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For a U.K. Satirist and His Online Fans, Comedy Is Catharsis

LONDON — He is the hyperbolic news anchor with an agenda, the disgruntled Meghan Markle skeptic vying for Piers Morgan’s job, the British aristocrat insisting he is simply middle class — and those are just a few of the characters in Munya Chawawa’s arsenal.

But during a Zoom interview last month, Mr. Chawawa, 28, speaking from his London apartment in a neon hoodie, was exploring his own persona.

“I make content because I need to express how I’m feeling about the world,” he said of his comedy. “You have to have some form of catharsis when the world throws stuff at you, otherwise you’ll just go crazy.”

Mr. Chawawa’s dry sketches about racism, classism and everyday life in Britain had already found an audience before the pandemic. But in lockdown, his potent combination of singing, comedy acting and rapping has helped establish him as a sardonic voice of progressive young people in an increasingly diverse nation who are unimpressed by elitism and skeptical of the establishment.

appears in promotions for Netflix U.K.

In such a year, “humor has been a much-needed tonic,” Mr. Chawawa said. And the string of successes has fueled an ambitious goal: “I’m working toward being one of the country’s most respected satirists.”

Satire, to Mr. Chawawa — whose comedy heroes are John Oliver, Andy Zaltzman and Sacha Baron Cohen, among others — feels “like a superpower.” That’s not only because of the challenge of execution but also because of satire’s ability to extract humor from situations that are not supposed to be funny at all, he said.

“Anything you laugh at can’t haunt or hurt you as much as it used to do,” he said.

Given the state of the world today, there is plenty of material for him to work with.

When critics called food packages for poor children too meager, Mr. Chawawa was ready with a sketch about a wealthy lawmaker scrambling to respond: “We can’t feed them but we could put them in a film — ‘The Hungrier Games.’” He has parodied British journalists brainstorming headlines about the Duchess of Sussex using the game Cards Against Humanity (“Meghan Kidnapped Peppa Pig,”) and a security guard letting rioters into the U.S. Capitol upon hearing they are white: “You’re already wearing your pass! It’s called white privilege.”

debate over U.K. drill — a subgenre of hip-hop music that British authorities have tried to censor, blaming it for a rise in knife crimes in London.

For many young Black men and women, drill was an important form of self-expression, Mr. Chawawa said, giving voice to the frustrations and realities of life in a period of austerity. Mr. Chawawa said he was disturbed by the appropriation of the genre, with “posh white kids singing the lyrics” as it filtered into private schools.

Born in Derby, England, Mr. Chawawa spent his childhood in Zimbabwe, his father’s birthplace, before his family moved to a small village near Norwich, England. His first exposure to comedy was through his grandfather, whose jokes over the dinner table made him the center of attention.

In England, where his was one of the few families of color in the area, Mr. Chawawa stifled his natural extroversion, which had been encouraged in Zimbabwe. “Slowly, I stopped putting my hand up,” he said.

In college, he studied psychology but found himself spending all his time in the student radio hub. He also worked as a waiter at a high-end restaurant in Norwich, where customers sometimes complimented his English. There, he picked up useful insights into the ways of the ultrawealthy. It struck him when he moved to London that this world could be a mine of comedy gold.

is real,” he said, grinning. He said he would welcome the opportunity for the character to “get some real cultural insights.”

For now, Mr. Chawawa is enjoying the chance to lean into that natural extroversion. “My dad always used to say to me, ‘When you were in Zimbabwe you were so bold.’” Being a satirist now, he added, is “a resurgence of the guy I used to be.”

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Company Will Offer Refunds to Buyers of ‘Satan Shoes’ to Settle Lawsuit by Nike

A Brooklyn company that was sued by Nike over the unauthorized sale of Satan Shoes — an aftermarket sneaker that contains a drop of blood and was promoted by the rapper Lil Nas X — agreed on Thursday to accept returns of the footwear as part of a settlement.

The company, MSCHF, will offer refunds to people who want to return the sneakers under the terms of the settlement, according to Nike, which said in a statement that the purpose of the “voluntary recall” was to remove the shoes from circulation.

The settlement came a week after a U.S. District Court judge in Brooklyn granted Nike a temporary restraining order against MSCHF (pronounced mischief) after it sued the company last month.

