It was all a dream! Two springs ago, stand-up comedian Learnmore Mwanyenyeka, who the world now famously recognises by his stage name Long John, set the bar way too high for himself when he vowed that he wanted to make Zimbabwean comedy a global phenomenon.
The amblyopic Chimanimani raised humourist with an equally hilarious lanky figure overambitiously told a local medium that he was sure telling jokes will take him around the world because of the “uniqueness to his approach”. A selfless human being nonetheless, standing at over a 6 feet, the 26-year-old John was convinced that the way the Southern African nation “casualises everything by making fun” of its diverse issues and circumstances pointed out that there was a special place secured for Zimbabwe in the world comedy circuit.
“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…and also making strides in the European territories… I’m sure comedy will take me around the world because of the uniqueness to my approach…I wish it would also take me to Mars really,” he said.
Skeptics and naysayers who saw him come up in 2012 through performing at Simuka Comedy Nights at the Book Café in Harare unequivocally sneered at him for this reverie, although the fact remained that man was bestowed with an intrinsic ability to augment rib-tickling comedy.
Believe you me, it took performing at prestigious events such as Oppikkopi Festival, Park Acoustics, and Mieliepop Festival, and rubbing shoulders with legends such as Deep Fried Man, John Vlismas, Loyiso Gola, Barry Hilton, Kagiso Ledinga, Tall Ass Mo, Basket Mouth, Joe Parker, Uganda’s Pablo, Salvador and Riaad Moosa, for him to shove us into a trajectory bridleway of seeing through his “global” phenomenon fantasy.
A dreamer who doesn’t sleep, John saw a big portal of opportunity and took it when American comedian and television host the Mighty Steve Harvey announced in October that he was looking for the next comedy star via his Standup Spotlight Contest.
The contest means a big deal to the 62 years old Family Feud host as it turns out that October 8, 1985, was the day Steve won his first comedy competition. From there, he went on to land a gig on Showtime at the Apollo and, eventually, get his own sitcom on the WB Network in the 1990s. Knowing how important that first comedy competition victory was for him, Uncle Steve was looking to give someone else the chance to be a winner.
“I’m looking for the next big comedian. If you are ‘IT’ or know someone who is funny as hell tag them now,” Steve wrote on his social media.
Long John — indubitably besotted over his 2019 Savanna Pan-African Comic of The Year Award stride which saw him soar above and beyond Anne Kansiime, Basketmouth, Chingliz and Alfred Kainga — set a seal to represent his home country. Notwithstanding that entering a world competition with people of all colours from black, blue, yellow, brown, pink and who-not was in itself a big shock of his life, he said the move to take part in it was a step closer to his dream of scoring a global fan base.
“I’m so shocked that I even got into that competition. I didn’t think I’d make it through the judge cuts because there are a lot of comedians that applied. So even if I don’t win, this is a sign and motivation that my comedy is ready for the world,” he told the Chronicle in October.
John was the only African candidate to be picked for the final round after knocking over 1000 entries in the preliminary rounds. A continental treasure in his own right, the voting period witnessed many Zimbabweans on social media launching an enthusiastic campaign to solicit votes for the entertainer. Local comedy outfit Bustop TV even made a video urging people to rally behind John.
Thus from Steve Harvey’s recent announcement, Zimbabweans took the call to heart and cast votes for Long John. On Friday morning, the American comedy icon named the South African-based Zimbabwean comic the winner of the Standup Spotlight People’s Choice Award.
Thank you to all who participated in the Steve Harvey Stand Up Spotlight Competition! The People’s Choice Award Winner is Long John @long_john_ who joined the competition from Zimbabwe! Congratulations man, you were funny, animated, and have great stage presence keep it up champ! pic.twitter.com/HNjBlGtIxZ
— Steve Harvey (@IAmSteveHarvey) November 8, 2019
The big win will see the Village Boy getting four days, three nights in Los Angeles where he will meet and get advice from Harvey himself, as well as airfare, hotel accommodations, a meeting with an agent, and the opportunity to perform at a comedy club, among other prizes.
If Long John’s triumph isn’t something me and mines should drink our Friday all the way to the Weekend, then I don’t know what else is worth it.