Tag Archives: Comedian

interviewed | Bringing the gift of laughter, joy, and Bon Qui Qui to New Zealand…

Eleven years ago, the world was given a gift… that gift was Bon Qui Qui, a disgruntled fast food employee with no filter. It’s a gift that keeps on giving for Anjelah Johnson, the American actress, comedian, and former NFL cheerleader who created and brought the character to life.

Bon Qui Qui has since been enjoyed and replicated by over 80 million people worldwide and she has a hit album on Warner Bros. Records titled, Gold Plated Dreams, which Anjelah has toured twice, selling out both times.

“Everyone wants to hear from Bon Qui Qui and you know what, I’m honoured because not every comic gets that. Not every comic has something that’s resonated with so many people who will come to your show because they want to hear that, because they saw it online or whatever.

“I present the joke as a thank you gift at the end of my live shows; I’m done with the joke but the people aren’t and that’s what matters.”

Johnson describes herself as an observational storyteller who connects with her audience relationally.

“I like to tell stories about things that have happened in my life and in my relationships, and I like to connect with my crowd and relate to them – I think the best way to do that is relationally. We’re all going to have different opinions on things, however, most of us have relationships in our life. We all do. Whether it’s relationships with our parents, with our spouse, our boyfriend/girlfriend, with our co-workers, whoever – you definitely have relationships. I love to connect with people and relate to them on something we can all identify with and that’s typically relationships. I’m observational about what I see in society and then talk about it relationally.”

Generally, that doesn’t mean a lot of improv during her live shows.

“I know a lot of comedians that do crowd work, where most of their act is from the crowd in the moment. I definitely have my stories that I tell about my life and there’ll be some moments where I’ll connect with the audience and be like, I do this, does anybody else?

“I like to remind the crowd that this is a conversation I’m having with them; we’re all in this together.”

Sometimes though, things don’t always go to plan. Every comedian has a day or a show where the audience just isn’t buying what they’re selling.

“I feel like that doesn’t go away. As successful as you get, I still hear stories from my friends that some shows are so fire and other shows, the energy is just kind of low and there isn’t really a rhyme or reason for it.

“Everybody in your audience is different and they’ve all had a different day – one may have just been fired, another found out their sick, or somebody just broke up with their boyfriend. Whatever it is, you have no idea what each individual is going through and I’m a firm believer in energy and vibe in the room.

“I feel like people with strong energy can dictate the room. If you have somebody coming in with mounds of joy and excitement and they’re just happy, that will shift a room. But then, you’ll get some people with dark energy; they’re having a bad day and that will shift the room too.

“You can do your material and you can do your crowd work, but if they’re just having a bad day, they’re having a bad day, and you do your best to bring joy to them. It might not be the level 10 laugh, it may be the level 7 because that’s all they’re capable of giving you that day.”

Anjelah has to be doing something right; she’s appeared in huge commercial campaigns for the likes as Visa and Snickers, has guest-starred on TV shows The Shield, Ugly Betty and Curb Your Enthusiasm and her film credits include Our Family Wedding, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Enough Said, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, and Mom’s Night Out.

During her first visit to Australia, she sold out her 2014 Melbourne International Festival season and she regularly sells out comedy shows across the US. And if that’s not enough, she has so far released four hugely successful one-hour comedy specials on Netflix and Hulu.

With such an impressive CV and busy schedule, what gets her out of bed in the morning?

“Different things to be honest – it depends on what I have going on in my life and where I’m at. If I have a lot on my mind, the pressure wakes me up in the morning. In the calmer season, when there aren’t a lot of deadlines, I feel like what wakes me up in the morning is hope for the day.

“I prefer sunrises to sunsets because to me, a sunset, although beautiful, signifies the end and it’s the end of the day, it’s time for rest… but the sunrise, it’s so hopeful. It’s like, you have the whole day to go for your dreams; you have the whole day to achieve something you never thought you’d achieve; you have the whole day to take a risk and go for it.

