Anjelah Johnson – The Homecoming Show

July 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In her new one-hour comedy special “The Homecoming Show,” stand-up comedian Anjelah Johnson returns to her hometown of San Jose, California where she says she grew up hanging out with everybody.

“I was a girl who was a chameleon,” said Johnson, who was a cheerleader in high school and even spent one year in the professional cheerleading ranks with the Oakland Raiders. “I kicked it with the white people, the black people, the Mexicans. I got along with everyone.”

In 2003, Johnson, who recently married Christian hip-hop musician Manwell Reyes, moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career. Since then, she has starred in such movies as “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” and “Our Family Wedding.” She is best known for her various characters on the sketch comedy show “MADtv.”

“Anjelah Johnson: The Homecoming Show” airs July 20 at 8 p.m. on NUVOtv (www.mynuvotv.com).

Did you ever want to be the homecoming queen growing up?

I had an interesting high school situation growing up. I went to a bunch of different high schools. My senior year I wanted to be the homecoming queen. I was on the ballot and everything, but I didn’t win.

We’re people surprised when they met you and found out you were funny? Some people think pretty girls don’t have a sense of humor.

Yeah, I guess. At the beginning of my career people would look at me and say, “Ah, she’s not going to be funny.” I had to prove myself. During the first few minutes of my act people weren’t even really listen to my jokes. They were kind of just judging me. So, I had to knock down that wall they had built between us to get them to trust me and see I was actually funny. It’s definitely easier now that I have a fan base and people kind of know who I am. They’re not surprise when I walk on stage.

Is it frustrating when people assume things about you because you’re Latina – like that you know Spanish?

I mean, I feel bad more than I feel frustrated. When people want to speak Spanish to me I’m like, “Oh, I’m sorry.” I wish I spoke Spanish, but I don’t.

Then you go off and marry someone with the last name Reyes, which doesn’t help your case much.

(Laughs) What’s funny is that I always wanted a Spanish last name. You can’t be tough with the name Johnson. I’ve wanted that my whole life. And now that everybody knows me as Anjelah Johnson and I’m branded, now I get my Mexican last name.

Do you think Hollywood understands the Latino culture? I mean, they’re not making movies about Latinos but when they do they usually get it wrong, don’t they?

Sometimes they get it and sometimes they don’t. I think if they really got it, TV would look a lot different. If they really got what we’re doing and what we’re up to and how relatable we are to the American story, there’d be more of us on TV. But there’s not, so I guess Hollywood doesn’t quite understand us yet.

On that note, I have to ask you as a Latina in the entertainment industry, what do you think about a show like “Devious Maids?”

I think to each their own. It’s hard to say. I think there are very talented women on the show. Ana Ortiz is one of my favorite actresses. Personally, that’s not my cup of tea. But some people love it. Some people love those dramatic, soap opera, sexy shows just like some people like that book “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Well, I’ve hired a maid before and she didn’t look like Ana Ortiz.

(Laughs) Yeah, I hired some maids before myself and I’ve never had Ana Ortiz come to my door. If she did, I’d have to make sure my husband wasn’t home. I’d make him go for a walk.

Do you think a platform like NuvoTV is going to be where we see a lot of content going nowadays?

Sure, a lot of people are watching the Internet more than they’re watching TV. It’s convenient. Anytime time of day, you can just go online and watch your show.

Did you ever think about doing what Louis C.K. did and debut a special online and charge $5 to download it? It doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but he made like $1 million doing it.

Yeah, I thought about doing that, but it’s a lot of work. And he’s been doing it a lot longer than I have so he has a huge fan base. I have a really loyal following, but I’m still growing. I could do something like that, but I feel like I’m still learning a lot and I didn’t want to take that chance.

This year marks 10 years for you since you moved to L.A. What’s been the biggest surprise in the industry since your move?

I have a love/hate relationship with the road. I think the biggest surprise for me since I’ve moved out here is life on the road. Almost every weekend I’m traveling. During the week I’m traveling. Never in my wildest dreams 10 years ago did I think my life would consist of so many airports and Delta Airlines. I think it’s been hard on my family, too, because they’re use to knowing every detail of my life. Now someone will ask my sister, “Hey, where’s Anjelah?”  and she’s like, “I have no idea.”

You probably wake up not even knowing what time zone you’re in.

I don’t know what time zone I’m in or what day it is sometimes. But I’ve trained my body to sleep whether its 2 a.m. or 10 p.m.

Speaking of sleeping, the last time I interviewed you I asked you what the girliest thing about you is and you told me it was the way you sleep because you have to have sleep with a lot of pillows around you. Now that your married, can you sleep like that anymore?

