How do you go from Oakland Raiders cheerleader to comedy levels and theaters throughout America? Ask actress and comic Anjelah Johnson-Reyes. Johnson-Reyes took her shot with the Oakland Raiders as a Cheerleader and dancer as an indication that extra within the leisure business might be at her disposal if she took a danger and went for it.
Born and raised in San Jose, California, Johnson-Reyes approaches comedy with a way of being ridiculously human and linked to different people in a world that appears to have unreasonable expectations about each experiences.
Johnson-Reyes is of Mexican and Indigenous descent however her comedy contains her experiences rising up with shut proximity to different ethnicities, together with different Latinos and Asian folks. One of many first comedy sketches to get Johnson-Reyes observed was her “nail salon” character Tammy, the place she portrays her Vietnamese nail tech.
Johnson-Reyes has additionally had different characters who’ve come from experiences with actual folks that, in our politically-sensitive local weather, have garnered a little bit of controversy. Whereas engaged on MADtv, Johnson-Reyes developed the character of Bon Qui Qui, a service employee who didn’t essentially have the perfect service expertise. Bon Qui Qui grew to become wildly common, which included making a full file and even a Christmas album. Bon Qui Qui has retired as Johnson-Reyes realized that she needed to be identified for greater than her characters and imitations.
LEO bought an opportunity to speak with Johnson-Reyes forward of her present Saturday, Oct. 15 on the Brown Theatre. We talked about her characters, the altering instances of racial comedy, coping with males as a feminine comic and her new memoir, “Who Do I Think I Am?: Stories of Chola Wishes and Caviar Dreams.”
LEO: Inform me about your guide and tour.
Anjelah Johnson-Reyes: My guide is ‘Who Do I Think I Am? Stories of Chola I Wishes and Caviar Dreams.’ The title, ‘Who Do I Think I Am?’ is tales of self-identity rising up Mexican American, however I didn’t converse Spanish. My final identify was Johnson. And I needed to be a chola actual dangerous, however no one was petrified of little Basta Johnson. Like, it didn’t have a sting to it. After which, it’s additionally, who do I feel I’m to dream such large desires and go for them? So it’s additionally tales of me chasing my desires and the way I bought to the place I’m immediately. My tour, it’s my new hour of standup comedy that isn’t essentially in help of the guide.
I’m not performing jokes from the guide. It’s my new hour of ‘my life after COVID’ and the way issues have modified for me. With the tour, you should buy a guide bundle ticket the place you will get a signed copy of my guide together with your ticket to my present. That’s been superb.
How did you make the leap from Oakland Raiders cheerleader to stand-up comedy?
After I first tried out for the Oakland Raiderettes Cheerleading Squad, I used to be utilizing it as my signal to pursue the leisure business. And I used to be at a spot in my life the place I didn’t know what I needed to be once I grew up, regardless that I used to be already a grownup. I used to be praying about it and I used to be like, ‘I’m gonna go check out for the Oakland Raiders and if I make the squad, I’ll do it one yr after which I’m gonna transfer to Hollywood and pursue my desires to be an actress.’ And if I don’t make the squad, then I’ll know that the leisure business is just not for me, and I’ll simply go one other path. I made the squad and so I got here residence from the Tremendous Bowl and the very subsequent weekend, I packed my luggage and moved to Los Angeles. I began from the bottom up as an additional on TV and labored my approach as much as the place I’m immediately.
Tell me about creating the characters of Tammy and Bon Qui Qui.
I’ve been getting my nails performed since I used to be younger. I grew up in a really large Vietnamese inhabitants space the place considered one of my finest buddies rising up was Vietnamese. And so he taught me quite a bit concerning the tradition. He taught me methods to say sure phrases in Vietnamese. And so anytime I’d go get my nails performed, he would train me one thing new to say, so I might impress my girl who was doing my nails. I’ve all the time had an ear for accents. So I’m a storyteller and I can do accents. And in order that’s the place, uh, Tammy, the nail girl took place. After which Bon Qui Qui is the character I did on MADtv. She’s a mixture of lots of people that I’ve met all through my life, however extra particularly my brother. And, my brother on the time once I created the character, he was not sober and he simply had no filter and he would say no matter he needed to say, and he was a trendsetter.
He would begin speaking a brand new approach. Individuals would begin speaking like him, he would give you a brand new slang phrase and everyone began saying his new slang phrase. He would begin laughing a sure approach and other people would begin laughing how he would chortle. And it was like he’s this character himself that will say what folks have been considering, however would by no means say out loud. He was the man who would say it out loud and he would say it in a humorous approach. And that’s the principal inspiration for the opposite a part of is, I went by way of a burger drive-thru in Memphis, Tennessee again once I was like 16 or 17 years previous. I met a girl within the drive by way of that actually modified my life. I used to be like, ‘Oh my God, this woman is a character in herself’ and customer support was not her forte. You understand, why this character works for King Burger is she has quite a bit to do with the woman that I met getting drive-thru once I was a teen.
Contemplating the social consciousness of race and sensitivity about how persons are portrayed, has that modified the way you current these characters?
Effectively, Bon Qui Qui has since retired. It’s humorous as a result of after MADtv, we went on to proceed the character’s work and she or he bought a file take care of Warner Music and we launched a full album. We launched a Christmas album and we toured because the character for a pair years. Then, actually she had her personal cult following of followers and I’ve all the time sort of needed to be like, ‘Okay, when is Angela’s flip to shine? When can I present that I’m greater than this one character? I’m greater than this, I can do different issues.’ And, um, so I ended up retiring the character in order that I couldn’t simply be identified for that character. Then, the instances have modified with comedy and it’s humorous as a result of you’ll be able to see the completely different generations of individuals, like with new platforms like TikTok and someone can put up my previous video from Bon Qui Qui, and you’ll see the individuals who grew up in that season that have been like, ‘Oh my God, this is so nostalgic for me.’ ‘We used to quote this all the time, this was our favorite sketch.’ And then you definately see the newer era that’s similar to, ‘Oh no, problematic in all the things.’ Proper.