A total of 666 pairs of the Satan Shoes were produced by MSCHF, which incorporated drops of its employees’ blood and ink into an air bubble in the Nike Air Max 97 sneakers. Each pair cost $1,018. They sold out in less than a minute last month.

“Luke 10:18” — a reference to the biblical passage that says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” — is printed on them.

A previous line of unauthorized Nike sneakers that MSCHF sold, which was named the Jesus Shoe and contained holy water, can also be returned for a refund, Nike said.

“In both cases, MSCHF altered these shoes without Nike’s authorization,” Nike said in a statement on Thursday. “Nike had nothing to do with the Satan Shoes or the Jesus Shoes.”

A lawyer for MSCHF did not dispute that the company had agreed to the voluntary buyback, but said on Thursday that he could not disclose the terms of the settlement.

music video for his song “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” in which he gyrates on Satan’s lap.

In the song, Lil Nas X, who was born Montero Lamar Hill, “cheerfully rejoices in lust as a gay man,” wrote Jon Pareles, the chief music critic for The New York Times.

Lil Nas X came out in 2019. The song’s title is an apparent reference to “Call Me by Your Name,” a novel about a clandestine summer romance between two men that was adapted into a film.

Mr. Bernstein said all but one pair of the Satan Shoes had been shipped to buyers before the temporary restraining order had been issued on April 1.

He described the sneakers, which are individually numbered, as works of art that represent the ideals of equality and inclusion. Mr. Bernstein said MSCHF had looked forward to arguing that its activities were covered under the First Amendment right of artistic expression.

“However, having already achieved its artistic purpose, MSCHF recognized that settlement was the best way to allow it to put this lawsuit behind it so that it could dedicate its time to new artistic and expressive projects,” he said.

Nike said it would not be responsible for any issues with sneakers that people decide to keep.

“Purchasers who choose not to return their shoes and later encounter a product issue, defect, or health concern should contact MSCHF, not Nike,” the company said.

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From the Charred Wreck of a Lamborghini, a D.I.Y. Supercar

PORTLAND, Ore. — Under the rear hood of Chris Steinbacher’s Lamborghini Huracán sits a Chevy engine. Sure, it’s a twin turbo, and, yes, it pumps a menacing 900 horsepower to the wheels, but the pedigree is Detroit, not Italy. And the rest of the car was basically put together in Portland.

Lamborghini purists may want to cover their eyes now.

The left-for-dead Lambo is one of Mr. Steinbacher’s salvaged supercars. He bought it — what was left of it, anyway, after a fire burned it nearly in two — for $40,000, and it was delivered via forklift. (A new Huracán can approach $300,000, and Mr. Steinbacher’s now-tricked-out 2016 model hovers in that same stratosphere.) Parts for this resurrection cost about $50,000, a discounted total that he kept down with the help of sponsors on his YouTube channel, B Is for Build, which has close to 1.5 million subscribers.

Flooded Ferraris and mangled McLarens are easily found on auction sites like Copart and Impact Auto Auctions. Most people playing in this realm work strictly with cash, Mr. Steinbacher said, although financing can sometimes be arranged. What happens after your wreck rolls off the delivery trailer is far more complicated, but with more money and dedication, a dream car may be within reach.

supercars at a small fraction of the used market price, Mr. Steinbacher was “kind of hooked,” he said. He started to buy totaled cars and fixed them up in his backyard.

Fixing cracked-up cars isn’t easy “unless you’re one hell of a gambler,” Mr. Steinbacher said. “The hunting part isn’t hard — anyone can Google around and find salvaged-car auction sites and find supercars on there.” Most times the car will require a shipment, however, and you might not see it in person, let alone get a test drive.

“You’ve got six to 10 pictures to try and assess the extent of the damage and how much it’s going to cost to fix,” he said.

This is a skill that can take years and many mistakes to master. “Eventually I turned a camera on to track my progress,” he said, “and started posting it on YouTube.”

Rich Rebuilds. A computer science major in college, Mr. Benoit “kept working my way up to Teslas, Audis and now the BMW i8,” he said.

“Supercar is a funny word,” Mr. Benoit added. “I’ve built many high-end cars, like Teslas, Audi RS7s, but the i8 is my first ‘supercar’ per se.” All have been built in his family’s garage. His personal favorite retrofit? Swapping a V-8 engine into a Tesla.

