Munya Chawawa is an unlikely idol. Best known for his satirical skewer on everyone from politicians to celebrity chefs, the social media star is hot property. Having amassed millions of subscribers thanks to his ability to perform hot takes in record time, he is poised to go from viral sensation to household name.
Propelling it is a winning combination of ambition, creativity and Big Eyebrow Energy. “They’re my furry calling card,” he explains, after I ask him why he describes his brows as “erotic” on his Instagram profile. “I get a lot of DMs from people begging me to let them handle my brows. I still haven’t figured out if they mean sexually or if they just want to put them on.
In person, Munya, 29, is magnetic. He talks fast and sparkles with energy. Her clothes are bold and bright – a colorful shirt with psychedelic flowers and loose patterned pants. “I have so many ideas swirling around in my brain – I have to let them out otherwise I get aggy,” he says. This British Zimbabwean’s defining moment came during the pandemic, when his parody of Matt Hancock’s rule-breaking extramarital affair went massively viral. For the uninitiated, it’s a razor-sharp reworking of Shaggy’s reggae hit, It Wasn’t Me, with lines like, “How could I forget I wasn’t wearing a EPI, Although she was not vaccinated, She got a little prick from me.
“That video was the perfect storm,” he says. “I woke up, planning a day of relaxation and saw a blurry image of Hancock writhing against a wall. I opened Twitter and everyone was yelling at me in all caps, ‘MUNYA WAKE UP’. The song and lyrics came together perfectly and my editor worked on demon time, which means super fast. The video was posted hours after the story was published, earning Munya the title of “fastest man on the internet”. He passed the one million Instagram follower mark in April and has a close-knit circle of pals testing out his new material. He sends sketch previews in the group chat and expects instant feedback. “I’m the most demanding man on WhatsApp,” he laughs. “If you don’t answer me in three seconds, you will receive a bombardment of messages.”
After Hancock, the Partygate saga inspired several other viral hits. When Boris Johnson finally quit, he turned an Outkast classic into Kast-Out’s Getta Outta Hey Ya, which became one of his most-watched videos. The pace at which he releases content is relentless, it looks exhausting from the outside. He has been with his girlfriend, who apparently works in music management, for six years. What does she think of the increasing demands on her time and her new pinup status? She and her family have been “very patient,” he says. “I think that’s what’s allowed me to put in the transplant now,” he says. “I recently saw a clip of Lee Evans saying he was going to take a step back to spend more time with his family. I think that’s good… there’s definitely value in spending time with people who have invested in you.
When I point out that Lee Evans is 58, which means his girlfriend is going to have to wait until he’s retired for him to slow down, he laughs. “Yeah, God knows, to be honest, eyebrows could take me to places and missions I never thought of,” he jokes before correcting himself. “But no, I see the value in people who were there from the start, and having these long-term relationships where you can really build something.”
No one is safe from Munya, it seems, except the late queen. Never one to shy away from sending the royal family down memory lane, he was reluctant to cover up anything related to her death despite his supporters sharing with him their frustrations over food bank closures and the cancellation of hospital appointments. When we met, he said his “satirical cogs” were turning but he was still reluctant to go. Is this a sign that in a bid for more mainstream success, Munya is losing his edge?
“I never knew what to expect in this situation,” he concedes. “But some of the twists will definitely end up in a Netflix series. Charlie Booker is probably rushing to his office right now. Doesn’t he want to beat the creator of Black Mirror? After all, Munya is the master of speed.
The queen’s death left his online audience feeling conflicted, he explains, and there was no unifying mood in his ‘echo chamber’. “My job is to sit and listen, and when I feel like I’m able to convey what people feel and feel represented, that’s when I act,” he explains. . As for the media’s treatment of Meghan and Harry, he has spoken about it in the past and is not ready to comment on it, but admits feeling hurt by the couple’s continued criticism. “On a scale of Meghan Markel holding hands with Prince Harry to people getting mad that The Little Mermaid isn’t white – the world is a little confused right now.”
It’s Munya’s ability to translate this confusion into clever, funny and painfully insightful sketches that has earned him a legion of fans. Growing up, he was the prefect of all the schools he attended. Aged 11, he moved with his family from Zimbabwe to a posh village in Norfolk. Dealing with his classmates’ reactions to what he calls “cultural differences” honed his budding comedic talent. “I was asked if I rode a lion at school,” he said with a chuckle. “I would just say ‘yeah – the lion is parked outside’ and ask them if they wanted to see it.” But ignoring those comments at such a young age must have cost you dearly?
“I don’t get offended easily,” he explains. “I didn’t think people were trying to be mean or that I was at school with a budding EDL mob. I just thought it was curiosity. But sometimes there’s a flash of anger against those who underestimated him early in his career There is a rumor that he has a list of those who wronged him, like Arya Stark’s Kill List in Game of Thrones. of this idea, but admits that these early injustices are part of what motivates him: “When I embark on a new goal or a new challenge, I think of people who would say – ‘this is not your thing’.”
He gives the example of an employer who fired him from a job as a presenter because he was too smart. Munya says he was fired because despite being “street savvy”, he looked like he was smart. The boss explained that the show’s audience couldn’t relate to a presenter who embodied those two qualities. “I thought, I’m going to show you that you can be a trend-savvy personality that’s street smart, but also smart and articulate. These are things that can coexist. I see these traits in all of my black peers.
He points to the YouTube series he made last year, Race Around Britain, as an example of how his work dissects the black British experience. There are some jaw-dropping moments in the BAFTA-nominated show, like when he hosts a ‘microaggression bingo’ game in a Welsh village hall that ends with the winner shouting ‘I’m not a racist’. The goal was to use comedy to open people’s eyes without making them feel attacked. “Warmth and understanding are my weird superpowers,” he says.
That warmth seeps into even his most unlikely parodies. His ability to transform into TV chef Nigella Lawson saved him from his first onstage death at this year’s Latitude Festival. “I had heard stories about what it takes to be on your feet and thought I needed this baptism of fire,” he says. “So I’m in front of this mostly white, middle-class crowd making jokes about durags and being from Zimbabwe, which for some reason don’t resonate. My mouth is dry and in my head if the whole crowd isn’t screaming it’s not going well. Towards the end of my set, I take out my Nigella-shaped weapon – which happens to be a black t-shirt – put it on my head and suddenly everyone everyone is pissed because I’m talking about making bean toast in a sexual way.”
In terms of the future, it’s hard to predict where Munya will go next. He’s the epitome of millennial hustle with presentation gigs (BAFTA), comedy slots (Latitude, Reading) and serious acting roles (Netflix’s Sandman) already on his resume. This week, he adds television to the mix with his appearance in the cult new comedy series, Taskmaster. Does he feel the need to concentrate?
“My goal is to be known as a comedian and sell arenas in five years, although maybe the artist is more appropriate. I want to be out of control,” he says. And his ambitions don’t stop there – his ten-year plan includes a world tour, conquering the United States and hosting his own chat show. He might even be tempted to get into politics if Donald Trump threatens to run in the 2024 US election. “I’m going to team up with The Rock in a joint presidential bid to bring down Trump,” he jokes. “Which makes sense because we’re basically doubles.”
When I point out that although his biceps aren’t quite as big as The Rock’s, he’s now officially an idol, which my friends — especially my mom’s WhatsApp group — envied whoever I shared a sofa with, he said. shut up. “Wow. Pin-up girl Munya Chawawa. When I was younger, I had so few matches on Tinder that I wrote to its developers asking if there was a problem with my app. Moving on from that hearing some moms find me attractive from a distance is a personal step.
Taskmaster starts on Channel 4 on September 29 at 9 p.m.