(Laughs) That’s so funny. Did I really say that?

Yeah, you said you like sleeping like a princess.

Ah, OK, that makes sense. Well, the funny thing is now that I’m married I have my body pillow on my left side and my husband on my right side. Either way, I have something to latch on to.

And your husband never gets jealous that you’re giving your body pillow too much attention?

No, he wants me to get off him. He says my body is like a furnace. He’s like, “Get off!”

What was it like reprising your role as [MADtv character] Bon Qui Qui again for your new music video? Was it easy to get back into her persona since you’ve been away from her for so long?

It was great. It’s easy to jump into her because people want so much from her. That inspires me to give them more of that Bon Qui Qui-esque attitude. As long as I’m giving them what they want and they’re laughing, it’s so much fun to jump back into that character.

I normally don’t ask these types of questions, but when I told people I was going to interview you, at least half of them asked me if I was going to ask you something about Taco Cabana (Johnson is a commercial spokesperson for the restaurant), so, here it goes: What menu item would you order at Taco Cabana if you were hitting the drive-thru at 2 a.m.?

Flautas and queso. Dip those flautas in some queso and boom! But I also love the brisket from Taco Cabana. It’s so good! I’ll put it in a bowl or a taco or a burrito. I love their brisket!

Anjelah Johnson – Our Family Wedding

March 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Funny girl Anjelah Johnson has been keeping busy in the entertainment industry for the last few years. From her performances as a stand-up comedienne to her short stint as an NFL cheerleader, it’s all been a natural progression for Johnson, who moved to L.A. in 2003 to pursue an acting career.

In “Our Family Wedding,” the second wide-release film of her career, Johnson, who is of Mexican and Native American descent, plays Izzy, the tomboyish sister of America Ferrera’s character who surprises her traditional Hispanic family when she tells them she is engaged to a black guy.

During an interview with me, Johnson talked about her time as an Oakland Raiderette, what kind of advice she got from Carlos Mencia, and what it means to “sleep like a princess.”

You were in one episode of “Ugly Betty” last year where you interview Betty about her blog. So, I’ll ask the same first question you ask Betty on that show: Who are you dying to bitch out?

Yoohoo! Man, nobody! I’m on good terms with everyone right now, so it’s all good. (Laughs)

What did you think about “Ugly Betty” getting cancelled?

I’ve been a fan of the show since the first episode. When I heard it was cancelled, I was sad. I’m friends with America and we talked about it. I told her it was a blessing that she was able to be a part of such an amazing show. I’m happy for her and the show because it did get to run for four seasons, but I’m sad to see it go.

Was it your idea to mention a manicure in one of your first scenes in “Our Family Wedding” since that is a big part of your stand-up routine?

When do I talk about a manicure?

At the beginning of the movie, you talk about someone getting a manicure.

Oh, when I shake Lance’s [Gross] hand I say he has soft girly hands and ask if he got a manicure. I didn’t even correlate the two! That’s pretty funny. (Laughs)

I thought it was a reference to your stand-up.

No, not at all. I try to veer away from that as much as possible.

I heard you in a past interview saying you’re a lot like your character Izzy. Would you consider yourself as much of a tomboy as she is?

(Laughs) Yes, I do, definitely. I’m not over-the-top to where it’s like butchy, but I’m definitely a jeans and tennis type of girl with my hair in a ponytail. But I don’t like to get dirty. I hate it when my hands are dirty. That’s one of my pet peeves.

What would you consider the girliest thing about you other than getting manicures?

The girliest thing about me is that I sleep like a princess. I have like seven pillows all around me in a big U shape. When I toss and turn I always have a pillow to hold onto. I have a huge king-size bed just for me.

Other than sleeping like a princess, you don’t seem to fit in that princess mold. But I read that you were a professional cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders, and that, to me, sounds really girly.

Well, I grew up doing competitive cheerleading where it wasn’t so girly. It was more of a sport. We were competing and doing a lot of tumbling and stunts. We would get injured. We were tough cheerleaders. But when I went to the Oakland Raider, that was a totally different story. It was very girly and showy. That was different for me. When my friend first asked me if I wanted to audition for the Raiders I was like, “No way. That’s so not my skill set.” But it ended up working out.

You only did the pro cheerleading thing for one year. Why did you stop?

Well, it was at this time in my life where I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to act, but I didn’t know how to get started. So, I used the Raiders crew as my sign. I told myself if I make the team I would use it to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. So, I made the squad, cheered for one year and went to the Super Bowl that year, and then came home at the end of the season and packed my bags and moved to L.A. and have been here ever since.

