By Joyce Nanette Johnson, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – “I’ve always secretly wanted to be a comedienne,” chuckled Lynnette Hardy. “That’s my way of helping people, to make them laugh.”
Hardy has become a comedic staple at many local events and functions for more than 20. She has mixed her humorous but “clean” interpretations of life and experiences and woven them into a comedy act that she has performed throughout the community.
She’s been that voice on the mike for many of the annual Unity Temple of Truth Church bus trips to the Zora Neale Hurston Festival, making people chuckle as they make their way to Eatonville.
Hardy was the comedienne who had the masses cracking up at the rededication ceremony of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, where you could hear “she ain’t lying or “you tell em girl” as she delivered punch lines.
Hardy is now pondering the next step in her comedic journey and is considering performing on the local comedy club circuit.
“I was always a cut up in school,” Hardy laughed.
However, her family tree consisted of educators and community activists who placed the utmost value on education. Her family included educators that helped to shape and mold the educational foundation for many black students.
Her mother Bennye T. James, née Milton, taught at Davis, Perkins and Blanton Elementary schools before moving to Citrus County and becoming a principal at Crystal River Primary School. Her father Ralph James taught at Gibbs and Dunedin High Schools, her aunt Bertha James was a teacher and her aunt Ella Mary Holme was a principal.
On top of all those educators, her grandfather, Chester L. James Sr., was instrumental in transforming and revitalizing the former area of St. Petersburg called Methodist Town. For his actions, the community of Jamestown was named for him.
“People used to put teacher’s kids on pedestals but I wanted to be regular,” explained Hardy.
After graduating from Gibbs High School, she earned a degree in Sociology Corrections from Florida A&M University and later enlisted in the U.S. Navy. She retired from Horizon Coordination as a Medicaid Waiver Support Coordinator.
Always in the back of her mind were the memories of her family gatherings and the jokes that were told.
“I’m happy that I had a family that provided me with the inspiration to be funny,” she shared.
Hardy prides herself on being a clean comic. There is no profanity or explicit sexual content in her act; although, she slyly hints at or creates innuendos. She never drags her audience to the gutter; it’s up to them to take the plunge, and they usually do.
“A lot of audiences want you to be clean because you’re a woman,” explained Hardy. “If a man gets up and tells a joke he can be as nasty as he wants to be. I think people look at women differently, but I think you can tell jokes without being vulgar. I don’t think you have to use a lot of profanity to be funny.”
Hardy said a comedian must know their audience. She touts never having a crowd she couldn’t make laugh.
“When I get that first really good laugh, I feel I’ve got them now. The more people laugh, the more energy I get.”