Humour generation and multimodal framing of political actor in the 2015 Nigerian presidential election campaign memes


multimodal framing
presidential election campaign

How to Cite

Tella, A. (2018). Humour generation and multimodal framing of political actor in the 2015 Nigerian presidential election campaign memes. The European Journal of Humour Research, 6(4), 95–117.


Internet memes significantly constitute an outlet for extensive popular political participation in election contexts. They instantiate humour and represent political candidates so as to affect voters’ behaviour. Few studies on memes in political context exist (Shifman et al. 2007; Chen 2013; Tay 2014; Adegoju & Oyebode 2015; Huttington 2016; Dzanic & Berberovic 2017). These studies have not intensively examined the integrative deployment of visual and verbal resources afforded by internet memes to generate humour and to construct specific frames for election candidates in the campaign context of an emerging democracy. Therefore, this study investigates the use of language and visuals for humour generation and for the creation of definite frames for the two major presidential candidates in internet memes created in the course of the 2015 Nigerian presidential election campaigns. The theoretical insights for the study are derived from Attardo’s (1997) set-up-incongruity-resolution theory of humour, Kuypers’ (1997, 2002, 2009, 2010) model of rhetorical framing analysis, Bauman & Briggs’ (1990) concept of entextualisation, Kress & van Leeuwen’s (1996) socio-semiotic model for visual analysis and Sperber & Wilson’s (1986) relevance theory. The analysis indicates that meme producers generate humour and frame candidates through the entextualisation of verbal and visual texts, explicatures and implicatures. The memes construct seven individuated frames and one collective frame for the two major presidential candidates in the sampled memes using visual and linguistic resources. It concludes on the note that supporters of election candidates use humorous internet memes for negative portraying opponents and the positive representation of the favoured candidate. These negative other-representations serve the purpose of depreciating the electoral values of the opponents and indirectly increasing the electoral chances of their own candidates.


Adegoju, O. & Oyebode, O. (2015). ‘Humour as discursive practice in Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election online campaign’. Discourse Studies 17 (6), pp. 643-662.

Attardo, S. and Raskin, V. (1991). ‘Script theory revis(it)ed: joke similarity and joke representation model’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 4 (3/4), pp. 293-347.

Attardo, S. (1997). ‘The semantic foundation of cognitive theories of humour’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 10 (4), pp. 395-420.

Bauman, R., and Briggs, C.L. (1990). ‘Poetics and performance as critical perspectives on language and social life’. Annual Review of Anthropology 19, pp. 59-88.

Blakemore, D. (1992). Understanding Utterances: an Introduction to Pragmatics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Brideau, K., & Berret, C. (2014). ‘A brief introduction to impact: the meme font’. Journal of Visual Culture 13, pp. 307-313.

Carston, R. (2002). Thoughts and Utterances: the Pragmatics of Explicit Communication. Oxford: Blackwell.

Charteris-Black, J. (2004). Corpus Approaches to Critical Metaphor Analysis. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Charteris-Black, J. (2011). Politicians and Rhetoric: The Persuasive Power of Metaphor. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Chen, K.W. (2013). ‘The Singapore mass rapid transport: a case study of the efficacy of a democratized political humour landscape in a critical engagement in the public sphere’. European Journal of Humour Research 1(2), pp. 43-68.

Dzanic, N.D., & Berberovic, S. (2017). ‘#ForgiveUsForWeHaveSinned: conceptual integration theory and political internet humour’. European Journal of Humour Research 5 (2), pp. 4-22.

Entman, R. M. (1991). ‘Framing U.S. coverage of international news: contrasts in narratives of the KAL and Iran air incidents’. Journal of Communication 41, pp. 6–27.

Filani, I. (2016). ‘Laff wan kill me die: an analysis of Akpos jokes and readers’ responses’. European Journal of Humour Research 4(4), pp. 5-25.

Freud, S. (1960 [1905]). Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (J. Strachey, Trans.). New York: W. W. Norton.

Giaxoglou, K. (2009). ‘Entextualizing vernacular forms in a Maniat village: gestures of orthopraxy in local folklore practice.’ Pragmatics 19 (3), pp. 419-434.

