Series 06: For the Love of Laughter | Episode 03
“God Wants Me To Tell Jokes???”: The Divine Comedic Rise of Anjelah Johnson
Anjelah Johnson didn’t always want to be a comedian. Her dream was to be an actress, and after a short stint as an Oakland Raiders cheerleader, she followed that path to L.A. With a lot of time on her hands, and no leads in sight, she did a lot of praying and a lot of waiting. Persuaded by a friend to take a free joke-telling class they were offering at her church, Anjelah tried her hand at her first comedy bit called “Nail Salon,” and suddenly found herself to be an overnight YouTube sensation. Gigs with MadTV, the advent of another viral character “Bon Qui Qui,” comedy specials on Netflix, and multiple tours around the world have become Anjelah’s “new normal,” but she believes wholeheartedly that faith and being open to what was in front of her led her to where she is today.
Text the word Moxie (M-O-X-I-E) to 313131 to get the first chapter from the audiobook plus bonus recipes.
Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly likes talking to amazing people, every week, on this podcast. Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey, everybody, it’s Jen Hatmaker. Welcome to the show. We are in the middle of my favorite series ever. For the love of laughter, and we have on comedians and stand-ups and viral sensations and just some of the funniest people in the biz, and today is no exception. So first of all, sorry about how I sound, I’m recovering from the flu, but I was not going to miss this conversation.
So, on the show today, I am so very excited because we have Anjelah Johnson, one of my favorite comedians ever. She’s just absolutely hysterical and you are going to love her. She didn’t actually get her start in comedy. She was an Oakland Raiderette, which we’re going to talk about, and went on to pursue a career in acting in L.A., and like literally, almost overnight, made it as a stand-up comic with her hilarious sketch on “Nail Salon,” which I’ll have linked on my podcast.
Anyway, in the last decade she has just made it. She’s everywhere. She’s got commercials and she was on Mad TV, and she’s got stand-up shows. She’s on Netflix and Comedy Central and she’s in movies, and just absolutely one of the funniest girls in the business. She got married in 2011, and we’re going to talk about her cute husband and what it’s like to be married, and I think you’re really going to love her story.
She talks us all the way through from the very beginning when she did not have $2 to her name in L.A. to where she is now, and it’s really inspiring, and it’s really wonderful. I just found myself loving every minute of her story. You’re going to love her. She is so hysterical and I’m just thrilled she’s coming on the podcast today, so welcome to the show, Anjelah Johnson.
Okay, everybody. Welcome to the show, Anjelah Johnson.
Jen: This is me clapping. I’ve been your fan for so long. So long, it’s a decade. I’m just so excited that you’re on the podcast. Thank you for saying yes to this. I have no idea why you did.
Anjelah: I’m so excited to do this. We have mutual friends and I found you through my mutual friends and as soon as this request came through, I was like, are you kidding me?
Jen: So fun, you’re so fun, and you’re so funny. I’m so mad at you for being so funny. You just got back from a huge tour, just a massive tour, like Guam, Tokyo.
Anjelah: Yes. We went to Tokyo, Guam, and Taipan, and I’ve been to Guam and Taipan before. I went about eight years ago, and this is my first time in Tokyo, we had the best time.
Jen: You did, what did you think of it? I’ve never been to that part of the world, and I would love to.
Anjelah: Okay, first of all. Japan, at least Tokyo–I was only in Tokyo–Tokyo was the cleanest place I’ve ever been to on planet Earth and there’s so many people walking on the streets and there’s no litter anywhere. Not only that, people aren’t talking loudly. They aren’t on their phone–people are quiet. It was a little eerie, it was a little creepy. I was like, “Am in the middle of an Asian scary movie right now?” because the Asian countries make the scariest movies of all time, and we try to remake them, and they’re good, but they’re not like the original.
I was like, “oh my God, I’m in the middle of a scary Asian movie right now,” because it was thousands of people walking on the street, nobody is saying a word to each other, and I was like, “this is strange.”
Jen: That’s crazy. We need to teach them how to be rude and obnoxious.
Anjelah: Yeah. That’s the funny thing, is the only loud obnoxious people we saw were us. I hated us. We’re those Americans.
Jen: How does your act go over there? Because you’ve got some hilarious characters that you do, do they land over there, sort of embedded in Asian culture?
Anjelah: Yeah, because I performed in the American crowd, so I performed a little bar in Japan that caters to American and British citizens who now live there, so I met people from all over. I met a guy, he’s Latino, but he’s from L.A., but he’s there as an actor in Japan. He’s like “I do theater here in Japan. I do local TV show stuff.” This one girl, she was a weathercaster. How do you say, it weathercaster?
Jen: That seems right.
Anjelah: Whatever. She does the weather in Japan and she’s American. She was from Utah or something like that. But I guess there’s certain channels for all the Americans and the English-speaking people that live there, so those are the ones who came to my show.
Jen: What was the wildest thing that happened on your tour or the most fun or the most like “what is going on” moment?
Anjelah: You know what, well, what I said earlier about just realizing how amazing Tokyo is and they’re all silent and not dirty at all. That was the wow moment for us, that I couldn’t get over, but for me, the food. The whole trip was food. Ramen, are you kidding me? It’s amazing. Sushi, all of it.
