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Review: Daliso Chaponda - Blah Blah Blacklist at Nottingham Playhouse

18 January 20 words: Adrian Reynolds

Malawi's Got Talent: Come for the Madonna gag, stay for the awkward questions...

To get the obvious out of the way, it’s not every day you see a comedian from Malawi. The fact that Daliso Chaponda is building up a career from success on Britain’s Got Talent makes him interesting too. Added to that, Daliso comes from a wealthy family, educated at a school in Kenya where pupils learned Latin - it’s no surprise he’s got an interesting take on life. Which always helps with comedy.

Daliso is his own MC, standing to one side of the stage to introduce himself. He’s confident, cool, and we’re soon on the road to some quality humour. Where he’s sharp is looking at Britain as someone getting to know the place, in pointed and layered ways that play with preconceptions. There are other forms of sharpness happening too – Daliso asks people to clap if they’re from another country; over 30; or have dated someone with kids. Partly it’s an opportunity to weave gags out of their responses. Simultaneously, as he acknowledges, Daliso is adding to the understanding he has of his audience, all the better to work his presence on social media and keep the punters coming in.

In the second half things get bizarre and personal, as Daliso’s politician father is accused of plotting a coup

Along with that approach to fan demographics is an acute take on comedy and culture. He gets people to talk about their take on performer and alleged sex offender R Kelly, and riffs on the impact of discovering that his comedy idol Louis C.K. showed off his erection as well as his talent to those he worked with. In these pieces, Daliso gets beyond thinking in meme-friendly chunks and addresses complexities no hashtag will resolve. And hey, there’s a great gag involving Madonna, world’s number one collector of babies from Malawi.

In the second half things get bizarre and personal, as Daliso’s politician father is accused of plotting a coup. That leads, among other things, to Daliso meeting a spy in Wetherspoons who might help out; an attempt to blackmail his dad which Daliso realises he can profit from; and a mob of stone throwers offering to turn against the possible plotter’s rivals for a fee. The ground is shifting all the time, and while these mental gymnastics are happening the comedian is keen to remind you he’s signing DVDs in the interval, and bemoaning the £20,000 he paid to the support act on his last tour. If Daliso’s show doesn’t always hold together seamlessly, that’s not a criticism. If you want your comedy easy to digest, there’s always Michael McIntrye.

Daliso Chaponda was at Nottingham Playhouse on Thursday 16 January 2020

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