surprise that he has identified an ingenious way of creating content that critiques the Nigerian societal entity. He did not restrict voter education and the resuscitation of Nigerians’ political consciousness to his comedy skits. He has also been active via his social media handles and channels through tweets and Facebook posts encouraging the Nigerian people to get their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and vote for the right candidate. For two reasons, Debo has remained relevant as a socio-political activist and voter education advocate. First, he has neither compromised nor affiliated with any political aspirant since the 2020 #EndSARS protests. This is one moral resolution that has earned him the respect of Nigerian youth and his continued relevance among them. Second, he has not shown interest in any political positions. During the last edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews, Debo Adedayo reiterated that he is presently not interested in any political position. This shows that his clamouring and advocacy are based on the desire to see a better Nigeria. The activist and influencers have since joined forces with other influencers to organize social events to get Nigerians to register for the PVC.
Mr Macaroni’s story is an interesting combination of the seemingly unserious and the serious. He has, through comedy skits, become a force for social good. In a country with an astronomical increase in the number of online comedy skit makers, it is important that new people who want to break into the field — especially thespians like Debo Adedayo — define their brand and create a strategy for purposeful and impactful comedy skit creation. The comedy skit creation industry is undergoing a transformation, which would be fascinating to observe and research.
There are takeaway points for Debo Adedayo on several fronts. First is the need to make his content more easily accessible for all demographics since voter education and political awareness have formed a part of his content production. One of the audience members at the last interview raised this issue. The onus lies on Debo and his team to look into innovative strategies to make his content more accessible to the non-English speaking demographic. There is also the consideration of creating his content in several formats. Short-form video content is the trend today. What will be the future trend? Adedayo must learn to study the trends, adapt, and evolve in ways that will keep him relevant and help him continually grow his audience base. Also, he needs to satisfy different segments of his potential audience. Some people prefer texts to videos; thus, Debo Adedayo should consider a written compilation of his comedy skits and possible translation into other languages.
The interview session was instrumental in digging into some of Debo Adedayo’s ideologies, and it must have been quite a revelation for viewers and participants. The recording is available on YouTube or other social media platforms if you missed the interview. Against the backdrop of the events that rounded off the interview, I would say the world should prepare for a more intense Mr. Macaroni.