Tommy’s Window Tinting.

Specialty Equipment Market Association show, known widely as SEMA.

LS Chevy V-8 engine and transmission swap, twin turbos and a custom carbon-fiber body rounded out his one-of-a-kind Lambo.

To Mr. Steinbacher’s knowledge, no one had fashioned a manual-transmission Huracán before. Much less one that once looked as if it had hung over a campfire like a singed marshmallow.

His next vision is to take a donated 2016 Huracán chassis and build it into a full-blown Mint 400 off-road racecar, “turning it into a purpose-built endurance desert racer,” he said.

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A Fierce Election Tests Modi’s Campaign to Remake India

NANDIGRAM, India — The challenger arrived with police vehicles, a band of drummers and the backing of the country’s powerful prime minister. The crowd joined him in full-throated chants of glory to the Hindu god Ram: “Jai Shree Ram!” He brought a warning: If Hindus did not unite around him, even their most basic religious practices would be in danger in the face of Muslim appeasement.

In another part of town, the incumbent took the stage in a wheelchair, the result of what she said was a politically motivated assault. Though her injuries kept her from stalking the stage in her white sari and sandals as usual, she still regaled the audience with taunts for the opposition. And she had a warning of her own: Her defeat would be a victory for an ideology that has no place for minorities like Muslims.

The monthlong election unfolding in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal is deeply personal. Mamata Banerjee, the state’s chief minister for the past decade, is facing off against her former protégé of 20 years, Suvendu Adhikari. He and dozens of other local leaders have defected from her party and are now allied with Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister.

But the heated vote could indicate something broader: whether anybody can stop Mr. Modi’s movement to reshape India’s secular republic into a Hindu-first nation.

state victories. His Bharatiya Janata Party has reduced the main opposition group, the Indian National Congress, to a shadow of its past glory, pushing the country toward becoming a one-party democracy.

West Bengal represents a test of Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist reach. The state of 90 million people remains deeply proud of its Indigenous culture and tolerance of minorities. It is run by a strong regional leader with the heft and profile to challenge Mr. Modi directly.

has chronicled the rise of the B.J.P.

“They would have shown that the B.J.P. is an all-India party, that our Hindu nationalism is capable of vernacular adaptation,” Mr. Sitapati said. “And that is a powerful symbol.”

beat her head with metal rods. She trounced the Communists in elections nevertheless.

Last month, in the midst of a jostling crowd, a car door slammed on Ms. Banerjee’s leg. She declared the incident a politically motivated attack, a contention her opponents have questioned. Still, her party has made her cast a symbol of a leader putting her body on the line for her cause.

Mithun Chakraborty, a Bengali actor famous for movies like “Disco Dancer” and “Cobra.”

“I am a pure cobra,” Mr. Chakraborty told one recent rally, as B.J.P. leaders behind him applauded. “One bite, and you will be at the cremation ground!”

Ms. Banerjee’s iron grip over state politics looms over the vote. The B.J.P. is trying to ride anti-incumbent sentiment fueled by her party’s corruption scandals and the way its members have used extortion and violence to keep power.

But Mr. Adhikari and many of the B.J.P.’s local candidates for the state’s 294-seat local assembly were themselves, until recently, members of her party. After decades of heavy-handedness by the Communists and Ms. Banerjee, Mr. Modi’s party began actively expanding in West Bengal only after he became prime minister in 2014, though its infrastructure is still lacking. One joke in the state holds that Trinamool will win a third term even if the B.J.P. prevails.

Ms. Banerjee’s success could depend on convincing voters that her party’s bad apples now work for the B.J.P. The B.J.P.’s dependence on Trinamool defectors has also led to a revolt among local Modi supporters who saw their presence as an insult to their years of work in the face of intimidation by the same people now chosen to represent them.

One defector, an 89-year-old assembly member named Rabindranath Bhattacharya, said he had switched parties only because Ms. Banerjee didn’t nominate him to serve a fifth term.

“I changed my party, but I am not changed,” Mr. Bhattacharya said in an interview at his house. Trinamool flags still hung from the trees and gate.

His candidacy moved hundreds of B.J.P. workers and supporters to pressure Mr. Bhattacharya to step aside. They went on a hunger strike, painted over party signs and ransacked the home of the local B.J.P. chief.

