Comedian Anjelah Johnson hasn’t done it all quite yet, but as a former NFL cheerleader and “MAD tv” cast member whose Youtube clips have garnered millions of views in addition to three hour-long stand-up specials, she’s done more than most. Following the 2015 release of “Not Fancy” on Netflix, Johnson is currently working on her new material on tour, bringing her sharp, observational comedy to The Royal Oak Music Theater tomorrow night.
“I have a couple of jokes from my Netflix special, some of the classic ones that I know people love to hear when they come to my show, but for the most part I’m already working on my new hour and trying to get that ready to be taped,” she said in a post-crossfit and grocery shopping phone call with The Michigan Daily.
Originally from San Jose California, Johnson moved to Hollywood to pursue acting after a year on the Oakland Raiderettes, during which she performed at Super Bowl XXXVII. Currently on a short touring break for pilot season, she and her husband recently bought a home — an ordeal that fans can look forward to hearing about.
“That whole experience was a nightmare, and I didn’t want to talk about it at first because it was too fresh and too frustrating but after a little while I was able to laugh about it and that’s when I knew I could start talking about it on stage,” Johnson said. “That’s kind of my process — I’ll live life then I’ll talk about it,” she added.
Coming from a Mexican/Native American family, Johnson cites her upbringing for her success in comedy.
“My upbringing made me who I am today: the way my parents raised me, the people I surrounded myself with,” she said. “My upbringing has a lot to do with my comedy; I can talk about how I go to church and things like that, and I can also talk about how I got a little bit of hood in me because of how I grew up.”
She describes her brother as “ghetto fabulous,” naming him and a fast-food employee she met years ago in Memphis, Tenn. as the inspirations for her famous character, Bon Qui Qui. Originally on on “MAD tv” in 2007, the rude fast-food character was written and portrayed by Johnson. In January, at “MAD tv” ’s 20th Anniversary special Bon Qui Qui was honored as fan-favorite character.
“I think people have met someone like Bon Qui Qui or maybe that’s their alter ego. For some [people] it’s ‘oh that’s fun, that makes me laugh,’ but then others it rubs them the wrong way. Maybe it touches too close to home. I don’t know what, but I think there’s definitely something about Bon Qui Qui that resonates with people,” she said of the character’s long-term success.
Nearly a decade after her debut, Bon Qui Qui has outgrown her fast-food roots, and traded up to a rap career. Coordinated between Johnson’s comedic talent and her Christian rapper husband’s musical aptitude, the two found success. Bon Qui Qui scored a record deal, her debut album available on iTunes.
“It was his idea to make Bon Qui Qui a rapper; so we went into the studio and recorded some songs and we put them on iTunes ourselves and people like it next thing you know she was signed to a record deal with Warner Bros. Records — it was all unexpected, but very cool.”
Johnson will be taking her talent on tour as Bon Qui Qui in April on the Gold Plated Dreams tour. The tour, featuring both Johnson as herself and as Bon Qui Qui, will be a mix of comedy and music. Bon Qui Qui’s opener will be her husband’s band, Group 1 Crew.
“[Acting, singing and stand-up] are all so fun, I’m so lucky that I get to do them all. they all have their own pluses and it’s very cool that I get to do it. I love them all,” Johnson said.
Moving to Hollywood to become an actress, Johnson isn’t finished pushing for more. With many dreams left to fulfill in film and TV, she was shocked at her flourishing stand up career.
“I never thought I’d be able to travel the country to sold out shows and perform for people. That’s amazing to me, blows my mind.” she said. “It’s one of those grow where you plant it situations. I wanted to be an actress, but this stand up thing is what blew up for me. I have three hour specials now which is out of this world and, again, that’s something like ‘well I came here to act, but this is what’s working so let me focus and work on this.’ ”
With three specials under her belt, comedy tours and a rap show — it’s clear that Johnson’s talent and comedic touch see no ends in sight. Even in the boys club of comedy and the greater sexism present in Hollywood, Johnson pushes forward, expecting her next special to be taped within the next year.
“[Comedy] is a boys club forsure. I think it’s starting to change more, and there are more female comedians being highlighted and known for stand up comedy. I think Hollywood in general is a boys club, but that’s changing” she said.
After a pause she adds, “… slowly.”