Senior Arts Reporter
Multi-award winning comedian Learnmore Mwanyenyeka affectionately known as Long John, has been selected as a finalist for the Steel City Arts Foundation (SCAF) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States.
SCAF is a programme for comedians where they live, work and play at a house.
The announcement was made last week by SCAF via social media where they congratulated the finalists.
“Tremendous congratulations to our finalists for the first three residents of the Martin House!” read the post.
“This was difficult, but we have narrowed it down to these six for the three slots. What an amazing bunch — if you know any (or want to find them on social media) please congratulate them and tag them.
“The six are Caroline Hawthorne, Cavin Eggleston, Joe Harman, Long John The Comedian, Ronnie Fleming and Tyler Fowler.”
The programme has also groomed some of the international acclaimed comedians world over. In an interview, Long John said it was his dream come true to penetrate the United States showbiz market.
“My dream has always been to be an Afro-centric comedian with a global fan base and the US entertainment industry is the apex industry that will allow me to achieve that.
“This is a really big opportunity for me because it has always been my dream to break into that industry just like how I managed to break into the South African market. Also, this opportunity will fast-track my growth and maturity by catapulting me further.”
Long John, who is based in South Africa, performed alongside some of the renowned comedians from the United States on a virtual platform under the “The Laugh Tour” show over the weekend, as part of the US tour.
The comedy show had big names like Dan Frank, Liz Barret and Gianmarco.
“Preparations for my next tour are at an advanced stage,” Long John posted on social media.
“I want to do a live show in Harare and Bulawayo.”
The Steve Harvey Stand Up Spotlight Competition winner also said he will be marketing Zimbabwe at the SCAF through comedy.
“Comedy in America, from the research I have conducted, has shown to be viable and very active,” said Long John. “My tenure there will see me get exposed to a new breed of audience, cast off in the deep waters to swim with the sharks and the best of them.
“This is the much-needed pivot to usher me into the next level in my career.”
The Steel City Arts Foundation (better known as Steel City AF) consists of many parts which include a detached three-bedroom home which houses comedians for six months at a time on a rotating basis, free of charge.
There are bays of computers where comedians can write, design and edit.
There is a home gym and a library for the comedians.
The main house will be used for occasional guest comedians and artistes passing through town.
The lower level will be split into two: a podcast or recording studio and a digital showroom with broadcasting capabilities that can be used for open-mics and Zoom shows.
The house was created by Steve in memory of his father after the latter (Martin Hofstetter) died in 2014.
According to Steve, the goal was to help up-and-coming comedians come up a bit quicker, providing them with grants, help with rent, car payments, and other bills so they could quit their day jobs and concentrate on their art full-time.
When Covid-19 destroyed every comedian’s ability to tour, the foundation changed the grant system — and was able to provide US$1 000 grants to 30 comedians to help cover some of their expenses.