Updated: Sunday, 18th November 2018 @ 8:20am

From behind bars to behind cameras: Comedian Daliso Chaponda chats ahead of filming DVD at The Lowry

From behind bars to behind cameras: Comedian Daliso Chaponda chats ahead of filming DVD at The Lowry

By David Aspinall

After nearly being put behind bars for his jokes in Malawi, comedian Daliso Chaponda is back in Manchester – and he plans to record his very first DVD at the Lowry tonight.

Ahead of this recording he sat down with MM and discussed the current tour, controversy in Malawi and what got him making people laugh in the first place.

The Salford show comes at the back end of a 25 date-long tour that has replaced performing at the Edinburgh Festival this year, a decision that he has no regrets about.

“I’ve done more shows than I would have done in Edinburgh and I’ve perfected the show like I would have done,” he said.

“I’ve not made a huge profit, but I have made some, whereas with Edinburgh you can lose £4,000, so it does make a huge difference.”

There have been some low points in the tour though, particularly his Oxford gig where only three people turned up.

Although he admits having such a small audience was very disappointing, once he had got past the initial setback the gig became very intimate.

He said: “I can have fun no matter how many people come.

“It’s more just your bank account and practical things like I've paid for this hotel and travelled down here for nothing.”

As such it’s understandable that he has chosen his homecoming show to be filmed for the DVD.

 “You always wish that the one you film will be the best one you do.

“It’s a lovely venue and it’s also Manchester so I've got a higher chance of selling out or coming close.”

Despite being based on Oxford Road, Manchester hasn’t always been Daliso’s home though.

The 33-year-old was born in Zambia as his father was a political refugee who left his homeland during the dictatorship Dr. Hastings Banda.

As such Daliso considers himself to be an ‘exile baby’; he didn’t visit Malawi until the age of 11 and doesn’t speak the language, and grew up living in countries like Kenya, Thailand, Australia and Switzerland, to name but a few, due to his father’s role with the United Nations.

He believes his nomadic childhood has helped him experience different ideals and values which have molded his comedy.

“I see cultural differences, which is where a lot of humour is and you just see it where other people take it for granted,” he said.

During his visit to Malawi as part of his Laughrica tour last year he was threatened with arrest as the government tried to censor him.

He just brushes this incident off as “something that had to be dealt with” but confirmed that he was lucky to have people working with him who knew how to deal with the stuff diplomatically.

However, he does admit though that the “chaos of that one hour” was stressful at the time and that it only took some overzealousness for him to end up in prison.

 “You’re never really afraid of something bad happening, you’re only ever afraid when some underling gets caught up in the moment and goes on a power trip,” he said.

It is surprising that he came so close to incarceration, albeit only for what would have been a short time, as he himself admits he doesn’t set out to offend people with his comedy.

But he believes this showcases the cultural differences between Britain and not only Malawi, but Africa in general.

“Frankie Boyle would have to cut out half his set,” he said. “I only have to get rid of two jokes and again I’ll just replace it with some local stuff.

“Here you can get in trouble for making fun of a group and you offend members of that group.

“In Malawi it doesn’t matter what people you talk about, you can get in trouble for talking about one person or institution who’s got power and they dislike what you say.”

Despite last year’s episode he has already been back this year, and has another gig arranged for October, and admits it is a lot less stressful performing there now his dad is no longer part of the Malawian government.

Dr. George T. Chaponda had been the Minister for Education and subsequently Justice and Constitutional Affairs under Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, who was president of Malawi from 2004.

Dr Mutharika died last April, meaning Joyce Banda, the former vice president, took the role and installed her own cabinet.

Thanks to this he feels less pressure. “The big thing wasn’t getting myself in trouble, it was getting my dad in trouble, that was the big problem.”

Daliso discovered his talent for comedy while studying English Literature at McGill University in Canada, where he lived for five year, but doesn’t think it was such a huge diversion.

He said: “I’d always been a writer and I always knew I wanted to write so it was just how do I write?

“Now I’m writing jokes.”

Coming from an academic family, his father is a lawyer and his brother a doctor, means there hasn’t always been the most enthusiastic support for his chosen career and he confesses there are still moments when his father says, “What about a backup plan?”

However in the last couple of years this has improved.

This is what I love, this is what I do and they’ve gradually accepted that this is what I do and that I’m good at it.”

Daliso cites an unconventional source for his earliest influences.

“I almost feel the things that made me funny are Roald Dahl because that’s the first thing I was reading and giggling,” he explained.

“Because I came from writing I actually think there’s probably more Bernard Shaw in my (comedy) writing than there is the stand up comics I discovered after I was already funny.”

Despite being compared to Eddie Murphy, Daliso doesn’t try to emulate any of the comedians that he loves, a list that includes Murphy, Bill Cosby and Woody Allen.

Whatever his influences, they’re obviously effective as he was voted Africa’s seventh best stand up comedian, an honour he is very flattered by but he confesses he is “coming for number one!”

He intends to use his standing across the continent to further his Laughrica project, which sends some of Britain’s comics over to Africa.

The next thing he wants to do is bring African comics he has seen to do stand up here and work alongside him.

In the immediate future he is performing a gig in Kenya next month and despite the tragic events happening there currently he has no intentions to cancel the show.

“When there were bombings here, like on 7/7, there was comedy the next day, you just move on,” he said.

“That’s when comedy is needed most for light relief.”

His big dream is to perform a show in each of Africa’s 53 countries in one year, but admits he needs to impress investors to be able to afford this.

And this is where Thursday and the DVD come in.

There are still tickets available for the show which starts at 8pm and Daliso is hoping there will be some walk-ups on the night.

“I want it to be full and look amazing and sound amazing.”

So get down and support one of Manchester’s funnymen as he looks to launch the next stage of his career.

For tickets visit http://www.thelowry.com/ or ring the box office on 0843 208 6000.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.