NUVOtv officially kicked off its relaunch in style last night with a party in West Hollywood, Calif., and the cable TV channel formerly known as Si TV goes Bon Qui Qui comedy crazy this weekend with the premiere of Anjelah Johnson’s Homecoming Show.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of Johnson’s special, which debuts Saturday, July 20.
Anjelah Johnson spoke with The Comic’s Comic about her journey, which now finds one of her alter-ego characters — Bon Qui Qui — cutting a major-label record deal with Atlantic Records.
“We’ll probably do more now with this record deal,” Johnson told The Comic’s Comic. “We shot some other Bon Qui Qui videos with FOX for their digital platform. We shot those about a month ago.”
Johnson, as Bon Qui Qui (a character she first portrayed on FOX’s MADtv in a sketch that went viral into mega-millions of views on YouTube since 2007 — closing in on 64 million views as of this writing), also has participated this year in an ad campaign with Alexander Wang.
Is there anything Bon Qui Qui won’t do?
“They’ve wanted me to show up at weddings,” Johnson said. “Kentucky or somewhere. We got an email from someone who said, ‘Hey, we see Anjelah is in town for a show. Our friend is getting married the day before…we’re wondering if Anjelah can come dressed as Bon Qui Qui to the wedding.’ No, sir. Absolutely not.”
She didn’t remember how much money she turned down, if they even offered her any. Besides, Bon Qui Qui already has been there, done that, in one of her upcoming new FOX shorts.
“In one video, she’s a wedding caterer. So maybe people should have seen that sketch before they invited her,” Johnson said. “Another one, she’s a babysitter.”
How Bon Qui Qui’s Atlantic Record deal came about, it’s a family affair. So to speak. “I ended up getting married,” Johnson said. “My husband is in music. That’s what he does. He had the idea: ‘Why don’t we make Bon Qui Qui a rapper?’ She rapped in the original (MADtv) sketch at the end.
“Everywhere I go, people want to see Bon Qui Qui in my act. People hadn’t seen her since the sketch. We had opportunities to do a movie. That didn’t work out. I was ready to let her go. One-hit wonder on YouTube. A character people liked. She could live on YouTube. Let her go. But everywhere I went, people asked, ‘When are you going to do a Bon Qui Qui sketch?’ That (first one) was with the funding of MADtv — I’m not going to do a broke version of that. It is what it is.”
Then her husband’s idea to make her a rapper. “Why not do some songs? I went into the studio with his producers, put down some songs and made a music video,” she said. “That went pretty well, so why don’t we do a few mow songs? Next thing you know, now we got a record deal at Atlantic Records.”
So what’s the rest of the first Bon Qui Qui album sound or look like?
“We’re not sure exactly what that looks like yet,” Johnson said.
She does draw some inspiration from past comedy-music success stories such as Adam Sandler and Jimmy Fallon (who won the Grammy this past year). “People might be ready for some comedic hip-hop,” she said.
Former American Idol winner Jordin Sparks did join up with Johnson for the “No Boyfren” track.
Eddie Murphy, who had a hit song in the 1980s with “Party All the Time,” was just back in the recording studio — releasing a new reggae single with Snoop Lion (Snoop Dogg) called “Redlight.” So maybe he’s available? “How funny would that be? Eddie Murphy and Bon Qui Qui, can you imagine?” Johnson said. “Put it out there, please! I hope he reads this!”
Johnson also co-starred in the 2009 movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. Any future for Bon Qui Qui and the chipmunks, however… “That’d be a lot of licensing to clear, could you imagine?”
Johnson also continues to tour as a stand-up comedian, too. For a moment, you could have pinned your hopes on seeing her on network TV this fall in the sitcom adaptation of About A Boy. She was in the pilot, but her cast option didn’t get picked up.
“The case with mine was, NBC decided my character wasn’t necessary for the story,” she said.
But that’s part of the business of Hollywood’s pilot season, and Johnson is fully aware of that. “I’ve done a few,” she said. Including one with Jon Dore (“My Life As An Experiment”) that didn’t get picked up in 2011.
Her advice? “Don’t take it personally. You never know what your big break is going to be. When you first start out, you hope you get a callback you hope you get a callback. Then you hope you get a test you hope a get a test. Then you do, and then you hope you get booked for the pilot. Then you hope you don’t get recast. Then you hope you make the fall schedule…You know how many variables have nothing to do with you? You keep hustling, you keep working hard, you do your best.”
Johnson’s learning curve in comedy is such that her acting career prepared her for rejection. “I started as an actress before starting as a comic. So I learned the opposite way. I was trying to be an actress and hearing rejection all the time. So doing comedy, I learned early on in my career — when I had rejection, it almost fueled me. Look at me! I’m going to get the next one. I wanted it even more. Now that I’ve had some success, the rejection almost stings a little more. I have to learn not to take things personally. Learn to preach to the choir. Now I’m here.”
Here, in this case, is her first hourlong stand-up TV special.
“The cover is me dressed in my homecoming dress, with a sash that says HOMECOMING QUEEN. The QUEEN is crossed out and it says SHOW, because I never was the homecoming queen,” Johnson said.
And they actually go home, to her aunt’s house, and visit with her relatives, asking them why they think Johnson didn’t make homecoming queen. “My brother’s answer was my favorite,” she said.
The real story why this once and then-future Oakland Raiders cheerleader wasn’t fit for Homecoming Queen? “I went to a few different high schools, because I wasn’t very fond of school when I was young,” she said. “My senior year, for my prom I wore a sari, a traditional Indian sari. I wore an indian sari to the prom. My brother’s answer: ‘I want to say because she dressed like an Indian person!'”
“I was on the ballot. People could’ve voted for me! I think four people did.”
Needless to say, Johnson has recovered from that rejection, too.
“It’s all good. I’m blessed. I’m grateful for where I’m at right now. I appreciate this,” she said.
Anjelah Johnson’s Homecoming Show debuts Saturday, July 20, 2013, on NUVOtv.