US comedian, actress and YouTube sensation Anjelah Johnson is hoping to finally nail her imitation of the Australian accent when she tours her stand-up show ‘Anjelah Johnson Live’ across the nation.
Anjelah, a former cheerleader in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders, launched her international comedy career with a viral video, ‘Nail Salon’, in which she uncannily replicated the vocal nuances of Vietnamese manicurists. A subsequent creation, the ghetto inspired 'MADtv' character, Bon Qui Qui, similarly displayed her adeptness at linguistic mimicry. Anjelah explains the origins of this hilarious ability.
“I mimic people, so if I’m talking to someone with an accent, I’m listening intently and I’m watching their mouth move and I’m copying them as they do it.”
“I’ve had that gift since I was a kid; I’d mimic accents. What I’ve noticed is that I have a few that I’m very strong in, and then others that have similarities, I have a hard time with. For instance, my Australian accent blends between Australia, New Zealand, South African and British-like... Somewhere in there, I’m pretending to be Australian.”
While she has toured Australia before, appearing at the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and worked as a waitress at the Outback Steakhouse back home, she still isn’t quite happy with her mastery of the ocker lingo, but she says that she hopes that will soon change.
“I hope I get it down while I am there... That I can perfect it enough. I thought I had it down last time I went to Melbourne, and I would say 'actually' and they would say 'no, you sound Kiwi'.”
Mimicry is just one of the skills that Anjelah has used in a comedy career that has so far boasted four comedy specials. The Californian is married to hip-hop artist Manwell Reyes, and she too has made a foray into the record industry, releasing ‘Gold Plated Dreams’ as Bon Qui Qui through Warner Bros. She says that she has thought about exploring the music industry more.
“So far the only music that I’ve done is as this character, but I definitely have thought about 'hmm, I had fun doing music as the character', and sometimes I’d just like to put her on the back-burner and just be me, you know?”
“I brought up that conversation with my husband, that I could just do music as Anjelah; I wonder what that would look like. It’s not something that I’ve put a green light to, but it’s something that I’ve thought about for sure.”
Early in her career, Anjelah discovered that one of her traits, her cheerleader-level beauty, was quite a disadvantage; the audience wouldn’t laugh unless she was dressed in a hoodie and was without make-up. She has since crafted a stand-up persona that accentuates her personality but understates her attractiveness.
“I have a fan base now that knows what to expect when they come to a show, but I can tell if I’m showing too much skin or whatever, it’s still a little distracting, and I think now it’s because people aren’t used to seeing me that way. Now I dress for me, for how I’m comfortable, and I’m most comfortable in jeans and tennies, that’s my dream outfit, and every now and then I’ll dress it up with some booties and stuff but I feel like I’ve grown to a point where people know who I am, they know what to expect when they see me.”
Anjelah Johnson Tour Dates16 August – The Tivoli (Brisbane)
18 August – Enmore Theatre (Sydney)
20-21 August – Comedy Theatre (Melbourne)
23 August – Astor Theatre (Perth)