The Sunday Mail
Zandile Zaza Ndlovu
AFTER the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe in March this year, one of the area’s sons has brought the limelight back on Chimanimani.
Learnmore Mwanyanyeka, popularly known as Long John the Village Boy, is raising the Zimbabwean flag high in comedy circles.
He was recently crowned the Pan-African Comedian of the Year Comics Choice at the glitzy Savanah Comedy Awards in South Africa.
However, by dedicating the gong to those affected by Cyclone ldai, he proved that his heart is with the people that were left homeless by the heavy rains and strong winds that hit the area.
Long John emerged victorious over some of Africa’s best comedic talents at an event held on September 7 2019 in Johannesburg.
Speaking to The Sunday Mail Society, he expressed delight at winning the prestigious award.
“This award proves that Zimbabwean comedy is a force to reckon with. This opens doors, not only for me but for all comedians in Zimbabwe,” said Long John.
In what can only be described as a David versus Goliath moment, Long John was pitted against Anne Kansime from Uganda, Basketmouth from Nigeria, Chingles from Zambia and fellow Zimbabwean Alfred Kainga.
All his opponents were internationally acclaimed and globe-trotting comedians, whereas he has only been exposed to the Southern African region.
Long John, who derives his stage name from his tall lanky frame, is known for using satire in his humour, as well as his life experiences growing up in rural Chimanimani. His style of comedy is considered comedy for the analytical thinker, that is, those that can extract the subliminal themes or meaning behind his jokes.
“There is always meaning behind my jokes. Everything I talk about comes from somewhere. For me comedy comes from a real place in my heart, from things that have happened to me both in the rural areas as a village boy and in the big cities where I find myself working most of the time,” he said.
He said in light of the tough situations he has had to overcome, comedy is therapeutic for him. Leaving his rural home in Chimanimani, touring cities in Zimbabwe and ultimately making the decision to move to South Africa are some of the hurdles he had to surmount. Finding out that his home had been affected by the cyclone was also heart-breaking.
“The South African comedy industry has been there for a while so I have learnt a lot from it, it has prepared me for the world,” said Long John, adding, “It was very hard to learn about the devastation in my home area because of Cyclone Idai. I hope winning this award will help me bring awareness to the plight of my people in Chimanimani so that we can get aid and relief to help rebuild my home area.”
He said some of the precious lessons that comedy has given him include the importance of travelling and networking with fellow comedians and promoters. He said this is how one builds a name, a profile and enhances their skills.
“I will be going on tour doing my one man show in Chicago, US, as well as parts of Asia. The tour will be filmed for Netflix.”
The Savanah Comedy Awards are held annually in South Africa. Ranked the premium comedy awards on the continent, they attract comedians from across Africa. The nominated comedians are also selected from the Savanah Comedy city tours in South Africa, which are also broadcast on DSTV’s Mzansi Magic Channel.