Daliso Chaponda on Mugabe metaphors, nearly being arrested in Malawi, Britain's Got Talent and his tour - coming to Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton and Birmingham

By Kirsten Rawlins | Birmingham entertainment | Published:

His family fled Malawi as refugees and a friend of theirs was assassinated in Kenya when he was just a child.

Britain's Got Talent contestant Daliso Chaponda has lived through some harrowing experiences, but rather than dwelling on the bad times the comedian instead takes inspiration from these events - turning them into material for his unique stand-up shows.

Daliso says he considers this the best way to talk about the horrors, and a great way to deal with them.

And he's not always been a comedy performer; having worked as a journalist in Ethiopa which Daliso says saw him 'exposed to all sorts of people' - including a witch doctor, no less.

"When I finished university, having studied programming and then writing, I began writing for local papers in Ethiopia," says the 38-year-old star.

"I was once working on a paper for the African Development Forum, which helps fight AIDS, I had to interview a witch doctor - that was fascinating.

"I’ve been exposed to all sorts of odd people.

"I’ve also been through things I didn’t understand when they were happening.

"When I was little, a family friend was assassinated in Kenya. It was horrific, but I didn’t really understand what was going on.


"My dad was a political refugee. We had a dictator in Malawi, so we went to Zambia.

"Then he was accepted at Yale to do a law degree and began working for the High Commission for Refugees. He went from being a refugee, to helping to set up camps.

"This meant I too was obviously exposed to all of this - and that’s why I do a lot about refugees in my shows.

"That’s the interesting thing about comedy: I’ve been around a lot of troubling things, but comedy is the best way to talk about it and deal with it.


"I’d much rather see what’s going on on shows like Mock The Week, because the news is just depressing."

Given his comedy can be a little controversial in places, the star says he's used to criticism in the UK - but that he'd take that over the consequences he may face abroad any day, having nearly been arrested in Malawi.

He even has to use metaphors if he jokes about anything Mugabe-related when performing Zimbabwe.

"It’s great to be in the UK, but there are subjects which are sensitive and tend to offend everywhere," adds Daliso.

"The only difference is, in the UK I may get a letter - in Malawi I was nearly arrested.

"The most people provide is an apology on Twitter over here. It’s great. And it means when I write, I have a much wider canvas.

"I love performing in Zimbabwe, but anything about Mugabe has to be put into metaphors about hyenas and such - though everyone understands."

The star says he's excited to return to Midland stages, as they have 'the liveliest' crowds.

He will perform at Shrewsbury's Theatre Severn on March 3 and May 4; Birmingham Mac on March 9; Wolverhampton's Slade Rooms on March 16; and Birmingham Town Hall on May 18.

"I’ve been to the Midlands before; primarily Birmingham’s Glee Club. I’ve also performed in Wolverhampton," says Daliso.

"The interesting thing is, for some reason Liverpool, Birmingham and Glasgow have the liveliest audiences. If you’re bad they’re most likely to boo, but if you do well they go wild.

"Some comedians are actually scared of performing in those cities for that reason. I actually just find it really fun.

"If I have a day without a show, I go to bed feeling really weird.

"I’ve always been a writer. But if I complete a short story, I don’t hear back about it for months. Even when you’re performing a play, people are quiet - at least until the end.

"But with stand-up, you know how it’s going every minute. That’s why when it’s going well, it’s the best feeling ever.

"One great thing people can expect from the show is variety.

"I do stories, as well as jokes - and people will find out that BGT was not the actually the craziest thing to happen to me last year. I’ve had all sorts of other things going on.

"I’m so excited about the tour. There’s not too much pressure either, as because I’ve been doing it for a while I’ve got a lot of material from previous years.

"It’s kind of my audition for the British public. If you liked me on BGT, I now want you as a fan for the rest of my life.

"I just want to wow them. These people have to think ‘he’s a genius’.

"It’s going to be great. I’ve always said my favourite thing is to make people cry with laughter, so that’s what I’m aiming for."

Daliso came third on Britain's Got Talent last year, after securing the golden buzzer from judge Amanda Holden.

Talking about the show, he described the experience as 'fun' and 'nerve-wracking'.

"I decided to do BGT because I’ve been a comedian for a long time. It’s been my job since 2006, but my first open mic was back in 2001," adds Daliso.

"I was opening for bigger acts and I thought to myself ‘I’m just as good as them’. So by going on BGT, I wasn’t just facing producers - but also the public. And it was so much fun.

"The audition itself was very nerve-wracking and there was a lot of waiting around. But from there, especially after getting the golden buzzer, it was great.

"The local comedians from where I live up in Manchester were so supportive. During the semi finals, some of the comedians even stopped their shows to get the audience to vote for me. It was so wonderful how people got behind me.

"I was really surprised to make it to the top three. Looking at previous years, it seemed the people who do well are the young ones - not someone like me who’s almost a veteran. I’ve just not had any big breaks up until now.

"The responses I got were incredible. It was amazing."

Kirsten Rawlins

By Kirsten Rawlins

Online Entertainment Editor for the Express & Star, Shropshire Star and Native Monster. E-mail me, or phone 01902 319368


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