Local stand-up comedian Learnmore Mwanyenyeka — popularly known as Long John — is shining brightly on the regional stage and the South Africa-based comedian now eyes the global platform.
By Staff Reporter
Stand-up comedy continues to grow bigger and bigger in Zimbabwe producing some of the best comics in Doc Vikela, Carl Joshua Ncube and Clive Chigubu, among others, and Long John believes Zimbabwe has versatile comedy talent.
“I believe in Zimbabwe and we have raw talent and with the way we casualise everything in Zimbabwe by making fun of our diverse issues and circumstances, comedy has a ripe atmosphere to propagate and plays a pivotal role in our lives,” Long John told The Standard Style last week.
“I would love to revive comedy in Zimbabwe, but I can’t do it alone. We need a selfless collective approach as comedians and to come up with strategies such as creating more platforms for new comics to develop, fostering commercial buy-ins so that the industry is sustainable.”
Long John, who has broken into the South African comedy circuit, performing at prestigious events and venues such as Oppikkopi Festival, Park Acoustics, Mieliepop Festival and Jo’burg Theatre, among others, 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. I’m 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,” he said.
“The response from the audiences I perform for has been overwhelming here in South Africa and the world over. Who would ever know that a ‘village boy’, Wasu, from Chimanimani would travel and make people from different countries and diverse cultures laugh? Honestly, I have learnt a lot from the past two years and it’s still an ongoing thing, I’m still learning.”
Long John, who was hosted by Botswana’s Major Moves Comedy Nights recently, has shared the stage with big names in the comedy world.
“I have had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with legends and with the great ones on the scene. these include Deep Fried Man, John Vlismas, Loyiso Gola, Barry Hilton, Kagiso Ledinga, Tall Ass Mo, Basket Mouth, Alfred Kainga, the Goliath Brothers, Joe Parker, Uganda’s Pablo, Salvador, Anne Kanssime, Riad Moosa and many more,” he said.
“I recently opened for Barry Hilton on his live DVD recoding at Gold Reef City and I was recently featured in the Mzansi Comedy Nights that was broadcasted on DStv and South African radio —Metro FM and Yfm. I have toured the United Kingdom and performed in comedy clubs around London.”
Endowed with the innate ability to augment rib-tickling comedy, Long John believes his future is bright considering he wants to take his comedy to another level.
“The Long John you will see two years from now is a globe-trotting and advancing individual who would be a household name first and firmly in the Sadc region, having hit different northern, eastern and western African countries and also making strides in the European territories,” he said.
“In a nutshell, my next two years would be heavily on the road and preparations are at an advanced stage. All this is attributable to the fact that I have been working on global material for my one-man show The Village Boy. It’s time I shared my story with a much wider audience.
“I’m also looking at widening my skill set in acting and directing as well, which I’m currently polishing with my True Lies skits. I’ll also be a part-time consultant where upon request and necessary arrangements, I can teach comedy classes.”
He says what makes him different from other comedians is his uniqueness.
“I’m sure comedy will take me around the world because of the uniqueness to my approach. I hope and pray God opens doors for me in destinations such as New York, Canada, UK, Los Angeles and China. I wish it would also take me to Mars really. I also see myself featuring in big comedy festivals such as Just For Laughs Festival and Edinburgh Festival, among others, because all my hard work is being channelled towards that. I’m sure with my material, I will do well in that comedy circuit.”
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 says 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.
“When I started doing comedy, I was thrilled by the experience and exposure but then getting deeper with this, I began to understand that it’s way deeper than that. Comedy is a way of life and how people respond to it tells about their way of life too.”