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I TALK TO Daliso Chaponda

"In my head, I was like "I didn't win, I've probably lost it all"."

Since finishing third in Britain's Got Talent in 2017, comedian Daliso Chaponda has completed an 80-date sellout tour of What The African Said including a run at last year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe and now ahead of his next tour, Daliso is returning to the Fringe with a brand new show Blah Blah Blacklist.

During our chat he discusses his time on Britain's Got Talent, how he felt about not winning and what audiences can expect from his new show in which discusses disgraced blacklisted celebrities and historical figures who have let us down.

You performed your first hour at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 10 years ago and only returned for your second hour last year. How important is the Fringe to you?

The interesting thing is that now, it's very important. I did the Big Value show first and that was great. But when I did my first solo show in 2009, I had a bad experience because I invested a lot of money which I didn't have and I lost it all. I didn't get much out of it even though I enjoyed doing the show.

So I figured that Edinburgh wasn't for me, but of course two years ago I got a lot of exposure after doing Britain's Got Talent and I had a radio show so last year I went back and it was a totally different experience. I absolutely loved it and the main difference now is that people come to see me.

So taking part in Britain's Got Talent worked out well for you?

Absolutely! For my profile it's been astonishing. I've not changed what I do. I used to me one of the most often-working comedians on the circuit. I was doing maybe 240 shows a year but in little pubs to 50/70 people. Now I do the same amount of shows, I work just as hard, but now I play to 400/500 people, so it's been a promotion. It's been great.

Why did you decide to take part in the first place?

My life had become like a hamster wheel, I was doing the same gigs every year and auditioning for TV shows and being given very vague reasons as to why they don't want to use you. What appealed to me about Britain's Got Talent is if they don't like me, they will tell me to my face and tell me exactly why and I loved the idea of that.

Were you disappointed not to win?

In the moment, on the day, of course I was disappointed not to win, but I quickly learnt that my career had changed. I was almost naive in misunderstanding the impact of a show where 15 million people are watching you. In my head, I was like "I didn't win, I've probably lost it all" but then we released 20 dates at first and they sold so we kept extending the tour until it was 80 dates and that was a reality which would not have been possible before.

I'm doing my second tour this year and again I wouldn't be touring if it wasn't for Britain's Got Talent. The winning for me is that I won a career where I could tour.

What can people expect from your show this year?

I start off talking about celebrities who have fallen from grace and people whose history returns. Not long ago, there were articles alleging that Martin Luther King had lots of affairs and people calling for his statues to be pulled down. Bill Cosby is another example. There are all these artists who have been disgraced or exposed of criminal activity and then there's the sliding scale down to an old racist tweet.

Last year, I knew what I wanted to say to people but this year's show is much more about confusion. I still say something, but I can't really preach because I'm as confused as the audience. So I think it's going to be a very different dynamic.

I'm not necessarily telling the audience how to respond. What I'm really interested in is that moment of loss of faith - whether that be in an institution like the Catholic Church, or a person like your dad or your favourite comedian. When they let you down, how do you deal with that? Is the problem that you idolise them too much? Do you burn all their merchandise? What do you do? And together with the audience we figure it out.

How did you come up with the title Blah Blah Blacklist?

The show is about blacklists and I knew that it was an obvious pun because I am black. So I was happy with the 'Blacklist' bit. But that might sound too serious so I wanted to make it feel more comedy.

I had a page full of alternative titles like Blacklist Is Back In Town and then Blah Blah Blacklist came into my head that was it. Got it! It's so funny the discussions you have as a comedian because there were long discussions between me and my manager as to whether Bah Bah Blacklist is better than Blah Blah Blacklist - and then whether we should put and 'H' at the end of blah.

How long have you been working on this show for?

I started writing jokes for it whilst I was in the midst of the previous tour. But really, I started working on it properly in November when the previous tour ended. As I was doing that tour, I'd occasionally scribble down a joke and occasionally try out a couple of new jokes.

Do you enjoy having an hour to fill?

Yes, I love it. When I go on tour I do 90 minutes so in Edinburgh I perform a chunk of the material. I feel like I've now turned from a sprinter into a long-distance runner. When I'm in a comedy club now and given 15 minutes I'm like "What?! What am I meant to do with that?" My favourite routine in my previous show was 20 minutes by itself!

How have the previews been going?

The first few were all over the place like they're supposed to be but after that they've been good. I'm very much a person who rewrites and rewrites and rewrites. I admire comedians who can improvise and can think on the spot because that is the opposite of me.

Outside of the Fringe, what are you working on? Will we see you in the Britain's Got Talent: Champions series later this year?

Ideally. But again, I know none of these things. That would be a delight! But you just don't know. What I can tell you though is that I've got a second series of my BBC Radio 4 show Citizen of Nowhere coming out. I've just recorded the first two episodes and I'm recording the other two in September.

I find I say yes to too much but if for years you've never had any opportunities and you suddenly have them you just say yes.

Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?

Funny, controversial, silly and topical.

Daliso Chaponda: Blah Blah Blacklist runs from 31st July - 26th August (not 14th) at 6.30pm at the Gilded Balloon Teviot (Wine Bar). Book tickets here.


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