Jen: That’s all my favorite.
Anjelah: The food was my favorite part of the trip.
Jen: We literally plan when we have a trip, we plan it around the food. That’s the central reason we’re going anywhere at all. It’s just to eat, and me and my friends always when we travel together, we’re like, “this is a first breakfast, this one is second lunch, this is early dinner.” I will eat eight times a day and have absolutely no shame, I don’t care.
Anjelah: Yeah, you just described our trip. My husband doesn’t get that though. I was like, “we had so much fun.” He’s like, “it looks like you guys just ate, though.” I’m like well, yeah, that’s what else, what are you going to do?” That’s what we do, we plan where we were going based on food.
Jen: Yeah. I respect that. That to me is just a sign of wisdom.
Let’s go back to the very beginning of your career, because this isn’t necessarily where you started where you’ve ended up. You were a cheerleader for the Raiders, what the heck?
Anjelah: Yeah. Exactly.
Jen: What the heck, and you performed at The Super Bowl.
Anjelah: Yeah. You crack me up. I was a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders in 2003, 2002-2003 season, we went to the Super Bowl that year, and it was an amazing year to pick to be a Raiderette and the only reason why I chose to audition for the Raiderettes–let me tell you a story.
Jen: Okay. I want to hear it.
Anjelah: It’s a good one. Get ready for this. Button your pants. Okay. So, I don’t even know what that means, button your pants.
Jen: I don’t have buttons on. I work from home. I am chronically in yoga pants, and so I’ll just pretend to obey you.
Anjelah: Stirrup your yoga pants.
Jen: There it is. There it is.
Anjelah: Okay. I’m from San Jose, and I wanted to be an actress, howevs, I would never say it out loud. I would never, because I was embarrassed. Because would you be an actress in San Jose? You don’t, that’s not even a thing. It was so farfetched, I might as well have said I want to be a princess. That’s what I should be saying. That’s how farfetched it felt. I had a friend who moved to L.A. and she started acting and she was in commercials, and music videos, and stuff like that.
She told me “hey, if you move to L.A., I’ll help get you started, and I’ll help show you the ropes,” and then I was like, there’s the thing. Now this farfetched fantasy is becoming more of an attainable dream. I was like “okay.”
Around that same time, I had another friend who was a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders. She was like, “hey, why don’t you come try out to be a cheerleader with me?” I was like, “not really my thing.” But I was like you know what, my friend asked me to go to L.A., and that’s been a dream of mine. I’m going to try out for the Oakland Raiders as a sign and if I make the squad, I’m going to do it for one year and then I’m going to move to L.A., and I’m going to try to be an actress, and then if I don’t make the squad, then Jesus, you better show me another way, because I don’t even know what to do with my life.
Jen: I love to put little signs in front of God like that too. Just chart my own path and God will show me the way by giving me a cheerleader uniform. I get this. I get this deeply.
Anjelah: If there are no pompoms at the end of this road, I’m turning immediately. I drove to Oakland by myself. There are 700 girls at this audition. Let me tell you. I stopped at Forever 21 along the way, and I just got a cheap little mini-skirt and some heels, and I was like “all right, let’s do this.”
I tried out and I made it to the second round. We had to learn the dance routine.
Listen, I grew up doing Pop Warner Cheerleading, I’ve never been a trained dancer. I don’t know all the pirouette and whatever the terms are. I didn’t know any of those things, and so I made it into the second round where we have to learn to dance, and so I’m in this conference room. There’s about half of us left. Maybe there’s I don’t know 300 girls left.
The choreographer, she gets up off the stage during teaching and we were all taking a turn dancing. There’s a whole group of us dancing. She jumps up on the stage, weaves her way through the crowd, and she comes right up to me, and she was like “clearly, you have no dance training.” However, you have something that cannot be taught. I was like, “yes Lord. Thank you. I receive it.”
I end up making the squad. When I made the squad, they call your number. I was like number 183 or something like that. They called my number. My first thought was not “oh my God, I’m going to be a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders.” My first thought was “oh my God, I’m going to be an actress.”
So that’s all I cared about, I just want to be an actress and I was like “yes, thanks, Raiders, but this is about being actress right now,” so I cheered for one year.
After the Super Bowl, I came home, and the very next weekend after the Super Bowl, I packed up my room in my little station wagon, my hand-me-down station wagon from my mom, and I drove to L.A., and I’ve been here ever since, it’s been about 15 years now, and I started from the ground up.
Jen: Let’s go back to that beginning bit in L.A., because I mean, that’s no joke. A lot of people pack up a station wagon and drive to L.A. with big dreams and stars in their eyes, their Raiders uniform in the trunk, but you’ve made it. How did you start? It just feels like such a big city, such a big dream, I cannot even imagine how you pick the very first step, what did you do?
Anjelah: Good story actually. So, my friend who said, “I’ll help show you the ropes,” she kept her word and she did. I came to her, and she was like alright this is what I want you to do. I want you to go to this place, this casting agency, and they cast all the extras on TV, and so anybody could be an extra on TV, just go sign up, take a picture, whatever, and when they need somebody that looks like you, they call you.”
