With her trip to Gilda's LaughFest this month, Anjelah Johnson essentially returns to the venue that birthed her comedy career.
A church might not be the most common — or even ideal — venue for a comedy show, but Johnson is enthusiastic about her opportunity to perform at Fountain Street Church as a part of the second installment of the comedy festival.
"The funny thing is, I started comedy at a church," Johnson said. "I took a joke writing class at my church ...We had to perform at the church as a part of our graduation."
Johnson didn't just graduate into the ranks of professional comedy — she did so with honors.
After taking a less-than-conventional route in getting there, Johnson has since honed her craft on the silver screen in movies like Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel and Our Family Wedding. She has also landed a guest role on the TV show "Ugly Betty" in addition to a stint on "MADtv."
"My passion is in film, television and acting," Johnson said. "I love stand-up, as well. It's such a different creative outlet and it's cool to meet people on the road and enjoy their comedy. It's totally different. I love them both. Acting is definitely my passion, though."
The San Jose native's first gig in the entertainment world came on a far different stage. Fresh out of college, she moved to Los Angeles where she became a cheerleader for professional football's Oakland Raiders. She was named Rookie of the Year that season and even enjoyed the privilege of performing at Super Bowl XXXVII (Note: It didn't help. The Raiders got stomped by Tampa Bay).
Johnson then parlayed her cheerleading experience to a life of comedy, where the advent of video-sharing websites like YouTube ignited her career.
"People think [cheerleading and comedy] are on opposite ends, but the thing about cheering with the Oakland Raiders is that it's like job placement. It's easy to transition to other things. You spend time around the players and hear them telling jokes."
While YouTube was in its early stages, some of Johnson's material caught on among the growing community. A video of her portraying a Vietnamese nail salon employee eventually went viral, opening a lot of doors.
"Nowadays, there are videos everywhere," Johnson said. "Every website you go to has one and I rarely watch them or click on them. It was perfect timing for me."