Stand-up comedy continues to grow bigger in Zimbabwe producing some of the best comics in Doc Vikela, Carl Joshua Ncube and Clive Chigubu, among others, but the walk to prominence in this cut throat industry is not a stroll in the park, acknowledges rising comedian Learnmore “Long John” Mwanyenyeka.
By Moses Mugugunyeki
For the 24-year-old comedian, his lanky figure is a jest on its own and he is proud of that.
“When I write comedy I write about myself, things that I see, things that happened to me and things that I feel. My height is part of me and I talk about it in my sets,” said Long John.
“Usually people get an impression before I even open my mouth and to some, seeing someone tall and skinny that’s comedy already to them. I just glide upon that and utilise it to my advantage and it feels natural because I would be talking about something they can relate to.”
The young comedian, who is now one of the most-sought after comedians in South Africa, will be among a galaxy of comedians. He will be supporting acts for Zimbabwean and United States-based comedian Alfred Kainga who will perform in Harare next month.
The show is coming courtesy of Xtratime Entertainment who hosted successful comedy shows that featured internationally-acclaimed stars such as Anne Kansiime, Goliaths and Goliaths, Barry Hilton, John Vlismas and Cotilda Inapo, among others.
Long John spoke highly of his return to the Zimbabwean stage, especially sharing the stage with a global icon like Kainga.
“I have been travelling around and working hard on my art, so I really can’t wait to come back home and give you a great show. It’s going to be epic,” he said.
“I was always a big fan of Alfred, so it’s an honour to finally perform and learn from him. This will open doors for more things to come. I have observed him from a distance and just looking at his ethic, I can’t wait to perform alongside him,” said Long John.
Long John’s breakthrough on the mainstream comedy circuit was on October 9 2012 when he performed at Simuka Comedy Night at the Book Café in Harare. The following three years, saw the youthful comedian carving a niche for himself both on the domestic and regional scene.
His maiden performance on foreign soil was in South Africa in October 2014 when he shared the stage with big names such as Loyiso Gola and Joe Parker, among others. He has been to Namibia where he featured at the prestigious Hilton Hotel. In December 2015 Long John hosted his first ever one-man show in Zimbabwe titled The Longest Yard, which was a big success.
He 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 on almost every aspect and perspective I hold towards comedy,” he said.
“When I started doing comedy, I was thrilled by the experience and exposure but then getting deeper with this, I began to understand that its way deeper than that. Comedy is a way of life and how people respond to it tells about their way of life too.
“I view myself more as an ambassador and custodian of the Zimbabwean way of life, an ambassador who is going out there to make a difference, learning other cultures and engaging in an extensive culture exchange of some sorts.”
Long John, who left the audience in stitches when he performed at The African Comedy Festival in the United Kingdom last year, said Zimbabwe was now a force to reckon with in the comedy world.
“There are talented and potential comedians here in Zimbabwe. But both talent and potential contribute 25% to 30% to the whole body of comedy. We have room for improvement and we can make it. The other percentage goes to the whole corporate buy into our work and to my fellow comedians, acquiring a skill set to leverage the gift to greater heights.”
Meanwhile, Xtratime Entertainment spokesperson Conly “Copac” Kwenda has confirmed that Long John will be part of Kainga’s Home Coming Comedy Night Show slated for Reps Theatre next month.
“Long John is funny guys, having been on tour in South Africa, doing shows in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Swaziland he has been improving on his act every single time he is on stage. He is sharing the stage with seasoned comics and learning every single time on stage. Dynamite comes in long packages, this dude is funny and they love him. As Xtratime Entertainment, we are excited to have Long John sharing the stage with Alfred Kainga,” said Kwenda.
Kwenda said Xtratime Entertainment had expanded and fully registered in the UK, South Africa, Namibia and Australia where they intend to do comedy nights and love music events with Zimbabwean artists.