She’s like, “I want you to sign up to be an extra. I want you to go to this place, but don’t wait in line like everybody else. I want you to come with a tray of cookies and I want you to come with your Raiderette headshot. Go to the front window, and I want you to ask for this guy,” and I don’t even remember his name, at the time, we’ll just call him, Sam, for now.
She’s like, “I want you to ask for Sam, and give him the tray of cookies and your Raiderette headshot, and you tell him you’re new to town, and you want to be an extra, don’t even sign up, you just give him that.”
I was like, “oh my God, this is crazy.” But I listened to her. I go, there’s a line out the door of people trying to be an extra, and then here I am with my sleazy cookies walking right past them, and I go up to the front desk and I’m like “can I talk to Sam, please?” They’re like, “sure hold on, he’ll be right out.” This guy comes walking up from the backroom office. Not even joking. He’s wearing a Raider’s hat.
Jen: Come on.
Anjelah: Are you kidding me? I’ve got chills right now. He walks right up to me, and I was like “oh, hi, this is for you,” and I gave him the cookies, and I gave him my headshot, my Raiderette headshot, and he was like “Raiders? No way!” Starts going off, and basically he was like “all right, cool. Thanks so much.” I was like, ‘yeah, I’m new to town, I would love to be an extra.” He’s like, “sounds great,” and then I gave him my information, and three days later, he called me, and my first job was on the TV show, Friends.
Jen: Oh my gosh. Wait, which episode?
Anjelah: Oh girlfriend. Look at season 9 and 10, I’m throughout all the seasons. Oh my gosh. It’s like there’s been people who found me on the episode and they’ll like take a screenshot, encircle me, and Tweet it to me. They’ll be like “is this you?” I’m like, “yes it is.” That’s where I got my start in the background, right behind Lisa Kudrow.
Jen: My new life’s mission. I literally cannot wait to do this. I cannot wait to find you. You’re just whatever, like in the coffee shop, all the places?
Anjelah: Yeah. Yeah, I’m in the coffee shop. Usually in the coffee shop. I think they had me on the street every now and then, but mainly in the coffee shop drinking coffee. Walking from one side to the next. You know, usual stuff.
Jen: Okay, that’s amazing. So, this is interesting because you wanted to be an actress, but you’re a stand-up comedian now. Where did this leap happen? When did comedy sort of, specifically stand-up comedy, which is freaking terrifying, how did this work its way into your life?
Anjelah: It worked its way into my life by me saying “Jesus, I want to be an actress, and He’s like “okay, that’s cute. Here, tell some jokes.” Okay, I guess? Like I said, I started from the ground up, I was an extra and then I just worked my way up and then I was a stand-in on another show, and then while I was a stand-in on that show, they gave me my first speaking role on TV. So, I had my first little co-star speaking role on TV while I was a stand-in on the show. This is like 2006 or 2007, one of those. It was 2006, and while I’m a stand-in on the show. I’m going to this church at the time that is very like entertainment industry friendly church so a lot of actors, dancers, producers, everybody goes to this church.
Tuesday night was their creative arts night, so they would have dance classes, acting classes, singing, whatever, and there was a woman there who was a stand-up comedian and she was teaching a joke-writing class. She saw me in the acting class, and we would play improv games in the acting class, and she saw that I was funny and she was like, “hey, do you want to come take my joke-writing class?” I was like, “well, is it free? She’s like, “yeah.” I was like, “well I guess.” So, then, I had no desire at all to be a comedian.
Jen: You didn’t. Wow.
Anjelah: None, so I was like I became a comedian because the class was free. That’s why I become a comedian. So, I went in this class and it’s maybe like a month long, I don’t even remember to be honest, and it’s every Tuesday, and we write our own material and she teaches us little techniques and tricks and stuff like that. I was like, “you know what, there’s this character that I do.” This story, it’s like this nail salon thing where I just talk about the ladies that do my nails, and she was like, “you know what, nail salon jokes are so hackie. Everybody has a nail salon joke. I would stay away from nail salon jokes.
”I was like “but you know, I don’t know if anybody does it like me, so maybe I’ll just do it anyways.” Thank God I did, because that is the joke that changed my life and I’m now talking to you in my office at my house that that joke paid for.
Jen: That’s so crazy.
Anjelah: Yeah. I finished the class, and our graduation of the class was we had to perform at a real comedy club. That was graduation and you hear a lot of times that comics are like “yeah, my first time on stage, I bombed, it was terrible.” Had that been my experience, I would have never done it again because this wasn’t my dream. It wasn’t something I wanted, so if I bombed, I’d be like “cool, I tried it once. Byeeee!” But I didn’t bomb, I did good. I was like, “I guess I’ll do it again.” That was my attitude towards it.
Jen: It was this material that you started trotting out at the very beginning and boom, you made it. It’s so rare.
Anjelah: The nail salon joke is one of the very first jokes that I ever wrote in my entire career, and here I am 10 years later still doing that joke because I can’t not do it.
It’s unreal, so that video that went viral that everybody saw; the story with that is I get a phone call that there’s this company that’s doing a Tuesday night at the Ice House in Pasadena and they’ll pay you $25 if you come and perform a set, 10 minutes.
Jen: Okay. It’s better than giving plasma.