“We started here when no one dared speak as a B.J.P. member,” said Gautam Modak, who has worked for the B.J.P. in the district since 2003. “He got the party ticket three days after joining the B.J.P.”

Mr. Adhikari has said he defected from Ms. Banerjee’s camp because she and her nephew and heir-apparent, Abhishek Banerjee, use other party leaders as “employees” without sharing power. Still, in recent rallies he has put greater emphasis on identity politics, ending with chants of “Jai Shree Ram!”

Voting took place on Saturday in the town of Nandigram, a lush agricultural area, and both candidates were there. At rallies, crowds energized by their moment of power over sometimes abusive politicians braved the heat to listen, cheer and support. Turnout totaled 88 percent.

Satish Prasad Jana, a 54-year-old B.J.P. supporter at Mr. Adhikari’s rally, said he mainly supported Mr. Modi. He had no dispute with Ms. Banerjee except that she couldn’t control the abuse of her party workers, and he knew that some of those same people now work for Mr. Adhikari.

“I have 90 percent faith in Modi, 10 percent faith in Adhikari,” he said.

Hours later, a large rally of Ms. Banerjee’s supporters took place in a school courtyard surrounded by coconut trees. Women in colorful saris outnumbered men. They praised Ms. Banerjee’s government for paving the road that led to the school, for distributing rice at low prices and for making payments to families to keep their girls in school and prevent child marriage, among other initiatives.

But the energy was focused squarely on teaching Mr. Adhikari a lesson.

“You said Mamata is like your mother. The mother made you a leader, a minister, and in charge of the whole district,” said Suhajata Maity, a local leader, addressing Mr. Adhikari.

“Then, you stabbed the mother in her back.”

To resounding applause, she ended her speech with a call to the mothers in the crowd: “Will you teach him such a lesson that he abandons politics all together?”

Chandrasekhar Bhattacharjee contributed reporting.

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‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Roars at the Box Office With $48.5 Million

Moviegoers sent a message to Hollywood over the weekend: We’re ready to return to theaters — and will buy tickets even if the same film is instantly available in our living rooms — but we want to leave our grim world for a silly fantasy one.

“Godzilla vs. Kong,” a throwback monster movie in which a lizard with atomic breath battles a computer-generated ape on top of an aircraft carrier (before everyone decamps to the hollow center of the Earth), took in an estimated $48.5 million at 3,064 North American cinemas between Wednesday and Sunday. It was the largest turnout (by far) for a movie since the pandemic began.

The PG-13 movie was not even an exclusive offering to theaters. “Godzilla vs. Kong,” produced by Legendary Entertainment, was also available on HBO Max, a streaming service that sells monthly subscriptions for $15, less than the cost of one adult ticket at cinemas in major cities.

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” in 2019 or “Kong: Skull Island” in 2017.

As Hollywood adapts to the streaming age by making new movies more promptly available for home viewing — to the consternation of theater owners — quality matters more than ever, along with size and scope: What is worth a trip to theaters (with face coverings for the foreseeable future) and what is not?

Non-franchise films without spectacular visual effects may have a hard time, box office analysts say, pointing to the disappointing arrival of “Raya and the Last Dragon” last month. Godzilla and King Kong, on the other hand, are cinematic comfort food: time-tested, larger-than-life nonsensical fun. A large percentage of weekend ticket sales for “Godzilla vs. Kong” came from large-format theaters that charge a premium for tickets. Imax, for instance, said that about 1,000 of its screenings in North America were sellouts.

“Audiences are demonstrating that pent-up demand to experience blockbuster moviemaking on the grandest scale,” David King, an Imax distribution executive, said in an email.

That was certainly true of Iveth Vacao, who brought her 8-year-old son, Jayden, to an Imax matinee of “Godzilla vs. Kong” at the TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.

“We don’t usually come to theaters, but we wanted to experience something,” Vacao said before the lights went down. “Covid has made us appreciate this kind of thing more. Sure you can get the same movie at home, but not the same experience.”

Jayden did not care to wager a guess about which creature would emerge as victorious. (“Can they both?”) But he was certain about one thing.

“When the next ‘Venom’ comes out, we’re definitely coming back,” he said, referring to “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” scheduled from Sony in the fall. “I want to see it on the biggest screen.”