“That’s what gets me up in the morning – I’m like, wow, I have the whole day to try and do something amazing with my life and that’s what fuels me….. As long as I’m not super stressed out!”

And on that note, here’s what she has to say to her fans in New Zealand:

“I am very excited to come down and meet you and perform for you. I can’t wait to bring this gift of laughter and joy and I hope that this joy just marinates in your home and infiltrates the land. Not to say you don’t already have it, it will be extra joy on top of what you already have. I hope I am able to come and just leave this gift of laughter and joy with you.

“Also, I’m starting out my tour in New Zealand and it’s downhill from there because I’m going back to Australia! So please, come out and share the laughter with me in August.”


In 2013, Anjelah reprised her role as her MADtv character Bon Qui Qui for a skit released by Alexander Wang:

Don’t miss your chance to see Anjelah Johnson performing Anjelah Johnson Live for one night only at Auckland’s SkyCity Theatre on Sunday 12 August. Buy your tickets here.

humans of mac+mae: Ashton Brown

This is a (somewhat crudely) drawn X on my right hand, in black ink.

I suffer from an anxiety disorder. On days where my anxiety is really bad and I feel like it is going to attempt to stop me from doing things out of fear of anxiety attacks then I draw a cross on my hand. This is so whenever I feel an anxiety attack coming on (which for me is usually of complete isolation, disorientation, unreality and fear) then I look at the cross on my hand and it brings me back to the present moment, reinforces that I’m just having an anxiety attack and I’m not losing my mind and that I can get through this moment as I have gotten through it many times before.

Ashton Brown is a professional actor, comedian, MC and an award winning playwright.  In the past 2 years, he’s risen through the ranks of NZ Comedy with his self-depreciation, social commentary, and stupid voices.

Loved by critics, Ashton is a gifted storyteller who’s definitely one to watch out for.

Inspired by the ‘Humans of New York’ series, we’re talking to our network find out what’s special to them, whether it’s a place, a thing, or a memory – Meet the “humans of mac+mae” –    http://bit.ly/HoMaM

humans of mac+mae: Brendon Green

This is a photo of a small child walking with his Mother on the streets of Lisbon, Portugal. The child is dressed like some sort of Musketeer. There were no other Musketeers walking the streets of Lisbon, Portugal that day. I can only imagine the child wanted to dress like a Musketeer, and the Mother said yes. Very good mothering.

This photo makes me smile because a) it’s super hard and awkward to take a sneaky photo of a child in public (as it should be), and b) it reminds me of my time travelling Europe, and specifically Lisbon, Portugal.

I am a terrible tourist. My whole theory of travel is to “do nothing in beautiful places”. I like to pretend I’m living in the moment, but then I totally forget about the moments and it’s only when I trawl through my facebook photos that I get hit with that slap of happy nostalgia that makes me part wistful for the happy times gone by and part stressed that I’m not in one of those happy times right now. Why can’t walking the streets of Auckland feel like walking the streets of Lisbon? (because I’ve walked the streets of Auckland all my life, and there’s a different kind of beauty in the familiar and constant, which isn’t as immediate a beauty as the beauty of something new and intoxicating, but is a beauty all the same).

Lisbon was amazing, one of my favourite cities to visit in Europe. I would thoroughly recommend going there. It’s a special place. I would also recommend going back through your Facebook photos every couple of years, and embracing that hit of rose tinted memory to stir up any lingering ennui you may not realise you’re feeling right now. That’s a special feeling.

I overtook that kid and his mother, and when I glanced down to see his face, that kid was one of the happiest looking human beings I have ever seen. We should all dress like a Musketeer and go for a walk at least once in our lives.

Brendon Green is a stand-up comedian who tells charmingly crafted personal stories, infused with clever wordplay and sly social observations.  He captivated Kiwi audiences in 2012, winning the Best Newcomer Award at the NZ International Comedy Festival and he hasn’t looked back since – he was nominated for the prestigious Billy T Award in 2014, toured North America, had two successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and he’s on the road again next week with his latest show, Eggs and Ham.  Catch him in Auckland, Palmerston North, or Wellington.