Huttington, H. (2016). ‘Pepper spray cop and the American dream: using synecdoche and metaphor to unlock internet memes’ visual political rhetoric’. Communication Studies 67 (1), pp. 77-93.

Kress, G., and van Leeuwen, T. (1996). Reading Images: the Grammar of Visual Designs. London: Routledge.

Kuypers, J. A. (1997). Presidential Crisis Rhetoric and the Press in the Post-Cold War World. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Kuypers, J. A. (2002). Press Bias and Politics: How the Media Frame Controversial Issues. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Kuypers, J. A., Cooper, S., & Althouse, M. (2008). ‘The president and the press: the framing of George W. Bush’s speech to the United Nations on November 10, 2001’. The American Communication Journal 10 (3), pp. 1-23.

Kuypers, J. A. (2009). ‘Framing analysis’, in Kuypers, J.A. (ed.). Rhetorical Criticism: Perspectives in Action, London: Lexington Books, pp. 181-204.

Kuypers, J. A. (2010). ‘Framing analysis from a rhetorical perspective’, in D’Angelo, P. & Kuypers, J.A. (eds.). Doing News Framing Analysis: Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives. New York: Routledge, pp. 287-313.

Martin, J.R., & White, P.R.R. (2005). The Language of Evaluation: Appraisal in English. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Milner, R. M. (2013). ‘Pop polyvocality: internet memes, public participation, and the Occupy Wall Street movement’. International Journal of Communication 7, pp. 2357-2390.

Musolff, A. 2016. Political Metaphor Analysis: Discourse and Scenarios. London: Bloomsbury.

Nerhardt, G. (1976). ‘Incongruity and funniness: Towards a new descriptive model, in Chapman, A.J. and Foot, H.C. (eds.). Humour and Laughter: Theory, Research and Applications. Oxford: John Wiley & Co.

Nnochiri, I. (2015). ‘Certificate saga: why court struck out suit against Buhari’. Vanguard, 30 June, 2015. [Online] [Accessed 27 August, 2017.]

Nwofe, E. (2015). ‘Dimensions of negativity in the coverage of the Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election’. International Journal of International Relations, Media and Mass Communication Studies 2 (2), pp. 6-29.

Shifman, L., Coleman, S. & Ward, S. (2007). ‘Only joking?: online humour in the 2003 UK general elections’. Information, Communication and Society 10 (4), pp. 465-487.

Shifman, L. (2013). ‘Meme in a digital world: reconciling with a conceptual troublemaker’. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication 18, pp. 362-377.

Shifman, L. (2014). Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Silverstein, M., & Urban, G. (eds.). (1996). Natural Histories of Discourse. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1986) Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Tay, G. (2014). ‘Binders full of LOLitics: political humour, internet memes and play in the 2012 US presidential election (and beyond)’. European Journal of Humour Research 2(4), pp. 46-73.

Ugwuanyi, S. (2015). ‘“I’m not ready to feed my husband in prison”, Patience Jonathan’. Daily Post, 17 March, 2015. [Online] [Accessed 27 August, 2017.]

van Leeuwen, T. (2003).‘A multimodal perspective on composition’, in Ensink. T., & Sauer, C. (eds.) Framing and Perspectivising in Discourse. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

van Leeuwen, T. (2008). Discourse and Practice: New Tools for Critical Discourse Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wilson, D. (1994). ‘Relevance and understanding’, in Brown, G., Malmkjaer, A.P. and Williams, J. (eds.), Language and Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 35-58.

Yus, F. (2003). ‘Humour and the search for relevance’. Journal of Pragmatics 35, pp. 1295-1331.

Yus, F. (2004). ‘Pragmatics of humorous strategies in El club de la comedia’, in Reita, R.M. & Placencia, M.E. (eds.), Current Trends in the Pragmatics of Spanish, Amsterdam: John Benjamins. pp. 319-346.

All authors agree to an Attribution Non-Commercial Non Derivative Creative Commons License on their work.


Download data is not yet available.