Long John goes down memory lane
Talent Gore Arts Correspondent
Local stand-up comedian Learnmore Mwanyenyeka believes it takes hard work, honesty and integrity to achieve one’s dreams.
The Zimbabwean born stand up, who is now domiciled in South African, opened up during an interview on a wide range of issues after clinching the highly coveted Steve Harvey stand-up comedy competition last Saturday. Long John said the recognition has opened doors for him. The comedian took time to reflect on his journey, which he described as tumultuous, from the time he was a young rural boy from Chimanimani.
“It has been unbelievably amazing. It has also been a skills-amassing trajectory because being a travelling comic has always been my dream since I was a young boy,” Long John said.
“I am just a village boy from Chimanimani and my peculiar story has thrilled my audience.”
Growing up in a rural area, gave him little opportunities to dream beyond his environment. Long John recalled how he got into comedy.
“I started in school where I used to impersonate teachers. I was that kid that used to make fun of someone until they cry,” Long John recalled. After completing my O level, in 2010, I tried to go to Harare to start my comedy but I didn’t have any relatives there. I only had relatives in Bulawayo. In 2011 I traveled to Bulawayo to find a comedy club there but I didn’t find any.”
“In 2012 my grandparents told me we had a distant relative in Harare. I made my first long journey to Harare.
When he arrived in the capital, he wasted no time and immediately embarked on a long journey that was to change his life forever.
His got his first opportunity when he did his first ever comedy performance on 9 October 2012 at the Simuka Comedy Night hosted at Book café in Harare. It was the turning point in his life.
“I was booed by the audience at my first comedy show in Harare. For almost two years, I couldn’t make people laugh at the open mic but I kept coming back every Monday to perform,” he recalls.
Looking back, Long John says the experience molded him to become the brand he now is. Long John said his performances are inspired by the environment, pointing out that his upbringing shaped his way of doing business.
“My upbringing under the custody of my grandparents shaped me. This spirit from my grandparents’ influence helped me in almost every aspect and perspective I hold towards comedy,” he said.
Long John said clinching the highly coveted Steve Harvey competition has opened doors for him.
“Next year we will be traveling around the world with my show the Village Boy from Chimanimani. This award has made it easier for me to get bookings from comedy clubs that wouldn’t normally book me especially in the USA,” he said.
“When Mr Harvey posted the winners it was like an endorsement (recommendation) to make it easier for me in the industry to get bookings especially international. We are also planning on performing in big festivals around the world such as Montreal Comedy Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival and hopefully record the show for a comedy special.”
Despite his seemingly glorious career, Long John concedes that it has not all been rosy.
“To be honest the biggest challenge I am facing right now is saying no to bookings in Harare because it is currently not viable,” he said.
He however added that he will continue scouting for regional and international markets.
“I have always wanted my material to be global so the kind of market we’ve always targeted is the global market, there is no limit, I want to be able to perform in China and as long as they speak English they will get it,” said Long John