Munya Chawawa on his new show exploring race in Britain, creating iconic sketches and his acting ambitions

Munya Chawawa on his new show exploring race in Britain, creating iconic sketches and his acting ambitions

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Monday, 6th December 2021
Credit: Photography Charlie Cummings and styling Jessica Swanson
Credit: Photography Charlie Cummings and styling Jessica Swanson

Munya Chawawa is a satirist known for his viral social media sketches and as a co-host of Channel 4’s Complaint’s Welcome.

His sketches parody some of the biggest news stories from Boris Johnson’s Peppa Pig fumble to Matt Hancock’s extramarital affair. 

Chawawa’s newest project, Race Around Britain, sees him travel all around the UK to educate the nation about black culture and use comedy and wit to instigate open and honest conversations about race in Britain today.

Why did you want to create your new YouTube show Race Around Britain?

Race is one of those very touchy subjects people get uptight about. Humour and comedy is something that can defuse those tensions and open up people's minds to hearing about the problems that black people face. 

If you’re worried that we're going to point the finger in your face, this is not that show. This is a show where we take it nice and slow, have a laugh along the way and learn. 

We learn through comedy, we do these huge stunts and sketches, and we're out and about meeting the people of Britain with faces they'll know and love such as Nella Rose, Harry Pinero, Yung Filly.

As entertainers, you can see we look friendly, the impetus is not to lecture or to preach, it’s more to just enjoy the ride, and if you come away with something that's our job done.

When you were filming, were people receptive to you asking them questions and engaging with them?

Everyone we met was really friendly, which is another positive sign. It's not the case that everyone is mean or ignorant, actually, people are lovely and very receptive.

It's about reaching out to people and touching base with them on these things before something else influences their thought process which isn't based on reality. 

Was there anything that surprised or shocked you?

Things like not knowing that Africa is a continent or thinking that fufu is some sort of Vietnamese noodle. 

There are some basic things about Africa, the Caribbean and black culture that you just assume people know when you live in a city like London, which has so much culture. But there are some areas of Britain that are completely untapped when it comes to a knowledge of black culture. 

That's only a bad thing, when it starts to manifest itself in racist attitudes and behaviours. But it just taught me that there is a knowledge gap of the very basics of the culture that surrounds us and has contributed so much to the world.

You’ve said growing up in Zimbabwe your individuality was celebrated but when you moved to Norwich it was about conforming and falling in line, did you want to break away from that with your social media sketches and be yourself?

My videos are my safe space because often they're in my room by myself and there's no one there to judge me. 

It's only when the final product goes out that people are then able to say what they want to. 

The creation of those videos is a place where I can be Munya and that's what I love so much about them.

Do you have any standout sketches?

I really enjoyed doing the Nigella sketches because I wasn't sure how they'd go. 

That is always the best thing, when you take a risk and people love it. Anytime you spot a new thing you can do it's just a massive reason to celebrate, this is how I evolve and move on.

Would you like to do more acting?

Acting is the next leg of the journey. I wanted to conquer television this year and I think I've done that with my Channel 4 show [Complaints Welcome] and I’ve featured on comedy shows like The Last LegUnforgivable with Mel GieldroycThe Big Narstie Show and The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan.

I really wanted this year to show that an online personality can exist on television and really claim that space as well. 

Sometimes there's an illusion that things that work on the internet are not transferable skills, but I've been putting in the graft behind the scenes, in front of camera, in the world of television full stop. 

I always wanted to be on telly and now I am here, I'm here to show you all the skills that I've been developing across the years.

If comedy roles start coming my way I'll leap at them, but if someone says we want you to be the next James Bond or play Trevor McDonald in his biography, I’m not going to say no to that either!

How are you able to create your sketches so quickly?

I definitely prioritise working hard, I just do as much as I can. Life changes, trends change, things go up and down, but I'm always of the belief that when you've got momentum, you should just run with it for as long as possible. I think that's how you build a legacy putting that groundwork in, it's not necessarily the case that all this stuff comes so easily to me, it's more the case that I will do anything it takes to make it work, I enjoy the thrill of it.

All I'm really trying to do is to capture the zeitgeist and provide a timestamp of how we felt at a certain time.

Do you think you would be able to have the same kind of freedom and creative control if you didn’t use social media?

I’m definitely of the impression there are traditional routes into media and a lot of those are guarded by one person who might have a particular set of beliefs and might be from a certain demographic. 

In some instances, that has been an obstruction to many creatives continuing their journey through television, or radio, or print. 

Social media just allows you to bypass the gatekeepers and allows the audience to decide straightaway, it removes the middle man.

Would you like to do another series of Race Around Britain?

100% - my deepest desire for the show is to be able to create Race Around America, Europe, Asia, I'm open and willing to go anywhere the series takes us. 

It’s been a lot of work, it has been my debut executive producing a project and it's the most fulfilling thing I've done in my career so far, so long may it continue.

Race Around Britain launches on YouTube Originals on December 6th.



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Munya Chawawa is a satirist known for his viral social media sketches and as a co-host of Channel 4’s Complaint’s Welcome.