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He Built a $10 Billion Investment Firm. It Fell Apart in Days.

Until recently, Bill Hwang sat atop one of the biggest — and perhaps least known — fortunes on Wall Street. Then his luck ran out.

Mr. Hwang, a 57-year-old veteran investor, managed $10 billion through his private investment firm, Archegos Capital Management. He borrowed billions of dollars from Wall Street banks to build enormous positions in a few American and Chinese stocks. By mid-March, Mr. Hwang was the financial force behind $20 billion in shares of ViacomCBS, effectively making him the media company’s single largest institutional shareholder. But few knew about his total exposure, since the shares were mostly held through complex financial instruments, called derivatives, created by the banks.

That changed in late March, after shares of ViacomCBS fell precipitously and the lenders demanded their money. When Archegos couldn’t pay, they seized its assets and sold them off, leading to one of the biggest implosions of an investment firm since the 2008 financial crisis.

Almost overnight, Mr. Hwang’s personal wealth shriveled. It’s a tale as old as Wall Street itself, where the right combination of ambition, savvy and timing can generate fantastic profits — only to crumble in an instant when conditions change.

in a 2019 speech. “I couldn’t go to school that much, to be honest.”

Grace and Mercy Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that sponsors Bible readings and religious book clubs, growing it to $500 million in assets from $70 million in under a decade. The foundation has donated tens of millions of dollars to Christian organizations.

“He’s giving ridiculous amounts,” said John Bai, a co-founder and managing partner of the equity research firm Fundstrat Global Advisors, who has known Mr. Hwang for roughly three decades. “But he’s doing it in a very unassuming, humble, non-boastful way.”

But in his investing approach, he embraced risk and his firm ran afoul of regulators. In 2008, Tiger Asia lost money when the investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy at the peak of the financial crisis. The next year, Hong Kong regulators accused the fund of using confidential information it had received to trade some Chinese stocks.

In 2012, Mr. Hwang reached a civil settlement with U.S. securities regulators in a separate insider trading investigation and was fined $44 million. That same year, Tiger Asia pleaded guilty to federal insider-trading charges in the same investigation and returned money to its investors. Mr. Hwang was barred from managing public money for at least five years. Regulators formally lifted the ban last year.

ViacomCBS announced plans to sell new shares to the public, a deal it hoped would generate $3 billion in new cash to fund its strategic plans. Morgan Stanley was running the deal. As bankers canvassed the investor community, they were counting on Mr. Hwang to be the anchor investor who would buy at least $300 million of the shares, four people involved with the offering said.

But sometime between the deal’s announcement and its completion that Wednesday morning, Mr. Hwang changed plans. The reasons aren’t entirely clear, but RLX, the Chinese e-cigarette company, and GSX, the education company, had both spiraled in Asian markets around the same time. His decision caused the ViacomCBS fund-raising effort to end with $2.65 billion in new capital, significantly short of the original target.

ViacomCBS executives hadn’t known of Mr. Hwang’s enormous influence on the company’s share price, nor that he had canceled plans to invest in the share offering, until after it was completed, two people close to ViacomCBS said. They were frustrated to hear of it, the people said. At the same time, investors who had received larger-than-expected stakes in the new share offering and had seen it fall short, were selling the stock, driving its price down even further. (Morgan Stanley declined to comment.)

By Thursday, March 25, Archegos was in critical condition. ViacomCBS’s plummeting stock price was setting off “margin calls,” or demands for additional cash or assets, from its prime brokers that the firm couldn’t fully meet. Hoping to buy time, Archegos called a meeting with its lenders, asking for patience as it unloaded assets quietly, a person close to the firm said.

Those hopes were dashed. Sensing imminent failure, Goldman began selling Archegos’s assets the next morning, followed by Morgan Stanley, to recoup their money. Other banks soon followed.

As ViacomCBS shares flooded onto the market that Friday because of the banks’ enormous sales, Mr. Hwang’s wealth plummeted. Credit Suisse, which had acted too slowly to stanch the damage, announced the possibility of significant losses; Nomura announced as much as $2 billion in losses. Goldman finished unwinding its position but did not record a loss, a person familiar with the matter said. ViacomCBS shares are down more than 50 percent since hitting their peak on March 22.

Mr. Hwang has laid low, issuing only a short statement calling this a “challenging time” for Archegos.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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