Anjelah: Let me tell you, girl. At the time, this is now 2007, no, this is still 2006, hold on. It’s very important this timeline. I was at a place at my life where I had no money in my bank account, nothing going on, I didn’t have an agent, I didn’t have auditions coming in. I didn’t have opportunities. I didn’t have any of this stuff happening.
When somebody said they were going to pay me $25 to say 10 minutes of jokes on stage. Girl, yes. Sign me up, because that’s money. That’s going to get me to and from for at least, I’m going to stretch that for like at least a week and a half, you know what I mean. I was like okay, “yes, sign me up, let’s do it.”
So, I go to this show. I do my 10 minutes and they’re like, it’s a new company. They’re like, “yeah, we’re going to upload these videos.” This is on flip-phones. This is long time ago.
Jen: Yeah, totally, 2006.
Anjelah: Yes. So they’re like, “you’ll be able to download a comedy clip for $2.” They were going to charge people $2 to watch comedy clips, and so they paid me $25, and maybe a month later, this brand-new thing called YouTube came out, where you can watch comedy clips for free. So, this company took all of those videos and they just uploaded them to YouTube.
Okay, now we can cut to the beginning of 2007, it’s January. And this is MySpace days, this wasn’t even Facebook. This is MySpace, girlfriend. At the time, my MySpace page. I have maybe like, I don’t know, 150 friends. It’s just people I actually know on MySpace. I start getting phone calls from family members. That’s how it started, it was like my cousin Christy was like, “hey, I’m at work, and there’s an email going around to everybody at work, and it’s a video of you.”
I was like, “a video of me? Wait a minute, what am I doing in the video, hold on?” She was like, “it’s you telling a joke on stage about getting your nails done.” I was like “oh yeah, I remember, I did that video that one night; this was like five months ago.” Then I start getting phone calls from other people. Hey, it’s going around. This email. This is during a time when if you got an email with a video in it, then you definitely watched it, because that was a new thing to get a video.
Jen: That’s so true, you’re right.
Anjelah: Now, it’s like we check to see if there’s a commercial first–“how long is the commercial, I got to go.” This is a four-minute video. Forget it. You got to keep them about a minute and a half. That’s it. That’s all you get of my attention. But at the time, it was like,“yes.” So, everybody is watching this video. Then I go and I check my MySpace page, and there’s thousands and thousands of messages from people all over the world.
People from all over the country, “hey, when are you coming to perform in Atlanta? When are you coming to Ohio? Hey, when are you coming to Australia? When are you coming to the Philippines? When are you coming here?”
All of these people saw this nail salon video, and I’m doing stand-up and they wanted me to come perform in their city or in their country, and I had 12 minutes of material that I wrote in a free class, that’s all I had.
Jen: It’s the best story I ever heard in my life.
Anjelah: It’s unreal. Thousands and thousands of messages, going crazy. I don’t know how to be famous. I’ve never been famous before, I don’t know what that’s like. With the Raiderettes, they taught me how to sign an autograph. You pick your autograph because you have to sign calendars and headshots, like that, but that’s it. Now I have thousands of messages. I’m trying to reply to every single person who’s messaging me because I don’t know that you don’t have to.
I don’t know that you don’t have to, so I’m not even exaggerating, four hours sitting there. Writing to people saying, “thank you so much for the support. Thank you so much.” And then I start just copying and pasting. “Thank you so much for the support. Thank you so much for the support.” I’m just like, “oh my God, I have to reply to all of them.”
Four hours later, still not even halfway through, and then I’m getting people like, “hey is this a robot, because you already said this to me before.” I’m like, “oh my God, I’m getting returning fans now? I don’t even know how to handle this.” So, I started getting messages. Remember I don’t have an agent at this time. So, everybody in Hollywood saw this video, these networks, executives, producers, and people were like, “how do we meet this girl, because she doesn’t have an agent?”
They started sending their assistants to MySpace to message me, so I would get messages from people like, “hey, I’m the assistant to so and so at Fox, so and so at this network, so and so here. They would like to meet with you.” Now I’m getting messages from people in Hollywood, their assistants are setting up meetings for me, to meet with them.
Girlfriend, I had to go Staples or Office Depot or whatever and buy myself a calendar because I didn’t even have a calendar at the time. I had nothing going on in my life. I had no money, no auditions, no agent, I didn’t have anything going on in my life. I had to go buy a calendar. I had meetings I had to go now.
Jen: Had to go back to a Forever 21, get another skirt.
Anjelah: Girlfriend. Let me tell you. Yes, I did.
Anjelah: When I was telling you I had no money, no auditions, no agent. I really, I would wake up in the morning. I would go to the gym and then I would come home, and I would eat either Cheerios or Top Ramen because that’s all we had in the cabinet.
Then, I would have my prayer time, and that’s all I would do. I would pray, I would journal. I’d write my dreams out, and in my prayer time, I feel like God would speak to me about my dreams, and it was like such a powerful time, and I think it’s because that’s all that I had. I didn’t have anything else but God. I didn’t have anything else but my time with Him.
