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Daliso Chaponda: Laughrica
The Camden Head
11th August 2013


Daliso Chaponda

Photography provided by the Comedy Agency

The last time I saw Daliso Chaponda in action - filming a show for Jongleurs - the venue was so crowded I had to stand. This time I had my choice of seats in the Camden Head. Now, I'm not trying to imply anything negative about how Chaponda's career has developed in that gap - although, I might suggest his promoter has got complacent. Rather, I'm trying to highlight that I have seen this comedian work a room of both extremes and he's adapted brilliantly each time.

Normally, a comedy show with a single-figure audience can be incredibly awkward, and Chaponda did give us the option of cancelling, but he's been in this game for so long and really honed his craft that he's one of those rare performers who doesn't get fazed by anything. If the audience want the show to go on, it will go on, and he'll throw everything he's got at it. And this sheer professionalism and confidence brought out a really good energy, those of us in the room genuinely had a good time.

Now, some of the material in his new show, Laughrica, is admittedly old hat. Chaponda opens with some tried and tested jokes of his about Malawi and closes with one about exorcism that I have heard him deliver before, but that I was secretly hoping to hear him bust out again, because it's got a great punchline. I've seen far too many self-proclaimed funny people recently who have been lazy with their writing - Chaponda's material is sharp, punchy and gets you laughing out loud with ease. There aren't any polite smiles, probably because the jokes aren't always suitable for polite company, but there are big belly laughs.

Hearing Chaponda talk about how his comedy gigs back in Malawi last year nearly got him arrested is interesting as well as funny. It's this political touchstone and sense of universal justice that makes you listen whether or not he's knocking out the gags (don't worry, he is) and brings a vague element of Mark Thomas to proceedings. Like all of Thomas' work, it's personal to the comedian, rather than material that you might hear rehashed in someone else's set. Granted, that's where the similarities to Mark's later work end, with Chaponda bringing up the usual racial and cultural differences, and spends some time talking about relationships - easy, relatable material.

Daliso Chaponda

Photography provided by the Comedy Agency

Over the course of his one-hour show, Chaponda involved the entire audience, bringing him into his narrative and making them feel so comfortable that at one point, one of the punters staged a mid-show Q&A. Even this didn't knock Chaponda off his stride, he responded easily with the answers she wanted, threw in a joke, and kept going. And when the latecomers wandered in at the start, he reintroduced what he was talking about, and rattled out some different jokes, bringing the new people into his show, but equally, not boring the others with repetition. The fact that he had enough jokes up his sleeve to do that is a sign of how well-prepared he is, how slick his material is, and how approachable and, frankly, downright professional.

And as the saying goes, fail to prepare and you prepare to fail. No chance of that with Chaponda. We've been largely impressed with this year's Camden Fringe, but the weaker acts have mainly been straight standup. There have been some with potential, but Chaponda is already there. He's together, he's confident, he's funny - one of the most accomplished we've seen inside and out of Camden - and by a long shot. It's quite frankly irritating that some weaker shows have had a bigger pull because Chaponda's set is far more entertaining and is actually deserving of a crowd.

With two shows left, we would urge you to rock up to the Camden Head and see Chaponda's abridged version of Laughrica. There are many reasons why you should see his show, but there's only really one which matters: he's a genuinely funny man who will make you laugh.

Daliso Chaponda: Laughrica ran from 11th to 13th August 2013 at the Camden Head, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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