How did you and Carlos Menica get along since both of you come from a stand-up background?

He and I get along great. We’ve worked with each other before. We did a show together where it was me, Carlos, Cedric the Entertainer, and a lot of other comedians on the bill. He actually pulled me to the side and gave me a pep talk. My career in stand-up had moved so fast. I’ve gotten where I am in such a short amount of time. He gave me the heads up and told me, “You know, there’s going to be some haters…People are going to say this and say that.” It was almost like a fatherly-type talk. When we found out he was playing my father in this movie, it was an easy transition because we already established that relationship.

Speaking of haters, both you and Carlos have been criticized for some of your stand-up material. Some people say it’s racist. What do you think when you hear things like that? Are people being oversensitive?

I could say people are oversensitive, but to each his own. What offends me might not offend somebody else and vice versa. None of my material comes from a mean spirit or a mean heart where I’m trying to hurt somebody’s feelings. All my comedy is observational. I just talk about things that I see. A lot of the time it’s true and truth hurts. I guess that why people sometimes get upset.

Is film something you want to focus on now?

Yeah, I moved to L.A. to pursue acting and stand-up kind of fell onto my plate. It’s been a blessing and I enjoy stand-up, but acting is definitely what I love to do and what I came here to do. I’m looking forward to growing and flourishing in my acting career in film and TV. Stand-up will be there, too. It’s like a creative outlet for me where I can write my own material and perform.

Can you tell me about your role in the upcoming “Marmaduke” movie?

I play a voice of one of the dogs. She’s like the ditzy dog. It was a lot of fun for me. I was able to improv a lot.

On your website, you sell a t-shirt that reads, “I Have a Big Butt.” Can a guy get away with buying that for his girlfriend or wife or would you advise against that?

I’m sure they can if that’s a joke they they’ve talked about and laughed about. I’ve had a bunch of guys buy that shirt for their girlfriends. They’ll come up to me and say, “Oh, this is so perfect for my girlfriend!” I’m like, “Uh, well make sure she feels the same way!”

Our Family Wedding

March 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: America Ferrera, Forest Whitaker, Carlos Mencia
Directed by: Rick Famuyiwa (“Brown Sugar”)
Written by: Wayne Conley (“King’s Ransom”), Malcolm Spellman (debut), Rick Famuyiwa (“Brown Sugar”)

Movies featuring racially diverse casts and themes are hard to come by these days (unless you’re rubbing elbows with the overrated brand name known as Tyler Perry). But if future projects aimed at underrepresented minorities are anything like the grating “Our Family Wedding,” studios should keep them tucked away at least until George Lopez’s dubious “Speedy Gonzalez” idea comes to fruition.

Not only are the distasteful stereotypes what make “Wedding” a chore to sit through, director and co-writer Rick Famuyiwa (“Brown Sugar”) just doesn’t have the comedic chops to deliver entertaining material for an entire feature film. While a goat hopped up on Viagra is the unfunny low point of the movie, “Wedding” sinks close to that level before and after the farm animal starts dry-humping Forest Whitaker in the bathroom.

Using the same structure as 2005’s “Guess Who” (a less than stellar remake of the Oscar winning 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”), the film follows two families as they prepare for a big wedding celebration for their son and daughter.

Lucia Ramirez (America Ferrera) and Marcus Boyd (Lance Gross) may be in love, but that doesn’t mean their dads have to like each other. The animosity between father of the bride Miguel (Carlos Mencia) and father of the groom Marcus (Whitaker) begins when Miguel, the owner of an auto repair shop, impounds Marcus’s sports car and exchanges verbal jabs with his daughter’s future father-in-law even before he knows who he is.

The set up is a tired one. Most of the jokes play the race card without remorse and each one is less amusing than the last. When Lucia and Marcus break the news to their families about their interracial relationship, no one bothers to tell Lucia’s grandmother (Lupe Ontiveros) who falls over when she sees a black man walk into her kitchen. The racial profiling continues as Miguel calls Marcus “bro’” and Marcus retorts with “hombre.” The families bicker and clash about wedding traditions, culture, and religion while Lucia and Marcus stand idly by having claimed a nonsensical mantra to help them get through the weeks before the big day: “Our marriage, their wedding.”

Directed gracelessly by Famuyiwa, “Our Family Wedding” is an unfortunate mess of a movie that skips all the tender moments and authentic family ordeals for dull slapstick comedy and ham-fisted put-downs. If you’re looking for something as endearing as “Father of the Bride,” you’ve come to the wrong ceremony.