Talent Gore Arts Correspondent
Local stand-up comedian Learnmore Mwanyenyeka, popularly known as Long John, is shining brightly on the regional stage and international stage after winning the Steve Harvey stand-up comedy competition.
Long John said his triumph has opened new avenues for him.
The comedian, who is based in South Africa, took time to share his treacherous journey from being a mere rural boy in Chimanimani to a global star.
“Well, it has been unbelievably amazing and at the same time, it has been a skills-amassing trajectory because being a travelling comic has always been my dream ever since,” Long John said.
“I am just a village boy from Chimanimani and my peculiar story has thrilled my audience, always creating curiosity within my audience who have no clue that there is such a place.”
Long John said his performances were 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 recalled how he got into comedy.
“I started in school. I used to do some funny speeches I used to impersonate teachers. I was that kid that used to make fun of someone until they cry,” Long John said.
“After completing my Ordinary 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, so in 2011 I travelled 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. So I left for Harare. Then I did my first ever comedy performance on 9 October 2012 at the Simuka Comedy Night hosted at Book café in Harare”
He said his first years were hectic as he was booed on stage but he never gave up. “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.
Long John said winning the Steve Harvey competition has opened up new avenues for him.
“Next year we will be travelling around the world with my show ‘The Village Boy from Chimanimani’ and this win has made it easier for me to get bookings from comedy clubs that wouldn’t normally book me especially in the USA,” he said.
“This win is like a key to open doors that where closed 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.” Long John said his greatest challenge was cancelling a show in Harare because of the currency they will be offering to pay in.
“To be honest the biggest challenge I am facing right now is saying no to a booking in Harare because they can only pay you with bond note,” he said.
“When I organise a show in Zimbabwe I actually make a loss but nonetheless I love performing in my country very much, but that’s the biggest challenge right now, but as Comedians we always find jokes in our tragedies.”
“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.”