The internet sensation speaks to OkayAfrica about his journey, the several comedy personalities he's created over the years, creating the viral #DontLeaveMe challenge, and being properly credited for his work.
Nigeria's pool of social media comedians is ever increasing, and this is backed by the heavy consumption of online content by Nigerians and the quick rise to stardom of viral internet sensations. Although these internet sensations easily transition into stage comedians and online influencers, more often than not. they fade away as quickly as they rise to prominence. Variety is the only way to remain relevant. The audience has become ever so demanding of new creative ventures and they are fed by the immediacy the internet offers.
Josh Alfred, otherwise known as Josh2funny, has had an unusual path to internet comedy fame. He began his online comedy journey after failing in his stand-up comedy foray. Inspired by the vast consumption of social media comedy content, Josh2funny made his first skit in 2016—a short dry humour video which he comically slapped his friend into a state of perpetual confusion.
Since then, Josh2funny has evolved his brand of comedy with the creation of multiple characters. Mama Felicia, his first character, is a depiction of a traditional Igbo woman. This stems from the environment the Anambra-born comedian grew up in. The audition series, a re-enactment of talent show auditions, which has spawned various characters, mirrors the relentless Nigerian quest for fame. Juga, another one of his many characters, is a loafer who always tries to associate with famous people—a rife trait among Nigerians. In local lingo, it is called "famzing." Brother Zakius is a pastor whose comical renditions of pop songs and effervescent display during mock interviews reminds Nigerians of early 2000's culture.
Josh2funny's brand relies on dry humour. It's not enough humour to throw you over your seat per se, but it's enough to get you in good spirits and crack a large smile across your face. In pandemic-ridden 2020, where people are keeping occupied with diverse social media challenges, one of Josh2funny's characters has attained widespread prominence with the #DontLeaveMe. A witty display of puns that features a hype-man yelling "don't leave me" at the end of every wordplay. Despite the initial video of the #DontLeaveMe being posted in March, it was not until June that the challenge went viral. The challenge has now amassed over 300 million views on Tiktok. Through his multiple characters and spontaneity, the 29-year old has become a household name in Nigerian comedy, because not only do fans not know what to expect from him, they also know that whatever it is, it will be a direct reflection of Nigerian society.
We spoke to Josh2funny about his evolution into becoming an internet sensation, his many characters and the viral nature of his comedy. Read our conversation below.
Photo courtesy of Josh2funny.
How did your journey into online comedy start?
I started by doing stand-up comedy in church. When I finished technical college where I studied Computer Craft, I went to study photography at a private school for two years, and then I studied performance art somewhere else. I won a comedy competition after and I interned under comedian, Koffi Da Guru, for about five years. He was the one that gave me the name Josh2funny. I did not want to put the 2funny because anytime I went for shows people would say 'Are you really funny? C'mon'
I was barely getting any shows as a stand-up comedian. Senior colleagues that did not know you did not really have confidence in putting you on their shows. Then I started watching people's posts on Instagram and it was then I knew that this was a thing people were actually making money from. In 2016, I broke out from a video I made with my friend where I slapped him and he started turning around. After that, I started doing funny covers of songs, I did a cover of Rihanna's "Work" and I think it was at that point that Nigeria really accepted me as an online comedian.
Why did you start with the female character, Mama Felicia?
I was just having fun and I found myself doing it. I noticed people liked the idea of someone wearing women's clothes and I started doing it. Jokes relating to ladies sell more because women love jokes a lot. If you find a way to tell their story or something they do through a joke, they would love you. Ladies also really display their affection for your work but guys do not always do that. So it was ladies first and then the guys later.
What made you invent a lot of different characters?
First, it is the inspiration from God. The second thing is the fear of people getting bored of what I do. When I started with Mama Felicia, I got a lot of side-talk. People were saying this thing would not go well and it would soon fizzle out. I just wanted to prove people wrong, to show that I could do more than that and last longer in the industry. That's why I started the audition series, the audition had over twenty characters. I wanted to allow the audience see something new.
Photo courtesy of Josh2funny.
People think the #DontLeaveMe challenge is your first viral trend but really it was #AllMyGuysAreBallers trend from the audition series. Why was it easier for other people to take credit for the #DontLeaveMe challenge?
When your stuff goes viral, you just have to accept that all the credit might not come to you. As your content goes to various countries, the first person that leads the challenge in that country might be seen as the creator of the challenge. It does not always feel good seeing someone else take the credit for your sweat and ideas but I gradually learned to accept that. People knew that the "all my guys are ballers" trend was me because it was the video that trended not the idea of it like the #DontLeaveMe challenge. "Don't Leave Me" can be easily replicated unlike the "all my guys are ballers" trend. Actually, my first international trend was from a character I named TundeTupac in the audition series. I rapped that I killed Tupac and I killed Biggie and stuff like that, then Michael Blackson, the comedian posted it and the comedy page, Hackney's Finest posted it and it started getting international traction.
What is your creative process?
I don't know. It has to be God. It just comes into my head and I record it.I do not go beside the beach or sit somewhere to get inspiration. I do not read too much. You can say the things I grew up on probably influenced me. I have been to several auditions and that may have contributed to the audition series. I have auditioned as a singer, as a rapper, as a comedian and a dancer.
How did the #DontLeaveMe challenge start?
I started by doing this thing I called, "Think About It," where I would just say some random words that don't make sense and say think about it. Late last year, I started adding a play on words -puns- to the Think About It. On March 24th, I dropped a video where I was standing on a leaf, and I said I am on leaf, do not disturb me, I am on leave (leaf). I picked up a leaf and said I want to take my leave (leaf). At the end of that video, my hype-man, Bello Kreb, was shouting 'don't leave me' which was still a play on the leaf from earlier in the video. On the 3rd of June, a guy from Zimbabwe dropped a similar video as well saying don't leave me and he just said it over and over again and it was funny, then the whole thing blew up from there.
Photo courtesy of Josh2funny.
When did you realise that it had gone viral?
I was seeing the Zimbabwe guy's posts all around, a lot of people were reposting it. Then I started celebrities around posting their own versions as well. Then King Bach, the American comedian, posted it and then I knew it was a big deal. That was when I started believing that this thing had really gone far.
Do you think COVID-19 contributed to the challenge going viral?
I think it contributed to it because people are at home and people have to find humour online.
Do you create content with the idea of going viral?
No, not really. I am just doing my job and having fun. In the course of doing my job, occupational wonders not hazards happen. It is great fulfillment seeing the content go everywhere because that is the reason why we do all this. The more it goes viral, the more fulfilled we get.