Lashonda Lester: Hustler First, Comedian Second

Photo credit: Annie Ray
Lashonda Lester, recently crowned the Funniest Person in Austin by Cap City Comedy Club, is a Detroit native who arrived on the local scene as a result of pure hustle and grit.

When she realized her fortune wasn’t to be found in her accidental stint as a madame, Lester took up graphic design and began selling “campaign CDs” to politicians running for office. For Lester, it’s always about turning on a dime, trying something new, discovering new frontiers. Her hunch led her to Austin in 2004 and she trusts it now more than ever.  She met her husband, Dana, the following year and they have easily made Austin their home.

Mixed blessings 

Unbeknownst to her, Lester’s road to comedy began over ten years ago on the radio. Making the most of her frequent call-ins to the Mike Malloy Show, some of his listeners thought she was an established comic. They would inquire about where she was performing next,  though she’d never done a show. The seed was planted and eventually she braved her first open mic. Lester has since had a number of TV appearances, including Nickelodeon’s NickMom Night Out in 2013, with Sherri Shepherd as host. She was thrilled to learn that her routine on Last Comic Standing, Season 9, impressed Wanda Sykes.

While it was gratifying to know that such a respected comedienne enjoyed her work, Lester does not spend time obsessing over an audience’s response to a particular show. “It’s over with,” she says, matter-of-factly. Instead, she focuses on what lies ahead, often camping out in her backyard yard tent where she writes a lot of her material. She especially enjoys working at night “under the stars,” with a tablet as her light source. She’s done a lot of reflection since her surprise hypertension-induced kidney failure diagnosis last summer. Pointing to the catheter port on her chest, Lester describes how her dialysis schedule has been a mixed blessing. Having to sit still for hours at a time, four days a week, provides opportunity to plan, people-watch and put pen to paper.

Lashonda focuses on what lies ahead, often camping out in her backyard yard tent where she writes a lot of her material.

 

Twin passions

Being the first Black comedian to win Funniest Person in Austin has by far been Lester’s highest stand up moment and will no doubt open doors, but Lester is not interested in any fame that will remove her grounding and connection to life. She is disturbed by this unfortunate fate that has befallen some notorious comics.

Photo by Stephanie Devon Warren.
Photo by Stephanie Devon Warren.

Stand up is actually one of Lester’s twin passions. Weird!True Hollywood Tales (W!THT), a comical lecture series focused on pop culture icons is the other. Calling on her comedy community to serve as hosts and presenters, the 2-hour shows tell the colorful stories of several personalities. Lester was profoundly affected by Marvin Gaye’s complex journey, which included the embattled love affair he and his father shared with dressing in women’s clothing. Lester recalls how the cross-dressing secret, combined with drugs, money and fame created a storyline that haunted her for months after her research ended. W!THT’s last show was May 21 at its most recent home, Salvage Vanguard Theater.

Now that Salvage has closed, we have to stay tuned for where W!THT will settle. Lester is determined to find a home that offers the right vibe for her unique show. Knowing the hustler that she is, expect that to happen sooner than later. In the meantime, check her out on stages around town.


Lashonda will headline at Cap City Comedy Club, at 8 p.m., on Jun. 1st and 2nd. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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