The country knows – and has taken to their heart – Daliso Chaponda from his appearances on last year’s Britain’s Got Talent; but Mrs Chrisparkle and I know him from one of last year’s Screaming Blue Murder shows where he absolutely slayed the audience and I had no hesitation in awarding him the 2017 Chrisparkle Award for Best Screaming Blue Stand-up! Now he’s back at the Royal for one of his first dates in his first ever UK tour, and already he’s selling out (seats, not material) everywhere he goes. And there’s a good reason for this. The man is utterly hysterical.
But first – a support act. We spent the first half hour in the company of Tony Vino – whom we’ve not seen before – and he’s a very funny guy! He has a lot of nice observational comedy about family life including kids on roller shoes, and dealing with American customs officers’ sense of humour (they don’t have one.) I particularly enjoyed his material about having a vasectomy and sharing surgical memories with other snipped guys in the audience. But best of all was his Lion King finale, ostensibly to create an African atmosphere to welcome Mr Chaponda back for the second half, but really an excuse to get about ten people up from the audience in a hilarious re-enactment of Simba’s Greatest Hour. If you get called up, just go for it, like the Northampton guys last night. It was brilliant.
But it’s all about Mr Chaponda. There are few comics who strike up such an instant rapport because they are so genuinely likeable. He is the epitome of cheekiness, with a permanently sunny personality that he uses to enormous effect to deliver sometimes quite serious material. He doesn’t shy away from race; in fact there’s a considerable segment of the show where we’re asked to judge the relative seriousness of examples of celebrity use of the N word. But he frames it all with both irreverence and kindliness, which is a unique mix. He has some killer jokes regarding slavery. He even has a little material that’s based on his being abused as a child, whereat the audience falls silent with shock and empathy; and then he rounds it off with a perfect punchline that had me snorting into my hand.
The show is very cleverly structured, much of it spent with his telling us all the times when he thought a joke wasn’t in any way “unacceptable” but then discovering it was – with us hearing the material in order to judge it, of course. And, naturally, it’s inevitably incredibly near the knuckle and absolutely hilarious, whilst he feigns surprise at how this “innocuous” joke could possibly cause offence. He’s very quick-witted and you sense that you could see his show a number of times and you’d get a different slant each time. That said, there was some repetition of his Screaming Blue material from last year, but it’s all brilliant, so it was great to hear it again. I’d forgotten how much I love his visual representation of the problems a shorter man faces when attempting a 69.
As an encore we re-enacted his Britain’s Got Talent audition, with members of the audience as the panel, including a very butch Amanda Holden and a very white Alisha Dixon. It was an appropriate way to end the night, linking it to his best-known TV appearance and delivering a few sure-fire one-liners. Mr Chaponda is pure comedy gold. Thank heavens his history lessons concentrated on Henry VIII so that he just had to move to the UK. His tour continues right through till June so do yourself a favour and book!!