Mexican stand-up comic and MADtv alum, Anjelah Johnson has her very own one-hour comedy special premiering on Comedy Central on Dec. 28. The funny and sweet comedian, 26, spoke to Vivo Por Tivo about her show, which she says is all about women's empowerment, and told us why she’s not the female George Lopez.
We love your hood-centric MADtv character Bon Qui Qui! Where did you get the inspiration for that character?
I’m very observational at comedy, so Bon Qui Qui is a mix of a lot of people that I’ve met throughout my journey—mainly this one girl in Memphis, Tennessee that I met at a drive-through about ten years ago. There was a Burger King drive-thru and she literally said: “Welcome to Burger King. Go ahead with yer odor. So Bon Qui Qui is partly her and partly my little brother.
My brother is 23, so he’s not my baby brother, but he’s ghetto fabulous. He’s a trendsetter. People start talking the way he talks, acting the way he acts, and whatever mood he’s in, the rest of the room is going to be in. That’s how he works. He’s always coming up with one-liners that just catch on.
In your stand-up comedy routines, you do a lot of jokes about race, like George Lopez. Do you think you and Lopez are similar as stand-up comics?
I’ve heard that before and George Lopez is one of my favorites! I love his comedy, I love his stories, I love his act outs, and I love that I can relate to everything about him. But my crowd is so different. I have the White people, the Asian people, the Latin people, the mom’s and the kids. My fan base is so vast that I really relate to everybody, because I feel like I’m a part of everybody. I’m in touch with my inner white girl, I’m in touch with my inner black girl, I’m in touch with my inner Latina self—and I think that comes across when I’m doing my comedy. If you watch George’s show Lopez Tonight, his audience is predominately Latinos.
Tell us about your one-hour comedy special!
It’s an autobiographical kind of introduction to me—stories of me growing up and birthday gifts that I got—you know I got cereal for my birthday—stuff like that. I was a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders, so I talk about that, and just things that I observe in life, like the way guys hit on me. We filmed it in Houston, Texas this past summer and the thing with my show is, it’s kind of like a woman empowerment 2009 version of Rosie the Riveter—sort of like a hip-hop, urban kind of young Rosie the Riveter. I wanted to incorporate women who are doing a man’s job and doing it well. To me, if you think of it, stand up comedy is a man’s game. That’s for the boys. And it’s just only in the recent years that women are starting to make a name for themselves in stand up comedy. That’s why my comedy special is called That’s How We Do It.
There are some who have called your impressions of Asian manicurists on MADtv, racist. What do you think about that?
When the nail salon video first came out years ago, I got a lot of hate mail. I got people threatening me. They were saying they were going to come protest me at my show. I think it’s unwarranted. I’m not making fun of people—I’m telling a story. What it is, is, sometimes the truth hurts. You can either laugh at yourself or you can’t. I think that’s what the problem is with people—they have a hard time laughing at themselves. I love to laugh at myself all of the time.
You were a cast member on MADtv’s thirteenth season. Why did you leave the show?
Well, MADtv is canceled now. It had a great run—I think 14 seasons. I was on the 13th season. That was the same year as the writer’s strike, so once the writer’s strike hit, there were budget cuts all across Hollywood. Every show was cutting actors and I got cut.
In addition to being a popular stand up comic, you’ve also become somewhat of a sex symbol. Are you aware of that?
I’m not aware [Laughs].
Check out some of the comments on Youtube and Myspace and you’ll see what we mean…
I don’t read my Youtube comments, so I wouldn’t know. I stopped reading my Youtube comments the day after my videos came out, because you’ll see like 50 positive comments and one negative comment, and the one negative is the one that you just can’t get off of. So I’ve made it a point never to read any message board or anything like that, because people can be vicious.
Do you think it’s harder for a good-looking woman to be accepted in the stand up comedy world?
Funny is funny. Whether you’re ugly, hot, fat, skinny, smart, stupid—funny is funny. Whether you’re a dirty comic, or a clean comic—funny is funny regardless.
What was it like working with America Ferrera on Our Family Wedding?
Working with America was so amazing! From day 1, we had such good chemistry together—we were like instant BFF’s. When the cameras were on, we weren’t even acting—it was literally us being goofy. I was able to learn from her and watch how she works, how she thinks, and how she breaks things down. It was such a great learning experience for me.