The rise of TikTok, as a top social media platform, in recent years has been propelled in large parts by the influencers who have dominated the age of scrolling. The tools of their trade are numerous.
There are influencers that are famous for jumping on challenges, those who spent their time posting fashion content, the ones who post videos of themselves in the gym etc. All of them adopt different tricks to grow their followers for the chance to make their killing on advertising coins.
But the success of the influencers or as they like to be called “content creators” who take to the street making prank videos has been astronomical. The content that these pranksters put out have become a staple on social media generation millions of likes and reshares.
Take for instance Alice Marve, a prankster who started posting prank videos less than two years ago. She has harnessed 313 thousand followers, accounting for her over 2.2 million likes. See an example of her content:
A typical video from these pranksters can be anything from pranking random people on the streets to the biggest celebrities or even politicians. Alice rose to fame by posting videos of herself distracting random Nigerians going about their days.
Another notable figure is Zion Ubani Chibuike (Zfancy) who has been in the social media space since 2018. Zfancy is famous for his raunchy and daring prank videos.
While for many Nigerians, they present a gateway away from the declining economy and depressing news cycle, for these pranksters, the process can be a source of great distress.
Challenges pranksters face
Daniel Machi Gold who has 3.6 million followers on TikTok, said that coming up with the inspiration is the easy part. He said that all he needs to do is “just go out with my guy and make fun of people outside.”
The tricky part, for him, is coming up with a location to shoot. After he finally finds a place to shoot, he has to contend with area boys who hang around neighbourhoods in Lagos. With his team, he has to tip them first before shooting can begin.
“These thugs come out to disrupt our shooting and all. They come asking for settlement,” he laments his experience with them.
For Alice Marve, her frustration starts from the very being. Working with little resources, she has to first “get my crew members a phone and light if possible.” After this, she has to make sure the video is actually capturing her prank.
“Sometimes they think their video is turned on but it not,” she said of the frustrations that can occur on the job. Because the work that she does bothers on capturing in-the-moment reactions, she said that the effort put into rilling up a subject is gone. “You just lost that one,” she said. All this will only be possible to start on days when her team is punctual.
Zfancy said that on a typical day he doesn’t get the reaction he is looking for on the first subject. For this reason, he said that he has to go through a tedious process of shooting at times, up to twenty videos before the right one comes along.
But even before then, he said he must have made sure his camera team is ready and happy so it can have a productive day. He goes out most times with three of them because he wants no excuse for someone not recording an important reaction.
Attack from people on the streets
But even after that hurdle of making sure the team is ready to shoot, pranksters still face a greater challenge of making sure their subjects don’t take up arms against them. With this, one can never be too prepared.
“It was at a gym where the guy almost got mad,” Alice Marve said of an experience gone sour with a soldier. She said the soldier had refused to let her prank slide. “It was through the intervention of my backup team that I got out of it.”
“Sometimes the people I shoot, the subjects tend to get angry because it’s more like a prank so they may flare up and react in a very violent manner,” she said.
“I don’t do the skit to make people feel mad. I intend to make the prank just as a cruise. It doesn’t hurt anybody. It’s just for fun,” she added in defence of her intentions.
Zfancy said that once, he got a black eye when he pranked a guy and had to stay off social media to recover. “I got a black eye and couldn’t shoot for a month or so. I had to wait for the mark to disappear before shooting again,” he said of the experience.
For Daniel, he sees it now as part and parcel of the industry. “Normal thing,” he said.
“I went to shoot a video and I pranked this woman. She got angry. She slapped the videographer. She threw his camera on the floor,” he said of an experience gone wrong.
But that is only the physical experience for which they have an explanation. Sometimes events occur and they are certain spiritual forces are involved.
Alice Marve recalls once when she was about to start shooting and her phone which was at fifty per cent went off out of the blues. She insists that she was sure it was at fifty per cent. “That was very strange,” she said.
Zfancy said that once he pranked a woman and she didn’t take it very well. But then he fell ill. He had no symptoms. He just felt really down. With his crew, he said he begged the woman but he remained sick.
“I just started feeling sick instantly. So I had to go beg her. We just had to keep begging and begging until she forgave me and then she smiled and I gave her money. But she still did not collect,” he said. “Then two weeks later, I went to gift her a phone. And that day, after she accepted it, I felt better after about 30 mins.”
Even though the rigours of the job can be stressful, the giggles that they provoke from their subjects and audience is what keeps them going. As Zfancy puts it, “Getting to see that they smile at the end of the day, encourages you to prank the next person.”
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