So, at first, it started as like it was downtime. Like, “well, I don’t have auditions. I don’t have anything in my life saying hey, ‘you’re on the right track pursuing your dream, keep going.’” Like nothing was saying that to me, everything was like “you gave it a good shot, now you failed. It’s time to go home.” That’s what everything in my life was saying.
The only reason why I stayed in L.A. is because I felt like God was telling me “I’m not done with you yet.” I felt it loud and clear in my spirit. “I’m not done with you yet. Just hold on, I’m not done, even though everything in your life is saying the opposite. I’m not done yet.”
So, it was that, as well as my sister, who was like my champion from the very beginning when…
Jen: Was she?
Anjelah: Let me tell you. I told my mom. I said, “I’m going to move to LA, and I’m going to be an actress,” and she was like, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Then I tell my dad I’m going to move to LA, and I’m going to be an actress and he was like “why are you going to do that? You don’t know anything, nobody’s going to hire you. Hold on. Just keep it real. Nobody’s going to hire you. Why are you going to do that? That’s stupid.”
Then I tell my sister, “I’m going to move to LA, and I’m going to be an actress,” and she was like “yes, do it, go for it.”
So, now I’m at this time where I have nothing, and I’m like “well, I tried, it’s time to go home,” and my sister was like “no.” She sent me money to pay my rent, she would send me gift certificates to the grocery store so that I could get my Cheerios and Top Ramen to keep going, and she funded the dream basically.
Jen: That makes me want to cry my eyes out.
Anjelah: I know it. Not to take away from anybody else who also gave me money during that time because a lot of people did, my mom would send me money, even my little brothers at the time who were still in high school, they would like send me $50 they saved up. Not to take away from all the people who did invest in me and say “no, here, we want to be a part of this dream with you.”
But my sister was the one from day one who is like “no, you’re staying there, and you’re not going to give up.”
This is January 2007. Nothing to my name. No opportunities. Nothing. All of a sudden this YouTube video comes out. From January to February there’s four million views on this video.
Jen: Just can’t believe it.
Anjelah: It went viral before the term “going viral” was actually a good thing.
From January to February; four million views. By February, everybody in Hollywood saw this video, they wanted to meet with me. By March I got a new agent, a new manager. By May, I had auditioned and booked MadTV and so now I was a cast member on MadTV.
Jen: Crazy. This is all from January to May. That’s insane.
Anjelah: I end up writing more material because I’m like, “well, if people want me to perform stand-up in all these places, I better write some more jokes.” I started writing, writing, writing. By the end of the year, I had written to at least 45 minutes of materials.
My life had completely changed. From January 2017, when I had nothing to my name, nothing in my bank account, nothing in my life saying “you’re on the right track, keep going.” Nothing but God, and my spirit saying, “not yet, do not give up, do not go home, I’m not done with you yet,” and my sister saying “here’s $50, go get you some groceries.”
By the end of the year, I was on this hit show called MadTV on Fox, and I was touring the country as a headlining comedian, a stand-up comedian, and my life had completely changed in that one year.
Jen: Some amazing story. It’s crazy, God increased your own faith for your own story. He can do that. He can enlarge our own imagination for what is to come, even if we don’t even have a hint of it yet, even if we’re just, we’re borrowing money from our brothers who are juniors in high school. It’s just amazing the kind of capacity, I think, that that sort of relationship with God. can build into your life even before there’s any evidence.
Can you talk a little bit about Mad TV. What was that like? What was the experience like? What was the show like? The cast, all of it. That took you into a completely different space.
Anjelah: Yes. I had never done sketch comedy in my life and you see these actors who are on Mad TV or Saturday Night Live, and they come from The Groundlings, Second City, IO WEST. All these improv schools where they’ve trained, and they’ve learned how to write sketches, and create characters, and perform them. I’ve never in my life taken one of those classes.
All I had was a free stand-up joke-writing class. That was all the training that I had, and little did I know, that was going to take me so far, so I got this audition for MadTV, and I was like, “well, I don’t know how to come up with characters or sketches or anything like that.”
Jen: Is that what they told you to do? Like come with a character? Come up with your accents?
Anjelah: I auditioned with Bon Qui Qui, and I said “this is my sister, Bon Qui Qui, she wants to be a rapper.” So I don’t even remember exactly what I did for her, but I had these three characters that I had for my stand-up and I just auditioned with those, and I ended up booking the show.
Jen: Were you nervous? Were you scared?
Anjelah: Yeah. You’re in a room by yourself. You go in with just the producers and the casting director, and then you do your audition.
Jen: Well, of course Bon Qui Qui. That’s an enormous character for you.
Anjelah: Well, here’s the thing. I auditioned for the show. I end up making it. It’s 2007. It’s the same year there’s a writer strike in Hollywood. Where all of the writers of every TV show are about to strike, so what’s happening on all these TV shows is the writers are like pumping out scripts before the strike hits. On MadTV, all the writers were writing a bunch of scripts, but they’re writing for the actors that they know how to write for. I’m brand new, so they don’t know how to write for me.
I end up playing “detective number two,” like this, but what they did was give us all the opportunity to write and create our own stuff and pitch it. I wrote a sketch with Bon Qui Qui where she works at a place called King Burger. I turn it in. We read it at the table read, so we go through a bunch of sketches. We read all these sketches and they end up picking mine to get filmed. So, my biggest sketch on the show, and the only one that I really got to do was this Bon Qui Qui sketch. We filmed it, and right after that episode airs, the writer strike hits.
