Lashonda Lester, a Detroit native named 2016’s Funniest Person in Austin, was supposed to record her first half-hour comedy special for Comedy Central two weeks from tonight in New Orleans. Instead, Lester has died.
From Martha Kelly, Austin resident and co-star on FX’s Baskets: “Lashonda was one of the most naturally talented comics I’ve ever seen and a pleasure to know off stage as well. She was truly beloved by the Austin comedy community and will be terribly missed. RIP Shondee.💔💔💔💔”
I just learned Lashonda Lester passed away. She opened for me last week in Austin. Very sad. Very funny person. RIP
— marc maron (@marcmaron) April 6, 2017
Lester had opened for Marc Maron last week, and was in the hospital frequently this past month on dialysis. Last night, she told her friends on Facebook: “Trying to achieve peace and relaxation tonight. Been working on those breathing techniques yall posted. Fingers crossed!” Instead, her mother broke the news to friends that Lashonda hadn’t made it through the night.
I’m as shocked and as saddened as you are, and will update this post throughout the day.
Originally from Detroit, Lester had worked in and around show business for two decades before starting stand-up comedy in 2008. Her previous careers had included managing pro wrestlers, publishing political magazines and protesting wars. She created, executive produced and starred in “Weird! True Hollywood Tales”, a biographical lecture series in pop culture that presented the lives of celebrities who had died under tragic or mysterious circumstances.
Her TV credits included Nickelodeon’s NickMom Night Out and FOX’s Laughs.
In August 2015, fellow Austin comedian Kat Ramzinski started a GoFundMe campaign for Lester which raised $8,180 to help with her hospital and health-care expenses as she was undergoing surgeries — “Lashonda is a hilarious, wonderful, and caring comedian, wife, friend, and mother, who has dedicated her life to making us all laugh, and touching our hearts. Now her heart needs our help more than ever!” Ramzinski wrote then.
Here is the footage of Lester winning the FPIA contest last year. Rest in peace, Shondee.
And here is a sadly ironic video interview with her from last year’s Moontower Comedy Festival. I was looking forward to seeing her this year at Moontower.
And here are Matt Bearden and Chris Cubas alongside Lester talking to Austin local TV in October 2016, where she talked about her chronic kidney disease due to high blood pressure, going to dialysis four times a week. “Lashonda was, is, one of the hardest-working comics in this town,” Cubas said. “She was consistently going up and being the funniest person on the shows, but then still like kind of being a little too under the radar.”