The Sunday News
Thobekisiwe Gumede Sunday Leisure Reporter
WHEN people talk of comedy in general, grandmasters of the genre such as Bill Cosby, Mr Bean, Eddie Murphy, Key and Peele all from America come to mind.
The connection of such names is that they have managed to popularise the art genre to where it is it today and perhaps managed to earn not just an honest but also a successful living out of the art, courtesy of their acts being aired on several television stations across the world.
In Africa, however, the art genre was slow to be accepted, giving the impression that very few Africans appreciated it until recently when people started showing interest in comedy.
The interest was welcomed by the emergence of comedians in the country such as Babongile Skhonjwa, Carl Joshua Ncube, Clive Chigubhu, Ntando Van Moyo and many others who have made names for themselves in the local entertainment scene.
And like musicians comedians also embark on tours to meet their audiences and market their work as well as exchange ideas on how to improve their art.
One of Bulawayo’s stand up comedians, Learnmore Mwanyenyeka warmly known as Long John was recently in South Africa where he left South Africans begging for more on his tour of that country although he admitted that South Africa was a step ahead in the comedy industry.
Born in 1993 in Chimanimani, Manicaland, Long John got his first comedy show at the age of 18 in Harare. Although still little is known in the fast growing arts genre he has taken his act to such illustrious comedy events such as Simuka Comedy Night, Bulawayo Night of Thousand Laughs, Mahlekisa Comedy Nights and many other related events as well as touring the country under Carl Joshua’s wings.
Sunday Leisure reporter, Thobekisiwe Gumede (TG) had the opportunity to talk to the budding comedian about his tour of South Africa which saw him staging various shows in Johannesburg.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
TG: I understand you had gone for a tour in SA recently.
LJ: Yes I was there for a month.
TG: So can you briefly tell us about it?
LJ: Well, for me going there was sort of an experiment to see how much I have grown in the industry and also to acquire skills as a young comedian or let me say an up-and-coming comedian. I believe it is through such tours that you learn quite a lot from others in the industry too.
TG: How was the experience like?
LJ: It was such an amazing experience for me considering that this was my first time holding shows there. People came to watch my shows and they loved them so much. I even had other comedians telling me that I should come back and do more shows there because they liked my stuff. I was supposed to have four shows around the cities but then I ended up having twelve shows where in some cases I ended up sharing the stage with some of the biggest comedians like Loyiso Gola.
TG: That is awesome. So how can you best describe their comedy scene?
LJ: It’s really big; people are actually making a living out of it unlike here in Zimbabwe where one cannot survive through comedy.
TG: Do you think that stand up comedy in the country stands a chance of becoming big like in South Africa?
LJ: I feel we are also getting there because comedy seems to be growing in the country. People have been showing much appreciation for it compared to last year. Comedy was one of the most popular acts at this year’s edition of Intwasa Arts Festival which shows how much it has grown. There are comedians like Ntando Van Moyo and Babongile Skhonjwa who are working hard in making sure that comedy stretches out even to the rural areas which is quite a big step aimed at popularising the art.
TG: Is there anything new that you learnt from the South Africans?
LJ: Yes a lot of stuff really. I learnt that in order to grow as comedians we should deliver what people like for instance back there in SA at places like Soweto comedians do their shows in vernacular which people that side like.
TG: Well, are you perhaps looking forward to doing more shows there considering that people loved your shows?
LJ: I would love to go back but not anytime soon. I think it’s good for exposure and for our growth as comedians.
TG: Thank you for your time Long John, all the best in future.
LJ: You are welcome.