Everybody goes on hiatus. Nobody is working. All the writers are on strike. They’re renegotiating terms to come back from the strike. Every TV show has budget cuts. What that meant for MadTV was me. I was the budget cut.
Jen: You were last man in.
Anjelah: Yeah. I’m out. I think they actually cut like the last three actors they brought on. They cut some of the writers. A lot of people got cut and I was one of them. So, it wasn’t until later on, on YouTube, that this Bon Qui Qui sketch blows up. Nobody had any idea that Bon Qui Qui was going to be as popular as she was.
It was really, it was God. Fox is like “no–budget cuts–we’re out of here.” YouTube blows up and it was maybe like a year after the nail salon thing.
I’m like, “okay, this nail salon thing is, it’s a year old. What’s my new thing? What’s going to be my next thing? I don’t really have a new thing.” Next thing you know, this Bon Qui Qui video comes out on YouTube, and it surpasses the nail salon video.
Jen: Did it? Wow.
Anjelah: Yes. So, it was like one thing after the next and then at my stand-up shows, people started coming dressed as the character Bon Qui Qui. It started becoming this huge cult thing. It was just, it was unreal. So, that ended up being my next thing. It was the beginning of the rest of my life.
Jen: It was. It’s crazy. That was your launching pad and now you’re just this, you’re like a comic superstar, you really are, and you’re everywhere, and everybody knows you. Your life just continues to develop and expand. It’s so fun to watch you. Also, you got married to a real cute guy.
Jen: He’s real, real, real cute. You and I have cute husbands in common.
Let’s talk about Manwell for a second because he’s darling and you’re darling together. I saw your proposal. The cutest.
Everybody listening, I’ll put that up on my website so you can see it. You guys are, it’s too cute. It’s too much. I threw up in my mouth. It’s too cute. Tell us about your wedding because you’ve got a funny story about it, because you got sick.
Anjelah: Yeah, I did. Let me tell you. Don’t take vitamins in excess on your wedding day. I did this little six pack of vitamins thing, and then I also was very congested, so then somebody gave me a decongestant pill, and then I got a headache so I took three Advil. I took way too many pills, but I was nervous about my wedding so I hadn’t eaten anything, so I had way too many pills in my stomach.
By the time I’m hair and makeup ready, and were out there doing our photos before the wedding because we saw each other before the wedding, we took some photos. In the middle of my photo shoot, all of a sudden, diarrhea hits, and I had to run back to my hotel room. Not even just let me walk with a hustle. It was run. It was full on, take my shoes off, run.
Jen: Like hitch your skirt up and go.
Anjelah: Yes. Ran to my hotel room. There were still my bridesmaids—well, I didn’t really have bridesmaids–but my best friends were in there getting dressed. They helped me unzip, get out of my dress, run into the bathroom, and it was, even my photographer, she’s helping me get undressed. Poor thing, that’s not what she signed up for. That was not in her fee. That was not package deal. There was nothing. It was just unreal. By the time I walked down the aisle, and the wedding actually started, I was out of it. Just like fatigued…
Anjelah: Totally dehydrated. So yeah, it was a hot mess.
Jen: I’m sorry.
Anjelah: It was a beautiful day, a beautiful wedding.
You know it’s funny, for a good couple years later, all I remembered about my wedding was getting sick. I had to go to journal time and be like “Jesus, can you please remind me of the good things that happened that day, because devil is here on my ear trying to tell me I only had a terrible time at my wedding, so I’m going to need you to flip the script.”
Jen: I’m going to need you to replace these memories, because you actually got married and that’s a good thing, and he’s precious, and he’s talented too.
You married another creative, artistic talent, which is, that’s fun, but it can also be hard sometimes when creatives marry each other.
You guys have been in a movie together. You were in Moms’ Night Out. Love it. You also tour separately. He has his own work too. Is that hard? Have you figured out your rhythm? How does that work in your marriage?
Anjelah: It was super hard in the beginning. It was like he would be on a tour, and then I would be on a tour and then we’d like crisscross paths, every now and then we’d see each other at home, but it was mostly like I would fly to his city that he was in, or he would fly to mine. It was really difficult.
In the beginning I remember sitting there and praying and talking to God, and being like “hey God, this is great, but when do I get normal married time? When do we just get to wake up together at the house, go grocery shopping; when do we get to do normal things?” Because growing up, all I’d seen were 9 to 5 marriages. You wake up. You have breakfast. You go to work. He goes to work. Come home. You have dinner. Watch your favorite shows. That’s what you see on TV. That’s what you see in real life.
All I knew was 9 to 5 marriage, so I was like, “okay, Jesus, this is great, but when do I get normal married time?” It wasn’t until I felt God was telling me “well, change your perspective, honey, because this is your normal.” When I changed my perspective, it got so much easier because I wasn’t longing for something else. I was learning to adapt to what I had.
It was really about changing my perspective, and that’s when it got a whole lot easier, and don’t get me wrong. It’s still hard being away from each other, but we had a different outlook on it, a different way to approach it.