So it’s fascinating. Now I don’t put up [on social media] on the common, like one thing of Bon Qui Qui, however lots of people do put up and tag me. And now and again I’ll repost it like on Halloween. Each Halloween folks all the time costume up as Bon Qui Qui. And so I’ll repost a few folks of their costumes or I get lots of drag queens that like to carry out Bon Qui Qui.
Then the nail salon joke is… it’s sort of change into larger than a joke. ‘I know this is the joke that introduced you to me, and this is the joke that means a lot to you.’ So I current it on the finish of my present, sort of like a thanks to my followers who’ve been using with me for therefore lengthy.
Being a feminine comic, and realizing concerning the many male comedians who’ve had sexual assault or impropriety allegations in opposition to them, have you ever had any unwelcome experiences with males in your business?
I’ve, once I first bought began. I used to be model new within the standup scene. I didn’t perceive actually what it meant to go on the street and to, you understand, have comradery with different comedians. I feel I used to be simply making an attempt to be a comic book. So, I keep in mind I bought invited to do that present that was like an hour away from Los Angeles. And the man who invited me to do that present, he’s very pleasant with me and I appreciated him a lot.
He was like, ‘Yeah, you can ride with me and my girlfriend to the show.’ And I’m like, ‘perfect.’ After which on the final minute he’s like, ‘Hey, my girlfriend’s getting off of labor late, You possibly can journey with this different comedian.’
I’m like, ‘Okay, I don’t know him,’ however, in my thoughts, I’m making an attempt to simply be a comic book and roll with the punches. Go hang around with the opposite comics. ‘You’re good, you’re nice. Identical to do it.’ So I am going and I park at this man’s residence and I get within the automotive with him and we’re driving there and we’re simply having nice dialog on the way in which. It’s a non-public occasion that we’re all working at and I am going up first, I do my set, I did effectively and he goes up and talks about how he needed to jerk off to me proper there. It was simply utterly inappropriate. It was so awkward. He stored digging in deeper and deeper. No person was laughing, no one thought it was humorous, however he simply stored going and going and going.
I keep in mind I used to be so embarrassed. I used to be so uncomfortable. I hid inside. It was at someone’s celebration at a non-public property. I keep in mind I went into the home and we weren’t alleged to go in the home, however I went into the home and I hid within the kitchen and, I feel it was the proprietor of the home, he got here and located me and was checking on me to verify I used to be okay. And I’m in that place the place I sort of have to love, simply act like knowledgeable, act like this occurs on a regular basis.
Then I needed to drive residence with this man the entire complete approach for an hour. And I keep in mind the entire approach residence, I used to be simply, um, calling anyone I knew so I might be on the telephone with them as a substitute of have to speak with this man or say something to him in any respect. I keep in mind I used to be simply on the telephone the entire time, and on the very finish once I get to my automotive, he has the audacity… he goes, ‘So do you wanna come up?’
Come upstairs?! Are you kidding me?
I keep in mind feeling violated and this new business that I’m in, I’m making an attempt to love be one of many guys making an attempt to be one of many comics. It was not for me and doubtless had a task in why I didn’t actually hang around on the comedy golf equipment very a lot.
You could have a big following within the LGBTQ group
That is one other subject I discuss in my guide as effectively. God has blessed me with a homosexual viewers. Like I’ve a very loyal, sturdy homosexual following. I’ve the homosexual boys who love me and my ‘lesties’ who love me. I feel it’s essential for someone like me who professes to like Jesus and love God to indicate this group love and acceptance, and that I’ve been a mouthpiece for them to say, ‘You’re welcome at my desk, come sit with me. Jesus loves you and that sort of message, which is reverse usually of the message that they might usually obtain from a Christian individual.’
You’re very open about being an individual of religion. LEO is the guide of heathens.
I feel inside my standup, anytime I’ve talked about my religion, it’s by no means been in a preachy approach. It’s been nearly in a self-deprecating approach. I feel the Christians come to my present as a result of one, it’s clear and so they know they’re not gonna be offended and so they can deliver their niece or their daughter or their grandma or whoever, and so they can belief that they received’t have these awkward moments. The moments the place I do discuss something religion and I’m making enjoyable of us, they get it. As a result of they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, yes, we do gossip in the church sometimes. Oh my gosh, yes.’ You understand, no matter. ‘Oh, after church we do go eat,’ There’s that, that correlation there that’s like, ‘oh, I connect with that.”
And the people who are not of faith, they’re in a position to chortle at us as effectively, like ‘Oh my gosh, Christians do be like that.’ So I really feel like I’m in a position to discuss my religion in a approach that sort of brings folks collectively. In case you are the kind of one that can chortle at your self. I feel that’s with religion, that’s with ethnic humor, that’s with my tradition, it’s with every kind of issues. In case you’re not the kind of one that can chortle at your self, then you definately most likely received’t take pleasure in your time at my present.
So that you’ve bought the guide popping out, you’re occurring tour… any film or TV tasks which can be arising?
I simply completed recording my sixth one hour particular, um, in Nashville, Tennessee on the Ryman. And so we’re undecided the place it’s gonna land but, however I’m very enthusiastic about that and persevering with my tour.