The Cambridge Geek

Daliso Chaponda: Citizen of Nowhere

Daliso Chaponda is a Malawian comedian (by way of quite a lot of other countries) currently living in the UK, and has put together this version of his touring stage show for BBC Radio 4. It's a rather less sitcom-y affair than his previous appearance in When The Laughter Stops, but still features a fair bit of dialogue between Daliso and his meddling narrator.

This is an examination of Britain's relationship with Africa, which perhaps could be described as "difficult", if one were feeling in the mood to indulge in a little revisionism. Since this is the first episode, it looks at Britain's initial interactions with Africa. Which are mostly slavery and colonialism.

You might think that would make this a difficult topic to joke about, and you'd be half right. Not regarding the comedy, as it's rather brilliant. Probably the funniest show on this month. But it's interesting to listen to an audience who aren't always sure if they're allowed to laugh. Chaponda does have a fair bit of fun with this, the idea of playing with white guilt, which is nicely balanced with his arguments with the narrator/sound engineer.

That relationship is one of the main sources of comedy, with James Quinn playing a version of the patronising "we know better than the natives" colonial archetype, as well as an incompetent voiceover man (though with a surprising range). Perhaps my favourite moment in the show comes shamefully from a double entendre slipped into Chaponda's words by the sneaky narrator, but their sniping is always fun.

The show doesn't dig too deep into the history in the manner of something like In Their Element or Natalie Haynes, being very comedy heavy, but I think that's where it's meant to be positioned. It's difficult to give a lot of nuanced detail, when the best fact that the audience knows about Africa is pulled from Toto lyrics. We do perhaps fail rather strongly at having an international education.

Good for comedy though, and will be listening to the rest of the series. And if nothing else, it seems to have got Chaponda another date in a slavery museum.

Score 4

Tagged: Radio Comedy Two hander Stand-up Geography/History