Anjelah Johnson is funny. If you were friends with her in real life, you would probably love listening to her share her stories. Before watching Not Fancy I had never seen or heard her stand-up. I chose this special for two reasons. 1) I didn’t want to only watch white men tell jokes. It’s good to branch out. 2. Netflix recommended it. That’s it.
I did not know that she blew up on the internet because of a video she produced where she talked about what it’s like to go to a nail salon. I did not know that video exists largely because it is not #relevanttomyinterests.
I also did not know that Anjelah is a Christian or that she is married to a Christian rapper. As a pastor who studies comedy, it would seem that I should know these things. But I’m going to tell you a little secret. A lot of Christian-Comedy just isn’t that funny. I don’t seek it out. Generally, when Christian-Comedy falls in my path, I can tell right away what’s going on. It was not until Anjelah said she’s a Christian that I even noticed that her material was missing swear words. I say all of this as a compliment. I appreciate that she is not afraid to say she is a Christian, and that she is not perfect.
Christians should be able to work in Comedy without having to only perform in churches. This show was in a fairly large theater in Southern California. Anjelah made note of this early on, and she also highlighted that she is Latina. There were several sections of material that highlighted the uniqueness of Latino culture, food, and family dynamics. One of my favorites is how she established the Latino hierarchy and placed Mexicans on top simply because their food has crossed over into normal food.
Anjelah also talked about going to Cholo Church. She set up a great contrast between the typical white church, and she had a great white-church-lady voice. So perfect. As a white person, I appreciated the accuracy. The way she talked about Cholo Church was funny and powerful. “These people, Jesus brought them through some stuff.” And “I could literally see Jesus on this man because he had a huge Jesus tattoo on his neck. That’s dedication.”
I don’t want to laugh at other people’s cultures. There is something that feels weird about that. But when someone of that culture is inviting us into their world by sharing their experience they are giving us permission. If we can’t laugh with each other then I really do believe we have completely lost our sense of humor.
I do feel strange when we laugh at other people’s cultures and they are not the ones inviting us to do that. As I said Anjelah blew up on the internet because of a nail salon video she released (I still haven’t watched it). This video may be very accurate. But Anjelah refers to this at the end of this special and part of her process is dropping into a very thick Vietnamese accent. She does a good job at the accent. But this bit is designed to bring laughter at the expense of “the other.” And maybe you might say I’m trying too hard to be “woke.” I really don’t care about wokeness. I just don’t think it’s funny. This section was a disappointment, it wasn’t the best material from the set, and it was what Anjelah chose to end on.
This is a strange thing that I have noticed in comedy in general. If people have a viral hit through youtube, in their next special they refer back to it. Nate Bargatze did this as well in The Tennessee Kid. I don’t know why they would want to do this in their comedy special. It assumes that everyone has been following the arc of their career. I know I was surprised by this at the end of Not Fancy. I had no idea what she was talking about. I don’t know if this trend is going to hold up well.
Overall, I would recommend this special. It is funny. You can watch it with your young teens and your grandma. Which is what everyone is going for right?