Characters – Off The Shelf or Do It Yourself? 2) Chabuddy G

The case for using a ready-made character from the world of sitcom is given a big boost by a number of adverts using People Just Do Nothing’s street trader entrepreneur ‘Dhal Boy’ Chabuddy G.

So we have five episodes:

The One With The Nike Trainers

The One With The GQ Cover

The One With The Cricket (part 1)

The One With The Cricket (part 2)

The One With The Pepsi Challenge.

And I’m not including his British Airways pre-flight safety announcement or guide to Hounslow High Street.

Watching these five adverts, even though they’re for four different products, patterns emerge. In each of them, Chabuds takes on different roles: QVC-style host (Nike), sports pundit (Cricket), YouTube influencer (Pepsi) and publicity agent (GQ).

Fishy and Unfishy Characters

The formats can be put into two groups: Official Imposter Authority Figure (which I’ve shortened to Fishy) and Unofficial Imposter Authority Figure (likewise, Unfishy). In his role as a Fishy character, Chabuds has somehow got himself a job as a QVC-style host selling Nike trainers and somehow got himself a job as a cricket commentator. How he did it, we’ll never know, but he’s blagged himself a position of authority. In his Unfishy roles, he’s a self-appointed YouTube influencer and a self-appointed publicity agent.

The Fishy personas feel heightened in comparison to the Unfishy ones, there’s more of a faux confidence in each. The position of authority has given him a status boost and he’s enjoying every minute that he’s lording it over the plebs.

For the Unfishy, it’s a struggle for him to be taken seriously and there’s no guarantee he’ll be taking any cash home that night. There’s still that desperation behind the eyes and the imposter syndrome comes to the surface a lot quicker.

The Sitcom Bit

Chabuddy is doing something majorly sitcom in each of the five ads – in order to achieve something, he’s lying about who he really is. It’s Del Boy fibbing that he’s a yuppie or a candelabra polisher. At some point, the mask will slip and the truth will come out and it’s no different here. In Nike Trainers, he hangs up on a call from an angry punter; in Pepsi he admits it’s hard being an influencer; Cricket (part 1) sees him trying to steal the Cricket World Cup trophy and in GQ he’s more worried about getting into trouble with DJ Grindah than he is from security.

High Status = Lie Status

When taking on each of the new personas, there’s a status shift up to someone begging for respect rather than commanding it, but Chabuds doesn’t even convince himself that he’s really that person. He’s in it for the short term and whatever he can get out of it.

He’s low status to DJ Grindah and to the GQ office, although he grows in confidence as they get away with acquiring a rack of clothes, but his status drops again when they are asked to leave. In Cricket, even though he takes on an authority role it’s more of a Fan of the People and again the mask slips when he offers to go 50/50 on stealing the trophy. Pepsi sees his status drop when he’s found out by the official taste test team and there’s a flash of David Brent when the punter shows him up in Nike.

What Happens Next?

Asim Chaudhry, who created and stars as Chabuddy G, and his team of writers have hit on a winning formula (Chabuds pretends to be someone respectable, shows off his ignorance, reverts back to type in order to try to get something out of it). Although he’s a niche character, he’s in a tradition of recent Imposters such as David Brent and Ali G, and his associations and branding possibilities haven’t been exhausted yet.  

Thanks to a former student, Ed Ryder, for bouncing ideas around with me for this post.

Published by Declan Hill

I write about sitcoms in advertising.

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