We did a Bon Qui Qui tour with his band (Group 1 Crew), so Bon Qui Qui–it was the first time I had toured not as a comedian, but as an actual character.
We had his band, which was my band, we had backup dancers, we had a whole production, like an LED wall, confetti cannons, fog machine. It was such a fun, fun tour, and so he and I got to tour together for–we did two tours of that.
Jen: That’s a dream. That’s a dream come true right there.
Anjelah: Yeah. It was awesome, so fun.
Jen: A lot of your material now, of course, comes out of married life, what it’s like to live with a man-person. I heard you talking about when Manwell gets sick and I’m like shaking my head, like “say that truth, say it, say it all, how it is.” When Brandon gets sick, and I’m putting “sick” in quotations like a minor cold, and I’m like “you know, what it appears based on your symptoms and your emotions, that I guess what you have is the Bubonic Plague. That’s the only thing I can really assess from this point on.”
Anjelah: Yeah, and then come to find out it’s allergies. Yeah.
Jen: It’s indigestion. Come on, men folk, do better.
Anjelah: Let me tell you. Dudes, listen up, dudes. I don’t know if anybody else’s dude does this. The second my husband gets congested, he makes himself a doctor’s appointment.
He’s like “I need to go to the doctor and make sure it’s not something else.” It’s a little cold.
“Have some soup.”
“I hate soup.”
“Okay, well then drink some juice or something. Just use your nasal sprays that I bought you.”
“I’m just going to go to the doctor. I’m going to go to the doctor.”
My husband; he is not afraid to go to the doctor because he thinks he has everything in the world when he’s just congested. It’s crazy.
Jen: I have to have a limb almost all the way severed to go to the doctor, almost hanging off by a thread, or else I’m like, “no, I think I’m just going to see this one through.”
I have the flu right now and Brandon is convinced. He told me this morning, he’s like I’m pretty sure you have pneumonia. He told me that, I think you have pneumonia. I’m going to call the doctor for you. I’m like don’t call the doctor for me. I’m a grown woman. I don’t have pneumonia, and I’m just going to rest. He’s like oh Lord, he would have already camped out in the doctor’s office.
It’s crazy this year. What is going on? I’m one of the last ones to get it. I don’t know if your family has made it through, but thank goodness, Manwell didn’t get it. He would have to be an in-patient, like Brandon.
Anjelah: I would have to cancel all my tour dates to stay home and take care of him.
Jen: Let me ask you this one, and then we’ll wrap it up. In your career, who are your heroes? Who do you look toward; who do you love in comedy? Who do you love as an actress? Who do you love in producing a film? Who are the people that you put up and go, “I love what you’re doing, I like the way that you’re doing it, and I’m paying attention.”
Anjelah: Good question. In stand-up, I would say the people who inspire me the most are my peers. Two people I’m thinking of in particular. One is my friend Jo Koy. He’s been doing stand-up for so long and he works so hard, and he’s at a place right now where he’s just blowing up.
He’s like my go-to phone call when I’m dealing with something in the stand-up industry, like “what do you do when a comedy club owner does this, how do you handle this situation?” He’s my first phone call, and he’s who I bounce stuff off with. He inspires me all the time, and just seeing how hard he works. That is what inspires me.
Then the guys who open for me, my opener comics, they inspire me because I’m reminded of the hustle and how hard they work writing new material trying to get their stage time, trying to get their name known, their face out there.
So those guys are one of the guys that inspire me in stand-up.
And then acting-wise, I mean there’s actors that I see on TV like in movies, just like movie stars? Oh my God, Sandra Bullock. I would love to play her relative in anything. Scary movie, funny movie, dramatic movie, whatever. I would love to be a Sandra Bullock relative sometime in my life.
There’s people’s careers that I just love, Jennifer Aniston. Hi, Friends, favorite show of all time. Then she goes on to do so many great comedic films. So those two actresses I just love watching. Those are the ones who paved the way and inspire me, Eva Longoria, she’s so inspiring. Moving from acting into directing, and all of the philanthropy work, and she starts organizations to help those who are in need, and people like that inspire me and encourage me to keep going, and to remind me that it’s bigger than me, it’s not just about me and my career, and my dream.
Jen: That’s a great list. All those people are so talented and I really, I’m one of the people that also respects hard work, and comedy is hard work. It’s funny because your story is so special and rare to really have made it on your first pass, on your first try. A lot of those comics are slinging it. They are slinging it in those comedy clubs, night after night, for $25.
It’s really admirable how long people work at it and stick with it, and keep going, and keep pushing.
Okay, listen. I’m going to ask you three questions. These are questions we’re asking everybody in the comedy series. Here’s the first one; obviously now you’ve had a decade of material, and specials, and shows, and bits.
You’ve now developed a ton of content. There’s the most famous ones, obviously, that we’ve talked about, and maybe this is one of them anyway, but what is your favorite comedy bit that you’ve ever come up with? What’s your favorite this idea, or this concept or this character or this four-minute set or whatever, what’s your favorite personal comedy?
Anjelah: I would have to say whatever is my newest bit that I’m working on, that’s my new favorite.
Jen: I say that about writing.
