Name: Joyelle Nicole Johnson
City: Brooklyn, NY
How many years? 10 years
Bio: A funny black girl who worships George Carlin and Gone with the Wind.
1) Tell us about your first time doing comedy. I smoked a joint with an older, more seasoned, comic as we drove to his show in Compton, CA. In the hood hood. The host was an OG gangster former, but possibly even current, member of a National Gang. He asked if I wanted to get onstage. I high-ly accepted. Got up there. Bombed my ass off. When I got off he said, “Well, you’re a comedian now.”
2) What do you LOVE/HATE about doing comedy? I love the smiles on peoples faces when they come up to me after my set to tell me I made them feel good. I hate the bureaucracy, and gender/racial bias.
3) Tell us about a time you BOMBED or was Heckled. All of my terrible bombs were in Urban rooms. When black people hate, you they let you know. But they’re nice to me for the most part. The closest I came to getting a boo was the audience being dead silent at a notorious club called Uptown in Atlanta. This is a club like the Apollo Theater in the 90s where they boo you off and shake their keys. I’ve seen Tiffany Haddish get booed off there right after I’d seen her get a standing ovation at her Def Comedy Jam taping. I was terrified of the place. It was right next to a strip club and the clientele was strippers, drug dealers and rappers. Super rowdy but fun crowd. It seats 400. And 300-400 come almost every night. I opened for a Black OG. Terrified. I bombed, the audience was silent. One lone wolf just says in a regular speaking voice “Boo.” When I got off stage I cried. But I also had to laugh in retrospect.
4) How do you deal with bombing or heckling? You have to just let it happen. Absorb it. Get used to the silence. It’s what bonds us as comics. We’re the only people on the planet that know that feeling. But every single one of us knows that feeling. I know I’m not alone.
5) What’s your best/worst comedy memory? I have so many but I’d say Dave Chappelle asking me, over Fried Green Tomatoes in Memphis, TN if I wanted to open for him the next night in Little Rock. I said yes (and immediately became terrified). He smiles and says, “Great Idea! Let’s go with completely untested talent!” We laughed. And I crushed that shit!
6) How do you deal with creepy male comics/bookers/audience members? Ugh. Umm I’m just learning to speak up. As a woman getting older is awesome because of the comfort I’m having in my voice. In the early days I would just smile and nod. I’m a large girl with a pretty good “Don’t fuck with me” attitude so I don’t think they try me as much as others. But now I’m starting to curb the micro bullshit more often, like extra feels during hugs and inappropriate comments. Hey, STOP! I can say it in a charming way but also firm.
7) What’s the best advice you’ve received from another comedian/industry professional? Chappelle told me my first year: 1. Don’t listen to what anyone says including me. and with that being said 2. You gotta move to NY (I lived in LA at the time where I started). …he basically schooled me that NY was the place where I’d grow ten times faster. And of course he was right.
8) What would you tell someone starting out in comedy? If you make someone laugh, especially in casual conversation, write it down. And hanging out is as important as getting onstage. So even if you don’t have a set it’s good to show face, especially in the beginning.
9)What’s the favorite part about living in your city? Brooklyn is beautiful and black even with the gentrification. I’m not an outsider here. Everyone minds their business but there’s still a general feeling of Love in the air. Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way!
10) What’s the most embarrassing moment that you’re willing to share? I bombed in an Urban room on my birthday in front of Hip Hop legend Big Daddy Kane. At one point during the bomb I told a personal story about my cousin who choreographed one of his videos. What I didn’t know was I was talking about the wrong rapper. My cousin choreographed a video for Kool Moe Dee. My friend had to tell me afterward. Mortifying.