Our Content Editor Evie Kissack caught up with the sensational Daliso Chaponda ahead of his debut UK tour What The African Said, getting an exclusive glimpse into life after Britain’s Got Talent and what to expect from his exciting upcoming projects.

It’s difficult not to be in awe of the Malawian born stand up, who not only reached the Britain’s Got Talent final this year, but has pushed the boundaries of almost every creative medium. Daliso recently landed his own show for the BBC, has co-written a play, become YouTube sensation, is a published fiction writer and on top of all of this has announced a mammoth UK tour for 2018. How he manages to find the time, I will never know.

Daliso first began performing stand up shows in Malawi and after reaching initial success, was soon followed by a frenzy of media attention. The comedian remains unfazed by censorship laws in Africa after facing potential arrest for his gutsy material - which seemed to only spur him on to take his edgy and daring comedy further.

“Unfortunately for us as humans, but fortunately for comedians, the world is currently truly absurd.”

 Having played festivals in Melbourne, Edinburgh, Singapore and Cape Town, to name a few, Daliso now brings his material to audiences throughout the UK tackling subject matter others might shy away from – politics, fake news, and the role of the media in society. In my interview with Daliso, I wanted to figure out how his earlier experiences have affected his comedy, his creative inspirations and what it feels like to have been a finalist on one of the most popular shows on UK television. 


When did you decide you wanted to become a comic?

I always knew I wanted to make my living being creative. I was a braggart, a liar and a chatterbox. I wrote fiction and poetry for many years but discovered comedy quite by accident while at University in Montreal. I had never seen it before, but once I saw it I knew I wanted to try it. I signed up to an open mic and the moment that I went on stage and got my first big laugh was the moment I realised I had to keep doing this, forever.


What made you audition for Britain’s Got Talent?

I had been making my living as circuit comedian, often just barely, for over a decade.  Getting the biggest laughs on the night didn’t seem to mean much as I was never able to go get to that ‘next level’.  The responses I received from failed auditions were often frustrating.  I once didn’t get booked because ‘my voice was too irritating’ and a certain TV show passed on me because I clashed with somebody they had booked that series (two black comedians in the same series would have been the herald of the apocalypse I imagine).

I decided to do BGT because it is not a faceless producer who decides if you are good enough, it’s the audience who vote and judges who you are looking straight at. There are no quotas, there are no “we like you, but you don’t have the look we want”…etc. If you impress the judges and audience, you are through. 


What did you love most about being on the show? Have you had a lot of response from fans since becoming a finalist?

The thing that I have loved most, which I did not expect at all, was legions of tiny pint-sized fans. I never thought of my comedy as ‘kid friendly’. I don’t swear up a storm but my subject matter is often mature – slavery/colonialism/prejudice.  Somehow though, my routines really made kids laugh and they have been approaching me in the street, quoting my jokes at me, it’s a delight. And since the show ended, the response has been amazing. Almost every comedy night I have performed at has been sold out, my tour is selling out. This is all I ever wanted.


Your new tour What the African Said begins in February – what can we expect?

Unfortunately for us as humans, but fortunately for comedians, the world is currently truly absurd. From Trump’s antics to MPs saying the ‘N word’, to robot Buddhist monks (the last one is true! Google it). Satire has never been so easy to write. The show is hilarious and a good ninety-minute break from the insane world that made it so easy to write.  


Where do you draw inspiration for your stand up material?

I sort of addressed this in the last question, but to be more exhaustive, I am inspired by big emotion. If something terrifies me, I write a joke about it.  If it makes me angry, makes me sad, or giddy with joy.  This can be everything from an argument with a family member to a newspaper headline. There are jokes hiding everywhere like Pokémon. My job is tracking them down.


Congratulations on landing your own show for BBC Radio 4! We’ve heard Citizen of Nowhere will explore Britain’s relationship with Africa, can you tell us the importance of this project to you personally?

There are a lot of themes I touch in my stand up but it’s tough to go into in depth. I have read lots of books about slavery, colonialism and the ways their legacy still affects us. The papers often rail against immigration and xenophobia is on the rise.  There are things I have overheard people say about aid to Africa in a pub that infuriated me, but Wetherspoons at 1am is not necessarily the best place to debate big issues. Radio is the perfect place to explore stuff in more depth than I can in my stand up.  I have written episode 1 and 2 and I am very excited because in researching the show I learnt a lot I didn’t know and changed my own mind.  


How has your upbringing and background influenced your comedy?

I was born hopping from country to country and that nomadic, always-outsider early life is my entire perspective. I fit in nowhere and so I see the absurd in things that people take for granted.  


You’ve experienced first-hand how very different the media is in countries other than England. Do you feel your UK tour allows you to speak about topics you might otherwise not be able to?

The UK is a wonderful place to perform because I can talk about anything. I actually talk about everything everywhere but it’s different. In some countries like Zimbabwe or Malawi, I have to hide a lot inside metaphor and parable. A joke about a man, who inherited a pub from his brother for example, in Malawi, was a joke about the president whose brother was president before him.  In England no metaphor is necessary.  If I want to talk about Theresa May, I just say Theresa May.


You’ve also co-written a play recently! Is writing and literature something you are very passionate about?

I write all the time. Daily, obsessively. Stand up comedy is just me flirting with all of you. I will soon bombard you with plays and novels and sitcoms. I love creating something from nothing. It’s the closest we come to magic. Pen = wand.


Do you have any inspirations in the comedy world?

Sugar Sammy, a Canadian comedian, and Sarah Millican are the two most consistently clutch-your-guts hilarious people I have met and whenever I lazily want to sleep in or watch a box set instead of writing draft 3, the amount of work performers like them put in makes me get back in the saddle.


Daliso’s tour spans 31 dates across the UK, coming to Birmingham’s mac Friday 9th March. For an evening of perceptive and thought-provoking comedy that will leave your stomach muscles aching, book your tickets for What The African Said now at https://www.livenation.co.uk/artist/daliso-tickets. 

For more information about the venue visit https://macbirmingham.co.uk/ or call 0121446 3232.



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