Growing up in the scenic and mountainous area of Chimanimani in Zimbabwe it was always going to take something special for Learnmore Mwanyenyeka to tower above his geographical surroundings and make the world take note of him. Already blessed with physical height the final step for the comedian known as Long John was to step out and chase his dream to become the latest celebrated name from his area.
Long John is an international multi-award winning entertainer who happily wears his tag as “The Village Boy from Chimanimani”, storms in as our Person of the Week riding on the back of his latest comedy offering, Long John the Animated series which he launched in April. The dynamic funny man who was raised by his grandparents and delivers hilarious observational comedy sets combined with his life experiences gushed about his latest project.
“I love creating content so the animated show was one of the ideas I had to share more experiences with the world. I have so many stories from the village and my travels which I would like to tell in a unique way and that’s how the animated show was born. I will be sharing more of my stories which are inspired by true events with of course a bit of exaggeration for comedy purposes,’’ he said.
Long John’s professional career started with Simuka Comedy in 2012 at one of the country’s most iconic arts hubs, the Book Café and he recalls one performance that stuck in his memory. The Book Café used to host many arts events and shows among them Comedy Nights and Open Mic sessions which were known to have a robust audience that took no prisoners at times.
“I remember that one night at the Book Café when we had a comedy show. The audience was really buzzing with some of the performances but I got booed off stage. Though it was a chastening experience I rate it as my breakthrough point because that is when I realised that comedy is not a joke and I had to take it seriously so I set out to perfect my craft, learn and grow within the industry.”
A good 8 years later from that night Long John now boasts an incredible international tour record that has seen him take his act to countries such as the UK, Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda and Kenya, sharing the stage with the likes of Basketmouth, Anne Kansiime, Riaad Moosa, Loyisa Gola and Barry Hilton among others. His polished displays at festivals and numerous TV special appearances saw his reputation grow and win him a number of awards. The two time NAMA Outstanding Comedian winner validated his claim as comedy’s latest hot property with the Savanna Comics Choice Award for Pan African Comedian of the Year 2019.
The lanky jokester would again prove to be a firm fan favourite as he followed those accolades by being voted the Steve Harvey’s Spotlight Audience Choice Award Winner earning himself a shot at mentorship by the legendary American entertainer.
“Meeting Steve Harvey, one of the original Kings of comedy is definitely one of my favourite career moments. I was blessed to meet him and spend a whole day with him learning a lot as well. As artists sometimes you doubt yourself and need motivation but from the moment he shook my hand and said ‘you’re funny man, I watched your stuff and loved it and I think you would do well in the USA’ I felt motivated further. It was an amazing moment for me to be given a stamp of approval by him,” said Long John.
“International recognition has opened so many doors that were closed before since the industry is all about reputation and what you have done. If it wasn’t for the Covid-19 outbreak I would have been preparing to go on a tour with Mr Harvey right now and perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. These were things that could never have happened if I didn’t win those awards.”
Besides his comedy Long John is also a script writer, content creator and graphic designer. His bag of tricks has entertained people with skits and comedy snippets coming regularly from his production centre.
As he gets ready to take Zimbabwean Comedy global, Long John has been using the lockdown for some moments to reflect and explore his other gifts whilst finding creative ways to keep people entertained.
“I definitely needed time to myself to reflect and plan, so I’ve been doing a lot of research and writing new material. After the lockdown I will have a new comedy special called Happily Uneducated. I have also been doing a lot of online content for people to enjoy during this lockdown and once everything gets back to normal I will be doing a lot of traveling around the world with my comedy and representing my country.”
From the humble surroundings of his village in Chimanimani to the world and seeing his name up in lights the 6ft tall comedian continues to make long strides in the entertainment industry and the world waits with baited breath for the next trick he pulls out his creative mind.