LONDON — He’s the hyperbolic news anchor with an agenda, the disgruntled Meghan Markle skeptic vying for Piers Morgan’s job, the British aristocrat insisting he’s merely center class — and people are only a few of the characters in Munya Chawawa’s arsenal.
However throughout a Zoom interview final month, Mr. Chawawa, 28, talking from his London house in a neon hoodie, was exploring his personal persona.
“I make content material as a result of I want to precise how I’m feeling in regards to the world,” he stated of his comedy. “It’s important to have some type of catharsis when the world throws stuff at you, in any other case you’ll simply go loopy.”
Mr. Chawawa’s dry sketches about racism, classism and on a regular basis life in Britain had already discovered an viewers earlier than the pandemic. However in lockdown, his potent mixture of singing, comedy appearing and rapping has helped set up him as a sardonic voice of progressive younger individuals in an more and more numerous nation who’re unimpressed by elitism and skeptical of the institution.
The distress of a locked-down Britain has been a boon to Mr. Chawawa, who now has greater than half 1,000,000 followers on each Instagram and TikTok. He has signed a contract with Atlantic Data, and his information anchor character, Barty Crease, appears in promotions for Netflix U.Okay.
In such a 12 months, “humor has been a much-needed tonic,” Mr. Chawawa stated. And the string of successes has fueled an formidable objective: “I’m working towards being one of many nation’s most revered satirists.”
Satire, to Mr. Chawawa — whose comedy heroes are John Oliver, Andy Zaltzman and Sacha Baron Cohen, amongst others — feels “like a superpower.” That’s not solely due to the problem of execution but in addition due to satire’s skill to extract humor from conditions that aren’t purported to be humorous in any respect, he stated.
“Something you chuckle at can’t hang-out or damage you as a lot because it used to do,” he stated.
Given the state of the world immediately, there’s loads of materials for him to work with.
When critics referred to as meals packages for poor kids too meager, Mr. Chawawa was ready with a sketch about a wealthy lawmaker scrambling to reply: “We will’t feed them however we might put them in a movie — ‘The Hungrier Video games.’” He has parodied British journalists brainstorming headlines in regards to the Duchess of Sussex utilizing the sport Playing cards In opposition to Humanity (“Meghan Kidnapped Peppa Pig,”) and a security guard letting rioters into the U.S. Capitol upon listening to they’re white: “You’re already carrying your go! It’s referred to as white privilege.”
Amongst all his characters and creations, Mr. Chawawa is finest recognized for Unknown P, an insufferably smug, Burberry-cap-wearing rapper from Surrey who riffs about tax evasion, belief funds and different issues Mr. Chawawa imagines the 1 p.c would possibly speak about behind closed doorways.
The character was born from a want to show the hypocrisy of classism and cultural appropriation amid a public debate over U.K. drill — a subgenre of hip-hop music that British authorities have tried to censor, blaming it for an increase in knife crimes in London.
For a lot of younger Black women and men, drill was an necessary type of self-expression, Mr. Chawawa stated, giving voice to the frustrations and realities of life in a interval of austerity. Mr. Chawawa stated he was disturbed by the appropriation of the style, with “posh white children singing the lyrics” because it filtered into non-public colleges.
Born in Derby, England, Mr. Chawawa spent his childhood in Zimbabwe, his father’s birthplace, earlier than his household moved to a small village close to Norwich, England. His first publicity to comedy was by means of his grandfather, whose jokes over the dinner desk made him the focus.
In England, the place his was one of many few households of coloration within the space, Mr. Chawawa stifled his pure extroversion, which had been inspired in Zimbabwe. “Slowly, I finished placing my hand up,” he stated.
In faculty, he studied psychology however discovered himself spending all his time within the pupil radio hub. He additionally labored as a waiter at a high-end restaurant in Norwich, the place clients typically complimented his English. There, he picked up helpful insights into the methods of the ultrawealthy. It struck him when he moved to London that this world may very well be a mine of comedy gold.
He started posting skits on-line whereas working as a producer for the TV channel 4Music, hoping they might increase his profile sufficient to propel him onto the air. However as skit after skit went viral, Mr. Chawawa discovered that as a substitute of making an attempt to impress business gatekeepers, he might bypass them completely.
“You may go viral in a day and everybody is aware of who you’re,” he stated, including that many younger individuals in Britain didn’t see themselves mirrored by the satirists on their TV screens. “To me it feels liberating to fight the established order.”
His personal operation stays largely himself and “a tripod that has one leg sellotaped collectively,” he stated, although he does make use of assist for extra difficult graphics and animation.
To ensure his skits will resonate at a time when viral fame will be life-affirming or damaging, he shares them first with a panel of trusted pals. “Some individuals, I’ll be so totally different from them in actual life, in fact they’re not going to assume it’s humorous,” he stated. “My followers are the individuals I believe I’d get together with in actual life.”
Mr. Chawawa rejects the criticism that satirizing severe matters like racism and the pandemic trivializes them. The grandfather who impressed his comedy died from a terminal sickness throughout the pandemic, and final summer time’s Black Lives Matter protests left him with an emotional ache he had by no means skilled. “I might barely even choose up my telephone,” he stated. “I felt so low.”
However he subscribes to the adage that in tough instances, you possibly can cry or you possibly can chuckle — and he wish to make individuals chuckle. “It’s higher for me so as to add humor on the planet presently than add extra causes to be depressed,” he stated.
Regardless of a watch for locations and other people to critique on the planet, Mr. Chawawa doesn’t need to change into a cynic, he stated — that man complaining on the grocery store about how laborious life is.
As an alternative, he’s optimistic about his personal future and the long run that Britain’s younger persons are constructing.
“The older technology possibly assume we’re all on TikTok grinding in opposition to a wardrobe — which,” he admitted, “typically is true.” However he believes his comedy is answering a necessity amongst younger individuals for entertainers who’re keenly conscious of inequalities on the planet.
“As soon as the outdated cash begins to shuffle out, I’m very assured of how Britain will look when the brand new technology steps in,” he stated.
Mr. Chawawa’s dream is to provide his personal tv present. He’s branching into extra appearing and writing work. And as soon as the pandemic is over, he — or reasonably Unknown P — plans to observe the likes of different British comedians and make a visit throughout the Atlantic.
“People assume that Unknown P is real,” he stated, grinning. He stated he would welcome the chance for the character to “get some actual cultural insights.”
For now, Mr. Chawawa is having fun with the possibility to lean into that pure extroversion. “My dad all the time used to say to me, ‘While you have been in Zimbabwe you have been so daring.’” Being a satirist now, he added, is “a resurgence of the man I was.”