Daliso Chaponda kept thinking he’d finished writing this year’s Fringe show.
In Blah Blah Blacklist, the Malawi-born stand-up and writer looks at disgraced celebs and historical figures we’re now ashamed to admit we once admired.
Liam Neeson, for instance must have made a late run for inclusion after comments he made while promoting a recent movie triggered a race controversy?
“Oh, he’s in,” laughs Daliso. “The most difficult thing about this show is, whenever I think it’s written, somebody else does something stupid.
“So, I think it’s done, Liam Neeson pops up. I think it’s done, Danny Baker decides to tweet a monkey picture when it’s announced Prince Harry and Meghan have had their baby.
“I talk about that with a bit of complexity because I don’t think it’s a black-and-white situation. I neither defend him nor condemn him because it’s complicated. People take some extreme viewpoints that sometimes things get lost.
“But I will say I want to thank him for the jokes because the Danny Baker section is quite hilarious and let me bring in royalty.”
The idea behind Daliso’s show is fascinating, and you don’t have to look too hard to find examples for heroes turned villains.
I used to love listening to Morrissey but, after a string of offensive quotes, I can’t remember the last time I listened to him or The Smiths, the band he fronted.
“It is fascinating, and this is the first show in which I don’t know the answer,” says Daliso. “Usually I’m making a statement, but in this one I’m looking at questions and I’m not sure what the right response is.
“Should we not listen to people who’ve been exposed for sexual harassment? I went to watch Louis CK, a comedian who admitted such behaviour, in Belgium and it seemed very much as if he shouldn’t be allowed to perform right now, he hasn’t worked his way back and shown contrition, but everyone has a different perspective.
“I went because I was doing this show, but would I have gone just as a comedy fan? I don’t know.
“In my show, I’ve got rid of the people who we agree on that used to be part of it. I used to have jokes about Harvey Weinstein, but everybody agrees he’s evil, so that’s not interesting.
“Now I’m only targeting the people who are divisive, the people who some think are OK, but others think should be blacklisted.
“Look at Morrissey, or in the comedy world Woody Allen is an interesting one because again I’m not even sure how I feel about him because it’s a very complicated situation.
“He says one thing, one kid says something else, another kid says something else.
“I think the biggest thing my show’s about is that increasingly people want the world to be black and white, devils with horns or angels with wings and haloes, and very few of those exist.”
After the allegations against Allen last year, we’re now at the stage now where people ponder: “Are we still allowed to laugh at Woody Allen’s films?”
“Exactly,” says Daliso. “Zelig’s still hilarious, but there are two things – can you still laugh at these people, and should we get rid of their work?
“For example, there have been allegations about Martin Luther King recently.”
These allegations came from tapes the FBI made to discredit the Civil Rights leader made more than 50 years ago that recently came to light.
“Some people in America have said, ‘Well, in light of these allegations, we should not support Martin Luther King Day. We should get rid of it, get rid of his statues,’” says Daliso.
That’s similar to universities being pressured to get rid of statues of the imperialist Cecil Rhodes, whose foundation funds many international scholarships, because he was strongly pro-colonialism and has been characterised as a white supremacist and architect of apartheid.
“It’s complicated,” nods Daliso, who finished third in Britain’s Got Talent as Amanda Holden’s Golden Buzzer act in 2017.
“And part of the reason I’m talking about it is because sometimes you are on one side until it’s someone you admire.
“In America, there’s a movement to get rid of statues of those who fought for the South in the Civil War. I was like, ‘Yeah, get rid of those statues’ but now they’re after Martin Luther King I’m like, ‘The hell with you, stay away.’
“That’s what you’ve got to remember, if you react in one way when it’s people you don’t like, what about when they come for the ones you do like?
“But then there are also cases in which a person’s just a criminal, so I’m not watching Bill Cosby.
“The question is, let’s say he lives another 10 years, comes out of prison and does a show. Would I go to the show?
“I think the truth is I’d go, but not everybody would, and even if I did go, it wouldn’t necessarily be as a comedian – it would be almost as a journalist to see the situation.”
Daliso was born while his diplomat dad had been exiled by the late Malawi dictator Kamuzu Banda.
He says: “I start the show talking about blacklisted celebrities, but about two years ago my father, who is a politician, was arrested and falsely accused of high crimes.
“First it was corruption, he beat that, then it was incompetence, and he beat that. But even though he’d been cleared, the internet does not care, so a lot of people still see him as guilty.
“I’ve seen him walk down the street with people throwing stones.
“Sometimes, if you’re accused, you’re accused forever, even if you’re cleared.”
Daliso Chaponda: Blah Blah Blacklist is on at the Edinburgh Fringe from July 31-August 26.
For tickets, visit www.edfringe.com