Anjelah: It always changes. My favorite bit right now is my newest one that I have, because I’m excited about it because it’s new, I’m still developing it, it’s still tweaking. I’ll find a new way to say it, that’s funnier, so that’s what I’m most excited about, so it always changes.
Jen: That’s a great point. There’s a difference between written comedy and spoken comedy, it’s two different versions. That’s a great point. That’s one of the beautiful things about doing comedy, specifically stand-up, is you just get to keep turning the dials until you finally have the joke just absolutely as tight and as good as it can get. It’s constant practice.
Alright, how about this. Who’s someone that you always wanted to meet and then when you met them, you geeked out, you fangirled?
Anjelah: That’s a good question. I’m sure it has happened. Oh! Christopher Meloni.
Jen: Yeah, he’s so cute.
Anjelah: Detective Stabler from Law and Order SVU. He played a bunch of characters on a bunch of things, but that’s how I know him forever and always.
Jen: Of course, same.
Anjelah: I was at a table read for this movie that never ended up going anywhere, but they got a bunch of actors to read parts that they would essentially cast in those parts, and so we did the table read together, because he was going to play one of the characters.
Before he got there, I’m sitting at the table, and I’m looking at all the name tags of who’s coming, and I saw directly across from me, it said Christopher Meloni. Detective Stabler is going to sit right across from me, are you joking me? Sure enough, here he comes in, walking, sitting right there, and then every time it got to his part where he would read his line, all I could hear was Detective Stabler talking to me in every episode of Law and Order SVU. Then afterwards, I was that geek who went up to him and was just like, “Hi, can I have a picture, please?” I didn’t even say anything other than, “can I have a picture, please?” That was it. “Hi, can I have a picture please?”
Jen: You cannot go home without a picture with Detective Stabler, you can’t. You’d have regretted that the rest of your life.
Last question. And we ask everybody this, this is a question. I don’t know if you read Barbara Brown Taylor, but she’s this amazing Christian writer, but this is what she asks. This can be anything. It can be big, it can be small, it can be real, it can be funny, it doesn’t matter. What is saving your life right now?
Anjelah: What is saving my life right now? I have a CBD pain roller.
Jen: Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. Yes.
Anjelah: It smells like Ben-Gay and it’s like a roll-on, but it’s a CBD roller, and I have really bad back pain all day. It never leaves, and I roll my CBD roller on me, and that’s what’s saving my life right now.
Jen: Getting old is so glamorous, really.
Anjelah: It really is. I’m at the point in my life where I travel with Tums in my purse. You never know when you’re going to have a flare-up.
Jen: Listen right now if you would look in my purse right this minute, I am my grandmother. I’ve got a huge zip-lock baggie full of Halls mentholatums. Halls. I smell like an old-folks home and I’ve got my readers because I can’t read, I can’t see my book on the plane. Just here I am guys.
Anjelah: Your tissue. Don’t forget your hankie.
Jen: I promise you. I have tissues. I have tons of tissues. In fact, and I just put this picture on Instagram, when I was traveling all this week for work because I’m recovering, I can’t even, the little tissues were not enough. I brought in my purse a roll of toilet paper because that’s how I do.
Anjelah: I saw that. I follow you too.
Jen: Very fancy traveler.
Anjelah: Love it.
Jen: Listen, you’re amazing. I’m so happy that you told us your whole story because nothing makes me more glad to hear somebody like you, who just out of grit, and determination, and faithfulness, made it. It makes me so glad for you. It makes me want everything in front of you to be just paved with gold. Thank you for making us laugh too because you really do.
You’ve brought a lot of laughter and humor to the world and I think we need it right now. I’ve always found comedy incredibly important. It’s a high value in my life, but right now, my gosh, we need our funny people more than ever. We need to be reminded that it’s okay to laugh. That there’s parts of life that are worth laughing at still.
Thank you for being a part of that crew who just entertains us, and brings us a lot of joy, and a lot of delight, and I’m forever your fan. Cheering you on in every single possible way. Thank you for being on today on this podcast. I’m the luckiest girl in the world.
Anjelah: Thank you.
Jen: Okay, sister. Talk to you soon.
Jen: My gosh. I love her. I’m not ashamed to tell you that after we wrapped the interview, I literally just texted her my phone number. I’m not ashamed. I really need us to be cellphone friends. She’s so great. I really love that story. That was really inspiring and she’s made me happy. I can’t wait to hear what you loved in it, because I think there were some parts in there that all of us can really draw some inspiration from, no matter really what our dream is, what it looks like to hang on tight and to be faithful in prayer and just stick-to-it-iveness.
Anyway, she’s phenomenal. Guys, everything we talked about on the show today; all of her comedy bits, links to her shows, and her programs, her movies. Everywhere you can find her on social media. I’m going to have all of that with links in the transcript over on my website at jenhatmaker.com under the podcast tab. If you missed it, I will make sure you have all things Anjelah before you leave this day.
Anyway, I hope you loved that as much as I did, and I hope that you’re loving this series. Thanks for listening. Thank you for subscribing and reviewing and giving us all your feedback. We love it. We just absolutely love it. We’re here for it. We listen to all of it. We’ve made so many adjustments based on your feedback, and so thank you once again for being great listeners. We absolutely adore you and I will see you next week. You guys have a great one.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!