YouTube in Africa is creating a whole new generation of talent that doesn't have to go through the usual gatekeepers on TV and radio. Russell Southwood spoke to Mark Angel who runs the biggest YouTube channel in Nigeria about how he does what he does.
Twenty-eight year old Mark Angel's route into comedy was not a standard road. After giving studying to be a doctor for family reasons life took a very different turn:"I used to study photography and then this led me to editing videos. I found stand-up but it was not working for me so I decided to do dramatic comedy on videos and this came together in 2011. We're now on our 211st episode."
However, fame was not an overnight process. Initially he did more adult comedy but then changed the material to appeal to families by bringing in members of his family to perform in the videos. His most successful performer is his niece Emmanuella Samuel. When she was a toddler, Mark Angel noticed that she had a talent for acting. In 2018 it was announced that she had been attached to a Disney Studios project. Another star performer is Denilson Igwe who takes the part of the Pastor in the series.
As the video episodes on the YouTube channel became more popular it opened up new opportunities for him with events, TV appearances and traveling round the world. Based on this success, he has plans to open a school to train children for an entertainment performance career:"I have a project to expand the little school we have to train kids for entertainment."
He also wants to explore opportunities to create feature films:"I'm going to start locally doing independent films but if that works well, my target is Hollywood." When he looks further ahead, he's thinking of doing shows in the USA, South America, Africa and Asia that come out of the comedy performances on the platform". In September 2018 he took a live version of the comedy show to Kampala. He's says he's already built interesting relationships in Australia.
So what's the business model? According to Social blade, the Mark Angel Comedy channel on YouTube was the No 1 most viewed channel in Nigeria n September 2019. It has 5.02 million subscribers and Favorite Episode 190 had 9.8 million views:"The money from YouTube pays for 17 local staff and 5 offshore. But I've been able to mature into other physical businesses. We embrace brands."
Online comedy in Nigeria is not just a 'thing' but it's a 'big thing':"There are Instagram comedians popping up every minute of the day. It's the fastest growing industry in Nigeria." Does TV have a role in developing comedy in Nigeria?:"If you ask me personally, I don't think TV is playing a role. The film market is easily outdoing television".
His comedy comes from the reality of how people live in Nigeria:"They can relate to it. It comes out of real life situastions."