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!