Anjelah Johnson doesn’t have an easy job when she comes to Pueblo. Making people laugh might be her easiest job though. Her other duty will be to kick-off an exceptional act for the relaunch of the Memorial Hall.
The MadTV alum and breakout YouTube star is going to be first performer to grace the stage at Memorial Hall’s Grand re-opening on July 12th.
Bringing Johnson to Memorial Hall is just part of Global Spectrum’s goal of having big names and great acts grace 1 City Hall Plaza. Johnson is act one with musician Robert Earl Keen and comedian Brian Regan rounding acts two and three this summer.
Missing from Southern Colorado for a decade has been big names in comedy, music, entertainment, and theatre and just about anything that needs a 1,500 seat theatre. Which is why the announcement of the 2013 line-up is a huge score for the region that has been without a crown jewel entertainment theater facility since Memorial Hall was closed for renovation.
The “score” of bringing Johnson to Pueblo is bigger than people think. I recently had a chance to chat with the comic to get her take on comedy, being a Latina in comedy and what she’s going to bring to Pueblo.
It may sound odd for a gorgeous ex-Raiderette cheerleader to be a comedian headliner but that’s been the path Johnson has taken and in Hollywood it isn’t an easy or traditional one.
“I thought I would be a victim on NBC’s Special Victims Unit,” Johnson said.
Today, the Mexican-Native American from San Jose is a comedian. If going from Oakland Raider’s cheerleader to comedian seems strange, it is. But to Johnson it’s just normal show business.
“You have a plan, and a dream you pursue. The journey will take you down different roads and different avenues,” Johnson said.
The first impression you get from her is that she’s not your typical Latina comedian. Okay yes, her last name is Johnson and maybe she did want to be a chola growing up but like the generation of people watching her, she’s the modern comedian telling than clichés about her family. Maybe that’s because the matriarch of her family, her 94 year-old grandmother started by working in the fields and worked her way up to the HR office for Levi-Strauss.
“People laugh at truth. [Whatever we say] if it rings true it’s funny,” Johnson said.
She became popular because she was funny with material that reaches audiences all over the country through her viral videos. Her first big break was her “Nail Salon” sketch.
The genesis of the sketch started by picking up a few things and understanding what was we really going on in the nail salon. After a while she learned she could do the voice and be funny telling this story because “we [women] all experience this when we get our nails done.”
The sketch that received over 30 million views put her on the map. When asked if YouTube and social media makes it easier for comedians to reach an audience, Anjelah was quick to point out, “if it’s funny, it’s viral worthy.”
The sketch allowed her to get an opportunity on MadTV which would lead to being nominated for am ALMA award. But like everything in Hollywood, it’s an unforgiving business.
Before the 2007 writer’s strike, Johnson gave the world the character Bon Qui Qui, a mix of a girl she met at a Burger King drive-thru in Tennessee and her brother — yes her brother.
“My brother is ghetto fabulous and has no filter just like Bon Qui Qui. He talks a certain way and people will copy him. Bon Qui Qui is a trend setter and inspirational.”
So who is Bon Qui Qui? If this were some academic research institute, we would stop right here and give you a disclosure that the character is partly politically incorrect. Since we are not—Bon Qui Qui is the loud mouth girl with big hair, long nails, holding up the line at the gas station while she makes out with her boyfriend.
Recently Johnson announced the release of a new music Bon Qui Qui video, “Imma gonna cut you” when she reprised her MadTV role.
Johnson’s television career was cut short by the 2007 writer’s strike and when she was let go from the show because of budget cuts. “There’s more rejection than accepting in Hollywood. You have to learn to have the right type of attitude. And don’t dwell on it.”
At age 31, she will be finishing up her second Comedy Central hour long special with the show airing July 20th. “People wait their entire career for just one hour long special,” Johnson said. “My friend Jo Koy, spent 17 years in the business to get his first hour long special. It’s rare, [Comedy Central] is very picky.”
Her second hour-long special will feature new stories from married life, learning how to be a wife, her family and her dad.
If there was ever an opening act to reflect the change in entertainment options and demands in Colorado, then Memorial Hall booked the perfect act. A Mexican-Native American with the last name Johnson, who was an Oakland Raider cheerleader is now one of the most promising rising female comedians.