Most people don’t catch a fish on the first cast or strike it rich with the first shovel load of a gold dig. But Anjelah Johnson’s first joke performed as a stand-up comic went on to collect 25 million YouTube views and launched her comedic career. Her story about a visit to a nail salon where a Vietnamese woman helped her was pure, comic gold.
“I never really sought out comedy,” Johnson said. “It came after me. My dream was to be an actress, and the comedy thing just sort of started happening.”
Since the hilarious bit was uploaded to YouTube, Johnson created another viral sensation, gathering another 50 million views with her MADtv character, Bon Qui Qui, an outrageous ‘King Burger’ employee.
“I am a story comic. I tell stories and hopefully they’re stories people can relate to,” Johnson said. “Generally people take my jokes in stride and laugh. It’s not mean spirited, it’s observational. You yourself have probably observed the same thing and that makes it funny.”
Some of her favorite comedians include Ellen DeGeneres, Brian Regan, Joe Coy, and the first comic CD she purchased was a George Lopez album. Johnson, who is of Latin and Native American decent, said George Lopez, and other story comics, have a huge influence on her and she has tried to shape her craft in the same style. And something about that style has attracted a large gay following, and she couldn’t be happier about it.
“I am blessed to have the gay community on my team. I am blessed that we’re able to laugh and live together,” Johnson said. “I definitely feel like I gravitate toward the gay community. I am just surrounded by gay, and maybe my fans can feel that. I have gay aunts, uncles, cousins and even my brother is gay.”
Johnson said her brother, who is a successful and fabulous hair stylist in Los Angeles, is one of the main inspirations for her Bon Qui Qui character, who is, “just ghetto fabulous.”
Johnson’s stand-up routine makes the rounds with observations about racial stereotypes, ethnicity and religion.
“It’s not about offending people, I’m not calling names and it’s not mean spirited,” Johnson said. “My first joke writing class was even at a church.”
Her successful stand-up career has segued into movie roles on Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Marmaduke and Our Family Wedding, as well as roles on the TV shows Ugly Betty and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Along with auditions, Johnson said she’s focusing mainly on her stand-up career and is preparing for an hour-long Comedy Central special.
Johnson will be performing at Kingsbury Hall, Nov. 5. Tickets are available through KingsburyHall.org.