Inspired by the ‘Humans of New York’ series, we’re talking to our network find out what’s special to them, whether it’s a place, a thing, or a memory – Meet the “humans of mac+mae” –    http://bit.ly/HoMaM

NZICF2015 | Man Up

Back with another one woman show, Urzila Carlson delivers impressive gags that break down the boundaries of gender stereotypes in “Man Up”

Carlson likes her shows to deliver a certain message. Man Up, her sold out Comedy Festival Show, explored not only getting off of our phones, but the roles of gender, sexuality and cake toppers within society. Urzila made it clear though: don’t stare at strangers for too long. She couldn’t take the guilt if you happened to be attacked for acting like a weirdo.

The show is filled with multiple questions but one in particular was the most thought-provoking: why can’t men cry? Carlson explored, with great humour, how men are told to “Man Up” and harden up their entire lives. Following the urban dictionary definition, because that’s what the kids are doing these days, she regales the audience with various examples of when it is and is not okay for men to cry. Marley and Me: acceptable. Bambi’s mother dying: acceptable. Richie McCaw’s retirement: absolutely not.

Urzila finds herself being asked two questions as a mother: Who is the father and who will teach her child how to ride a bike? Answer: Urzila.  After describing the disaster of a bicycle, the audience thought the scenario couldn’t get any funnier. That is, until Carlson gave us a full demonstration of how she fell off the bike in slow motion, just enough time for her wife to come out and question her existence.

The ending of the show was perhaps my favourite part of the night. Carlson revels in the glee she gets as others squirm at the nature of her sexuality. This came in handy when her wife became pregnant with their child. Whilst people are uncomfortable with discussing someone’s atrocious issue, they have no problem asking who the father of a lesbian couple’s unborn child is.

Because who’s the daddy? Urzila is.

NZICF15 | Stephen Witt – Diddle

Popcorn the Clown by day, Stephen Witt by night, and Billy T nominee all year round, this comic is back with a bang for the 2015 International Comedy Festival.

Named the “future of New Zealand Comedy” by Mike King, Witt is bringing his second show to the Q Theatre Stage. With an appropriate title, “Diddle” was anything but a flop.

I had never been to a Comedy Festival show before, and when I heard about Witt’s show, I was intrigued. Who in their right mind name’s a show “Diddle”? Was he going to flop his out? Alas, he isn’t and he didn’t. Instead he flopped out an hour of original and witty humour that had the audience reeling.

For a start, his fresh-faced perspective of everyday happenings left me wondering whether it was appropriate to laugh. A stern face and quick scan of the audience was followed by a cheeky grin and, what became the catch phrase of the evening: “Okay? Alright? Okay. Alright”. His favourite topic of conversation though, was his upbringing in South Auckland. With a faux sense of nostalgia, he relayed stories of parties and ex-girlfriends, one of whom he’d taken on a sunset date which she had called “gangsta”. He’d had to break up with her after that.

Another story that caught the audience’s attention was about Stephen’s day job. The unassuming clown Popcorn was given a ceremonious welcome by a five year old, who proceeded to tell the entire party that Stephen had told him about his small “diddle”, pun intended.

After seeing Witt live, the name definitely makes sense. His awkward, lackadaisical sense of humour partnered with his quirky facial expressions make him a bit of a diddle. That’s just how we like him.

NZICF15 | A Bard’s Tale by Improv Bandits

Want a night out with friends and family to enjoy a bit of unusual comedy? Check out A Bard’s Tale, an unusual, improvised and Shakespearean-like play performed by the Improv Bandits. These guys are creative risk takers, they don’t carry a script and perform amazingly without the need for one.

