Comedian Lashonda Lester was Funniest Person in Austin


Austin comedian Lashonda Lester, named the Funniest Person in Austin 2016, died Thursday.

No cause of death has yet been released, but Lester was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2015. She was 41.

The Detroit-born comedian opened a high-profile show for Marc Maron at the Paramount Theatre on March 31 and was a few weeks away from recording her first Comedy Central special. She had appeared on the NBC show “Last Comic Standing” in 2015 and can be seen in Katie Pengra’s and Dustin Svehlak’s 2016 film “Funniest,” a documentary about the Funniest Person in Austin competition that debuted at last year’s Austin Film Festival.

Lester was a beloved fixture of Austin’s stand-up scene, garnering near-universal respect from her peers in a field where that is extremely hard to come by.

“She was the queen,” Cap City Comedy Club co-owner and General Manager Margie Coyle said. “I don’t mean that in a superficial way. There’s a reason Austin comedians are torn up today. She was a dominating talent on the verge of becoming a national name.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES: A day with the queen of Austin comedy

Austin comic Matt Bearden was a friend of Lester’s.

“Lashonda was a great Austinite,” Bearden said Thursday. “She had that Wild West attitude of Texas loudmouth proud, strong women. She fit in with them, but she never let you forget she was from Detroit. If our scene was a car, she would be the hood ornament.”

He recalled seeing Lester many years ago at a Funniest Person in Austin competition.

“When you are in the business a long time and you watch comics every single night, it takes a lot for someone to stick out to you,” Bearden said. “The first time I saw Lashonda, she was very, very, very green, but I was sitting next to Margie Coyle and I said to her, ‘Is she going to be a star?’ You just knew. She kept developing and getting better and better.

“The thing that is killing (fellow comics) in town right now is that we work really, really hard at something that, in Austin, isn’t hailed as much as film or music,” Bearden continued. “And Lashonda was about to break out. Getting on the small late-night shows is great, but getting a Comedy Central special is a home run. (Because she didn’t get to make the special,) it feels like she got cheated and the audience got cheated.”

Fellow comic Brian Gaar noted that her life experience was a crucial part of her comedy. “I think she came to stand-up later in life than many comics, and she had done all these things that were reflected in her comedy,” Gaar said. “She was also someone who didn’t come to Austin, get a little famous and leave. She became a part of the scene and gave back to it and invested in it.”

Lietza Brass is a producer of the Moontower Comedy Festival and booked Lester into Moontower’s “The Next” showcase last year, which is set up for those in the industry to view the best of the best in Austin comedy. Lester was also scheduled to perform at this year’s festival.

“Her material and her energy that night stood out and apart from everyone,” Brass said of Lester’s Funniest Person victory in May 2016. “She was just so ready at that moment to win. She didn’t have to put a character on. She could just walk out and be herself, and sometimes being yourself on stage is the most dangerous and scariest thing you can do because the audience is sometimes taken aback. Not with her.”

Many people said that younger comics looked up to Lester. “If something like this had happened to someone else,” Bearden said, “other comedians would have gone to her for advice on how to deal with it.”

“She was a real person,” Gaar said, “and that is my favorite kind of comedian.”

Lester is survived by her mother, husband and son.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Austin medics respond to multiple calls of K2 overdoses Sunday
Austin medics respond to multiple calls of K2 overdoses Sunday

Austin-Travis County EMS has taken two men to Dell Seton Medical Center for K2 overdoses, the second incident today at the same location involving multiple people needing medical care after taking the synthetic drug, authorities said. Both incidents, the first at roughly 11:30 a.m. and another about an hour later, happened beneath the Interstate 35...
Study: Uber reduces ambulance usage nationwide
Study: Uber reduces ambulance usage nationwide

A study by a pair of university researchers has concluded that Uber and other ride-booking services have caused a drop in ambulance usage nationwide, The San Jose Mercury News reported.  A research paper released Wednesday is believed to be the first study to measure the impact of Uber and other ride-booking services. The study...
BREAKING UPDATE: APD officer shot stabbing assailant after dispute
BREAKING UPDATE: APD officer shot stabbing assailant after dispute

2 p.m. update: An Austin police officer shot and wounded a man who stabbed and critically injured another man outside a home in Northwest Hills on Sunday, officials said. According to police, the officer shot a 59-year-old man who refused to drop his knife and advanced toward him after stabbing a 69-year-old man. Both men are in the hospital, and the...
When Harry met Barry: Prince interviews Obama for BBC radio
When Harry met Barry: Prince interviews Obama for BBC radio

Prince Harry and former President Barack Obama had some fun banter before their interview on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program, the BBC reported. “Do I have to speak faster? Because I am a slow speaker,” Obama asks the prince before an interview that will be aired Dec. 27. “No, not at all,” Harry responds...
Pope Francis criticizes journalists for reporting old scandals
Pope Francis criticizes journalists for reporting old scandals

Pope Francis rebuked journalists that report old scandals and sensationalize the news, calling it “a very serious sin” that hurts the involved parties, CBS News reported, citing an Associated Press story. On the eve of his 81st birthday Saturday, the pontiff said journalists should remember to provide precise, complete and correct...
More Stories