I must’ve been beset by Baby Boomer inertia as I read about young comedian Anjelah Johnson coming to Bakersfield in a couple of days. She’s cute, I thought, and her act is probably funny and it’s cool she used to be a Raider cheerleader, but that was all until two hours before the show on a slow Saturday night I roused and reread the newspaper article and said get in gear and at least check her out on YouTube. The first video I found featured Johnson as Bon Qui Qui, a King Burger waitress whose ghetto sass had attracted an astonishing forty-nine million viewers.
I clicked and was instantly hooked: a chick who’s really of Mexican and Native American ancestry sounds like Miss Inner City Bad Ass, ignoring a customer as she tells a friend on the phone that she “will cuut” some guy, who’s cheated on her, and then rebukes the waiting lady: “You see me in the middle of a conversation, don’t interrupt…and don’t get crazy.” Bon Qui Qui also insists the lady forget the food she orders, which requires pushing lots of “crazy buttons,” and settle for a coke. A young man follows with an order she considers “complicated,” and when he politely asks for one change Bon Qui Qui erupts and tells him, “Don’t get loud with me,” and calls “sakurity, sakurity,” and demands the fellow be removed. Her harried boss hurries in and says five such evictions in one shift are entirely too many. The diminutive firebrand quickly responds with her sixth heave ho, claiming the proper lady had tried to fight her. Her boss nervously explains that Bon Qui Qui is part of King Burger’s “out of the hood program.” She’s at once all charm and flirtatiousness when a young man she knows, who’s no longer under house arrest, tells her what he wants to eat, and she responds that he knows what she wants, “Uuuhhh.” Soon she’s rapping into the counter microphone and moves out front to dirty dance with the lad.
This bravura 2007 performance on MADtv surprisingly did not make an impact then, and Johnson was laid off in a budgetary move. YouTube visitors later ignited public demand. I watched the three-minute-thirty-seven-second video again and would’ve continued a while but had to call the Fox Theatre to see if any tickets remained. There were a few, but I’d have to hurry and get down there to pay and retrieve by a quarter to seven for the eight o’clock show. Outside the august theatre it was immediately clear about seventy percent of the concertgoers were women, many Caucasian and Hispanic but few African American, partly due to the latter’s relatively small population in Bakersfield. Most people there seemed to know a lot about the work of Anjelah Johnson, and one young lady immediately agreed when I said, “They’ve got to make a Bon Qui Qui movie. I’m amazed they haven’t already. She’d be the female ‘Borat.’”
After two male comedians opened the show in separate sets, Anjelah Johnson came out not as Bon Qui Qui but pretty much herself. The San-Jose-raised resident of Los Angeles said she was shocked to learn there was a town on I-5, which she’d thought was only “cows and dirt.” She talked a lot about her family, joking that her father loved combat, especially professional wrestling and boxing and always stood firing punches while watching boxers brawl. She recently married a Puerto Rican rapper of Christian Music and said people were surprised because they “thought I was a lesbian.” Her wedding ceremony, which can be viewed on her website, was perhaps not as traumatic as reported in concert. She complained about getting sick on medicine and powerful vitamins and having to rush into the bathroom and rip off her bridal gown to avoid soiling it. Johnson said her marriage is going well but her husband has a Puerto Rican aversion to spicy foods and complains about even a little pepper. They’re in agreement about not having children. So determined is Johnson in this regard that she runs from pregnant women. Despite the overall domestic harmony, she does wish her husband would quit using her toothbrush. “It just like our kisses,” he explained. “I don’t scrape your tartar with my tongue,” she countered.
An energetic career promoter, Johnson is on a tour that still has almost forty more concerts and will take her to such cities as Charlotte, Dallas, Philadelphia, Houston, Denver, and Seattle. As her visit to Bakersfield indicates, she’ll also play some smaller places, like Stockton and Fresno in November, and she talked about the frightening experience of traveling to Redding in a plane so primitive it was started by each passenger “taking a turn spinning the propeller, like the ‘Price is Right.’”
Anjelah Johnson is only twenty-nine years old and still young enough to plausibly play hot-headed cutie Bon Qui Qui in a movie, but that window will close fairly soon. I hope she and her team will put a project together. If ideas are needed, they should shoot me an email.
To see Bon Qui Qui at King Burger, please click here