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Comedian Anjelah Johnson talks ‘Mahalo and Goodnight’

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Comedian, actress and former Oakland Raiders cheerleader Anjelah Johnson says it was a no-brainer when it came to selecting Hawaii as a shooting location for her new comedy special, titled “Mahalo and Goodnight.” 

“The people in Hawaii have been so good to me,” Johnson told me during a phone interview last week. “I’ll give you an example. A few years ago, I booked a show there, and the next day, Bruno Mars put tickets on sale for his concert for the same days as mine. I said, ‘It’s Bruno Mars. Nobody will come to my show. I don’t even want to go to my show.’ My show ended up selling out so we added a second date and that sold out too. That’s when I realized that Honolulu really has a love for me.”

Filmed and recorded at the Hawaii Theatre in Honolulu, “Mahalo and Goodnight” finds the former “MADtv” star dishing on halitosis, home invasions, spiders, awkward massages, bow-legged camels and the art of being a full-grown child. The special premiered in September on Epix and is available now on Amazon.

Johnson is known for hilarious observational storytelling and says her transition to standup comedy felt like a natural move. She says her gift for making others laugh was recognized and fostered by a former teacher.

“One of my teachers would send me into different classrooms to perform,” she said. “I’d get a hall pass to visit a class and be a goofball. They would give me another pass to go to Mr. Rourke’s class to sing a song. That teacher was my biggest cheerleader. She believed that I would be a big deal someday.”

As an actress, Johnson’s film credits include “Moms’ Night Out,” “Marmaduke” and “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” but she’s probably best known for her “MADtv” portrayal of a rude fast food employee turned rap star named Bon Qui Qui.

When inspiration for a new comedy bit or story arrives, Johnson has been known to stop whatever she’s doing to log it in her iPhone for future reference. She’ll sometimes try out new material on her husband, Jose “Manwell” Reyes of the Christian hip-hop group Group 1 Crew.

“When I try out a new joke on him, he’s usually like (imitates Reyes) ‘Meh. Nahhh. Ehhh. Hmmmph,’” Johnson joked of her husband’s unimpressed reception to her new material. He’s usually unimpressed. But when he gives me that reaction, I say ‘Good. I’m going to try it out onstage.’”

Johnson recalls sitting next to her husband on an airplane when inspiration arrived in the form of a joke that she knew was destined for her show.

“It just came to me and I started writing it out,” Johnson said. “I was cracking up to myself on this plane. I said ‘Oh my God, this joke is hilarious.’ I turned to my husband and said ‘Listen to this joke.’ After he heard it, he said ‘Meh. It’s all right.’ I was like ‘No. You don’t know what you’re talking about.’”

At her next show, Johnson was bowled over by her audience’s reaction to the joke.

“I started doing that joke and it’s now my closing joke. I do not trust my husband’s judgment of my new material,” she said, laughing.

Anjelah Johnson’s “Mahalo and Goodnight” will debut on Hulu on December 28.


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