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Zimbabwean comedian Learnmore Jonasi wows America’s Got Talent

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Zimbabwean comedian Learnmore Jonasi wows America’s Got Talent

…Simon Cowell calls Jonasi one of the funniest contestants over the years

Silence Charumbira

Zimbabwean comedian, Learnmore Jonasi, better known in comedy circles as Long John, on Tuesday received the coveted Golden Buzzer on America’s Got Talent Season 19 after wowing the judges and thousands of revellers at the show.

Jonasi, who made his name in Harare at the now defunct Book Café, has been on a steady rise after moving to South Africa where he appeared on Comedy Central and eventually got the attention of global icon, Steve Harvey.

But on Tuesday evening, the lanky comic had both the judges and the audience eating out of the palm of his hand with some rib crackers straight out of the Chimanimani district in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland Province, near the border with Mozambique.

Zimbabwean comedian Learnmore Jonasi wows America’s Got Talent
Learnmore Jonasi gets golden Buzzer on AGT. Picture by NBC

And it is indeed a much-needed glimmer of hope for Chimanimani, one of the districts that was hardest hit by the horrific Cyclone Idai, which killed thousands and left thousands others homeless after sweeping angrily across the region in March 2019.

Before his short performance, Simon Cowell, probably the most critical of the four judges, had reminded Jonasi of the belief that “we always say two minutes can change everything”. And indeed, Jonasi’s two minutes changed everything.

The gangly comic started off his set with a joke about traffic lights, saying one had recently been installed in Chimanimani and villagers had been so exultant that they paused for pictures with the new phenomenon. But then, since in Chimanimani they didn’t “drive like you Americans”, they rode animals, they didn’t need traffic lights.

Zimbabwean comedian Learnmore Jonasi wows America’s Got Talent
Learnmore Jonasi. Picture by My Afrika Magazine

“…you guys drive crazy”, and it was as if someone had just flipped on the switch for giggles.

What followed was another raucous laughter in response to his imitation of a rider, possibly on a donkey or horse. So good was it that another judge, Howie Mandel, could not hold back his compliment, “He’s good”.

Then he went into technology saying the mobile reception was so bad in Chimanimani that to come someone, one had to climb a mountain and scream, “Simon!” and then make a gesture directing them to come.

He moved onto social media, jesting that the villagers in Chimanimani were so old school that to view someone’s pictures, they had to visit that person’s house and go around looking at the pictures physically. And to share, they would raise it up and show others. A round of applause followed.

But now that he was in America and adjusting to that country, everything was new to him.

“Like when I first came to America, I saw something that I didn’t think existed. I saw poor white people,” at this point, they were all under the spell of his charm.

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“What? How is this possible? This white guy was like, ‘Can I have a dollar?’ I was like, I came here to ask you for a dollar!”

Zimbabwean comedian Learnmore Jonasi wows America’s Got Talent
Learnmore Jonasi in golden confetti. Picture by NBC

Then came the food.

“There’s so much food in America. So big, everything, portions are big. The other day an American friend of mine was like, ‘Man, I am starving’. I was like, no,” and the audience went wild again.

“You’re hungry, ok. Trust me, there is a difference, ok. Now, do you think when I go back to my village after experiencing this much food in America and someone is like, ‘Man, I am hungry. I’ll be like, no. you’re starving, ok,” then he signed off.

At that point, all four judges were on their feet clapping while the audience was riotously applauding him.

Terry Crews on the sidelines was ecstatic, screaming, “Wow, look at this”, pointing to the audience.

When it was time for the judges, Mendel said “stand-up comedy, hard enough as it is, but you come from another country, where English isn’t even your first language, not only communicate with everybody, but tickle everybody, make everybody laugh, you’ve made this a better place”.

“You are truly amazing.”

Sofía Vergara said Jonasi looked good from top to bottom and called the performance “the most fun time we have had today”.

But Cowell took it to the climax saying: “I actually think, you’re one of the funniest people we’ve ever had over the years”.

“I was laughing so much. You were having the best time as well. Well, unfortunately, you’re now stuck with us, because you’re not going anywhere,” Cowell said to another wild applause.

At voting time, just as Mendel had voted yes, and Heidi Klum was about to vote, Crews emerged from backstage.

Zimbabwean comedian Learnmore Jonasi wows America’s Got Talent
Learnmore Jonasi and Terry Crews. Picture by GoldDerby

“Hold up hold up, hold up hold up,” and the audience went hysterical.

“Hold up. Learnmore, you were backstage, you were telling me that you were taking 14-hour bus trips to go perform for five minutes and then you’d have to take 14-hour bus trips to go back home, brother, you would never have to go back home again! Because you are here with us forever!” he screamed as he smashed the Golden Buzzer and golden confetti exploded onto the stage.

The Golden Buzzer, Crews’ only one this season and one of nine, means Jonasi has skipped all the other preliminary stages of the talent show to head straight for live shows.

In the live episodes, Jonasi will compete against other contestants for both the judges’ and the audience’s vote to reach the final. If he wins the final. He gets a chance to headline a show on the Las Vegas strip and a US$1 million cash prize paid out as a 40-year-long annuity.

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