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Spit Take Saturday: Anjelah Johnson at Just For Laughs Chicago

Comedy >

just for laughsWelcome to Spit Take Saturday, courtesy of Brown Paper Tickets’ Comedy Doer Julie Seabaugh and her professional comedy criticism site The Spit Take. Julie’s goal with the site is to “elevate the public perception of stand-up comedy to that of a legitimate art form, and to enable comedy criticism be taken as seriously as that of theater, film, music, food, even video games. No a**-kissing. No bias. No mercy. Just honest, unfiltered, long-form reviews written by professional, knowledgeable comedy critics.” 

Every week Julie will select an entry from the site to be included on our blog and hand-pick some related events happening that week that she feels all you comedy lovers out there will appreciate.

So, without further ado, let us introduce you to this week’s Spit Take Saturday!

Threats of a torrential derecho kept some Chicagoans home instead of braving the storm and put a damper on the Just for Laughs-branded pedicabs that shuttled fans around the city. But they didn’t stop eager Anjelah Johnson fans from lining up with their umbrellas and galoshes outside The Vic Theatre, the former vaudeville venue on Chicago’s north side, to snag good general-admission seats for the former MADtv cast member’s Wednesday night performance.

Nashville-based opener T.C. Cope had an undeniably energetic stage presence, but it wasn’t enough to compensate for his dated material. Large, stagnant chunks devoted to Tickle Me Elmo, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and a SeaWorld drowning that happened in 2010 made it feel as though Cope hadn’t read a newspaper or been online much recently. He showed versatility with his Luther Vandross impression and preached the efficacy of R&B as an aphrodisiac, but somewhere along the line he meandered, reaching the halfway point of Toby Keith’s “Angry American” before it became difficult to remember how the joke began in the first place. The crowd seemed to like Cope well enough nevertheless, though perhaps Johnson’s younger, hipper fans weren’t his usual audience.

Johnson took to the stage, allowing for a quick photo op (“Tag me!” she joked), then opened with a bit on recently marrying a Christian rapper, saying that maybe Jesus had the best sense of humor of all, because her act used to contain a bit making fun of Christian rappers for being lame. Married life hasn’t necessarily changed that opinion, as she riffed, “Who are you? Ludachrist…JayZ-sus…Je-Hova?” She also used her nuptials to address the misconception that she was a lesbian. ”I wore my nails short, never had a boyfriend, and wore my hair in a ponytail because I was lazy, okay?”

Johnson’s most successful moments resulted from sharing anecdotes about mundane events. From flying in a rickety passenger plane to accidentally going out for tacos with a thug, she attracts danger and hijinks. One of the funniest bits recounted her failed attempt at jury duty. She was released after the first day because she couldn’t keep her opinions to herself, and things quickly devolved into her breathlessly recounting an episode of Law & Order: SVU. “Jennifer Love Hewitt was in it, but it was a different role for her. She had to cry a lot.” She expertly flipped back and forth between her own persona and the stodgy courtroom population, one of many times throughout the evening when her impressive character work shined.

The only part of her set that lagged came toward the end, when she chose Twitter winners for a meet and greet by scrolling through her iPhone, then trotted out characters Bon Qui Qui and the nail salon employee to lip sync snippets of tracks. Her MADtv fans probably made up much of her audience that night, but the seemingly tacked-on part of the performance felt a little low rent within the context of an otherwise sharp and engaging evening.

By Dyan Flores

Follow @SpitTakeComedy on Twitter or Like us on Facebook.


Here’s some other great comedy events coming up in Chicago this week:

Sunday, June 16 I Sundays with Susan  It’s spring and Susan wants to spend this wonderful Sunday evening with you at CIC. Sit back, drink some ice tea and relax with the joyous fresh energy of Susan and a different opening team every night. There will be surprises around every corner, both theatrical and interactive. Susan will leave you wondering when you can get a little more Susan. Improv with CIC house team Susan. New opening team every week.

Tuesday, June 18 I Schlock & Awe   Justin Bieber gets in touch with his feminine side. Secrets of the cultural illuminati are exposed. Puppets are violated and we can’t stop talking about Game of Thrones either. Democracy Burlesque, Chicago’s only political sketch comedy company is proud to present Schlock & Awe: Uncultured Sketch Comedy About Pop Culture. It’s a full frontal assault on the news we love to hate, and hate to admit we follow. Assauge your guilt for knowing the sex of Kim & Kanye’s baby but not your own Congressman. The Huffington Post is covering it, so it must be news right? So come out on a Tuesday night grab a Dirty Politick martini and join us for an evening of cultural schadenfreude and fun featuring musical guests, stand-up comedy and sketches performed by the Actors of Evil.

Friday, June 21 I Comedians You Should Know Presents: An Evening with Joe Kilgallon   Chicago stand-up comedian Joe Kilgallon will be headlining a stand-up comedy show in the beautiful back room of Timothy O’Toole’s Pub in downtown Chicago, this Friday. It is a chance to see one of Chicago’s best comedians have the rare opportunity to do a 45 minute headliner set in an intimate venue. The show is being produced by Comedians You Should Know, a stand-up comedy collective in Chicago that produces a weekly Wednesday show at O’Toole’s. CYSK is made up of six Chicago-based comedians, including Kilgallon. The show will also feature Chicago comedian Megan Gailey with guest Camilla Cleese. Chicago comedian Jeff Steinbrunner hosts.