I attended this show with no clue on what these guys do, I have heard the name Improv Bandits before often through people here and there. I mostly enjoy the traditional stand-up comedy, but like Fine Art there is so much more than just the joking around types. For those who don’t know the Improv Bandits they have been around since 1997 (my gosh, I was 10 years old then), they combine acting with comedy and make it all up on the spot. It takes a group of people with huge guts to act without a script, this can make a person vulnerable to mistakes and imperfections but in result produce something amazing. If you ever liked the improvised segment on Who’s Line is it Anyway then the Improv Bandits is right for you.

If you enjoy and understand some Ye-Olde English then this play/comedy will definitely be entertaining. In the first 5 minutes I was trying really hard to understand anything but it was very easy to grasp once I got a few words down in my head. Before the show the actors and actress introduced themselves and requested the audience choose a villain and pick a location further proving how random their performances are. Each performance and story will be different making The Bard’s Tale one of the most unusual and varied shows to see at this year’s Comedy Festival.

On for two more nights in Auckland only at the Maidment Theatre’s Musgrove Studio. Click on this link here to find Imrov Bandit’s other listing at this NZICF event. Click here to purchase tickets for the show.


WHEN:  8:30 pm Wednesday (13 May) – Saturday (16 May)

WHERE:  Musgrove Studio, University of Auckland, Cnr Princes & Alfred Sts, CBD Auckland


Adults $26.00
Conc. $22.00
Groups 6+ $22.00

* service fees may apply

NZICF15 | Ben Defend New Zealand

We Kiwis have heard it all before, from the dirty sheep jokes to the prime minister’s hair pulling, it is time we take the stand to defend our nation. Come watch New Zealand’s very own Ben Hurley defend our country against three international guest comedians. Each night invites a different line-up of comedians keeping it ‘fresh as’, this is a great chance for you to sample what NZICF2015 has to offer. I attended a Thursday night show in week two with guest James Roque, Tevita Manukia and Steve Wrigley.

If you constantly tune in to watch 7Days on TV3 then you would know that Ben makes regular appearances on the show, but did you know he also is the head writer for it? This man is just as funny as he is on television. The sense of humour flows strongly in this one and he has a God given talent in public speaking. I had put my name down to see Ben Defend New Zealand not because of the funnies but the ‘burns’ I wanted to witness. Part of me wanted to see some serious word battles of the century, I wanted to see some tears of defeat among blood shed. In my mind I had a vision of one man up against three in a boxing ring with microphones.

What I had imagined didn’t quite turn out that way so to all you peace lovers out there, no one gets hurt. Instead of a boxing ring where people thrash words out like ‘are you mad bro?’ it was Ben one side of the stage interrogating the three poor guest speakers on the other end. Okay, so I may have exaggerated a little bit, it was more like a small quiz on what they know about their own country. I enjoyed this show not because of what I expected to see or hear (obviously), but the fun and games that it turned out to be. The whole show became a hilarious conversation about countries, traditions, habits and strange news. The only issue I had with this event was it wasn’t long enough, this needs to last the whole day darn it!

Here is a tip for this show do not avoid front row. If you think you can avoid being picked on by avoiding the front row you are wrong as proven by a lady I met at the venue. She was waiting for people to fill the front row so she could sit a row or two behind to avoid embarrassment, it didn’t work out well. When you’re target for the comedian you will be one no matter where you are in the room. So my tip is sit in front row if you can, don’t miss out on the full experience just to avoid a small chance of being teased.

Ben Defend New Zealand is showing in Auckland only and is happening at Q Theatre’s Loft. Tickets are available to purchase here on Q Theatre’s sessions page, this show ends this Saturday (16th May) so book your tickets now and don’t miss out.

WHEN:  10:00 pm   Wednesday (13th May) – Saturday (16th May)

WHERE: LOFT @ Q Theatre, 305 Queen Street AUCKLAND 1010


Adults $25.00
Conc. $20.00
Groups 4+ $20.00

Cheap Wednesday $20.00
Thursday Special $20.00

* service fees may apply

Check out New Zealand International Comedy Festival’s Website for more fantastic shows and acts to see. Click here to visit Ben Hurley’s website and follow the links on his website to stalk him on social media.