In 2017, Lashonda Lester was riding a wave of stand-up superstardom. She was viewed as the Queen of Austin Comedy and the Funniest Person in Austin for 2016. Lester was opening shows for Marc Maron and was set to star in her own Comedy Central special.
However, tragedy struck on April 6 of that same year when Lester, 41, died due to complications of a chronic kidney disease. Fans and colleagues of the Detroit-born stand-up were devastated to learn the news and mourned her via print and social media.
We’re devastated to learn of Lashonda Lester’s passing. She was a fantastic comedian and a fun person to be around. She will be missed. pic.twitter.com/KXlikbNH0n
— Comedy Central (@ComedyCentral) April 6, 2017
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
— Splitsider (@Splitsider) April 10, 2017
Now, just over two years since her passing, Stand Up! Records will release Lester’s final album, Shondee Superstar. The roughly 50-minute long tribute compendium serves as a superb testament to her budding greatness and reinforces how devastating her death was to the Austin comedy world.
Lester’s comedy is unfiltered and raw, honest and intelligent. Her style of peeling back the curtain and revealing the truth of a matter, warts and all, is reminiscent of another comic taken from us too early in his life: Patrice O’Neal. Both comics saw the world through a lens of truthfulness, and if they perceived anyone as being less than genuine in any aspect of their lives, they would both critique their target with a comedic ferocity that of a rabid pitbull. They forced comics to step up their game, to strive for greatness through honest and transparent comedy every time they set foot on a stage.
Both O’Neal and Lester developed and maintained a candid connection with their audiences through their forthcoming and lovable natures and, overall, their comedy skills excelled because of it. With Shondee Superstar, Lester’s conversationally comfortable performance resonates greatly with the audience. In this posthumous album, her abilities as a storyteller and comic shine through.
While she touches on serious issues in a tongue-in-cheek way throughout the set, her simple and concise observations on international relations speak aptly to the absurdity surrounding the very political issue. Her take on political correctness and the problem of slutshaming is precise and sharp-witted, especially when seeing how she doesn’t take the matter as seriously as others do. And don’t you dare judge Lester for her love for McDonalds (the story surrounding that revelation is priceless).
Most importantly, though, her candid tales about her health—and the humor she found within the now-known tragic nature of her condition—shows how she (and likely her family) coped with her condition on a daily basis: with overwhelming positivity and optimism. She lived life to the fullest and wanted everyone to follow in her footsteps, as is seen throughout the stories comprised in her set, which makes her loss even more awful to bear.
Lester was a skilled stand-up with the world nestled in the palm of her hands. “She was the queen,” Cap City Comedy Club General Manager Margie Coyle told The Statesmen shortly after Lester’s death. “There’s a reason Austin comedians are torn up today. She was a dominating talent on the verge of becoming a national name.”
With Shondee Superstar, the world gets to re-visit the comic’s brief but powerful reign as Austin comedy royalty one last time. And by album’s end, all will bend the knee and hail the memory of the Queen once more.
Lashonda Lester’s Shondee Superstar hits stores on April 26 via Stand Up! Records.