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Munya Chawawa on fame, political comedy and Zimbabwe

By Manish Pandey and Rick Kelsey

When you think of Munya Chawawa comedy, politics and eyebrows probably spring to mind.

The 29-year-old’s parody news sketches have become a must-watch for many after they took off during Covid lockdowns.

And he describes the past year or so as “being crazy”.

But, despite being known for funny political satire, he’s now delving into something which he describes as slightly more serious.

He’s been exploring Zimbabwe – where he grew up – and Robert Mugabe, the country’s independence icon turned authoritarian leader.

“The reason I made it is because it’s where I’m from,” says Munya.

But he also wanted “to gain a bit of closure for myself as to why I had to leave somewhere that felt like paradise,” he tells BBC Newsbeat.

“So I went back to where I came from, to tell the story about what I think is one of the greatest places on Earth.”

Munya admits doing a serious documentary was a change from his usual brand of comedy

Mugabe was leader of Zimbabwe for 37 years until he was removed by the military in 2017.

After he took power he was praised for broadening access to health and education for the black majority.

But later years of his rule were marked by violent repression of his political opponents and Zimbabwe’s economic ruin.

As a result, Munya feels Zimbabwe can often be portrayed as a place “you’d never want to go near”.

“But actually, it’s beautiful. And it’s so rich in culture and history, and if I can even give people a slice of that, then I feel very fulfilled,” he says.

Despite the serious subject matter, Munya’s brought his trademark style to the topic, and says he hopes he’s made “the first documentary in history to explain dictatorships with R&B”.

Munya says he wasn’t always interested in politics, though he did study – and then later dropped – the subject at A-Level.

“I am interested in the world. I’m interested in things that make people feel a certain way,” he says.

“And politics of late has caused such a spectrum of emotions that it’s been hard not to involve in any satire.”

The question many of Munya’s fans have is how he manages to create his famous topical videos – reacting to news events – so quickly.

“It’s all in the eyebrows. That’s why I never get it threaded,” he jokes.

But he admits feeling obliged to make political sketches as soon as something happens.

“Sometimes you’ve got to let things marinate. So when I see a story break, I’m ready, the tripod is set up but sometimes you get the gold after one or two days.”

“So I’ve become much better at holding the gold,” he says.

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As any rising star will tell you, there’s always a moment when you know you’ve made it, that tells you your life has changed.

And Munya has a rather unusual method for measuring his success.

He says he judges “the scale of career moments by how much they make me sweat”.

And his brush with one megastar brought on the perspiration.

“When I was sat opposite The Rock, that was definitely a sweaty moment for me because this is a guy who I watched my whole childhood,” he says.

“The amount of times I watched this man’s elbow land, so to be sat opposite him making a sketch on it [is incredible].”

Some of Munya’s memorable videos include chef Nigella Lawson being the subject of his satire.

But what dish would he pick if he could cook with Nigella?

“A recipe that fuses British culture and Caribbean culture. And we together would make the world’s first shepherd’s jerk,” he says. – BBC