Comic Anjelah Johnson is currently performing on her Technically Not Stalking tour. (Photo: Robyn Von Swank)
Years ago, Anjelah Johnson moved to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming an actress. She’s landed a number of acting roles through the years, but it was her side gig as a comedian that took off. “Comedy chose me,” says the 37 year old, who is of Mexican and Native American descent. “If I were to have picked, I would have been an actress. But over the years I’ve developed gratitude for this craft, for the ability to bring joy to people.”
This fall she’ll bring joy to a different city nearly every night on her Technically Not Stalking Tour. Johnson achieved internet fame in the late 2000s with viral clips of sketches centered on a character called Bon Qui Qui, an eccentric, uninhibited, faintly Latina homegirl who works at a fast-food joint.
While her Mexican heritage was a significant theme of her early shows, these days Johnson is … well, just Johnson: “When I first started doing stand-up, I was portraying myself and my family as what I thought people wanted. Like I would portray my mom with an accent, but my mom doesn’t even speak Spanish. I’m fourth generation, and my last name is Johnson, so I’m not your typical Latina. It was when I started to be honest and own those things about me that my career really began to take off. Being Latino doesn’t look like just one thing — we all have a different story.”
These diverse stories are found in full glory among the growing number of Latino comedians. Here are just a few standouts in the world of stand-up:
A stand-up titan with an impressive list of credits to his name, Colombia-born Leguizamo is also adored on Broadway, where he is known for his satirical one-man shows. The most recent of these, the Tony Award-winning Latin History for Morons, is touring nationally throughout 2019. The plot kicks off with Leguizamo deciding to teach his son about the ancient leaders of Latin America and proceeds to weave a hilarious tale with pointed relevance to the Latino experience today.
Cristela Alonzo attends The International Myeloma Foundation’s 12th Annual Comedy Celebration at The Wilshire Ebell Theatre on November 3, 2018 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo: JC Olivera, Getty Images)
Some comedians choose to stay out of politics, but Alonzo, who grew up along the Texas-Mexico border in a family that struggled with poverty, does not count herself in that camp. She advocates for issues involving immigration and universal health care. She made a name for herself in 2014 when she became the first Latina to have the starring role in a network TV sitcom, Cristela, which is based loosely on her childhood. She’s also the first Latina to star in a Disney Pixar movie, Cars 3.
Season 1 Premiere Of Netflix’s ” Mr. Iglesias” at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on June 20, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Frazer Harrison, Getty Images)
One of the hottest comedians touring today, Iglesias’ YouTube clips have been viewed more than 400 million times, according to his website. Netflix will add two more specials to his comedy résumé by the end of the year, and his debut sitcom, Mr. Iglesias, premiered on the platform this summer. Known for family-friendly comedy and endless jokes about his (significant) waistline, Iglesias is also an accomplished voice actor in animated films, including the Academy Award-winning Coco.
Sofia Nino De Rivera
Perhaps the most revered standupero in Mexico today (she was named Mexico City’s woman of the year in 2016), you’ll probably have to travel south of the border to catch Nino de Rivera live. Or you can watch her on Netflix — she was the first Mexican woman to headline a Spanish-language comedy special on the online network. Lately, she’s been putting on therapeutic comedy workshops at women’s prisons across Mexico, an effort chronicled in a documentary due out this year.
At the age of 21, Esparza found himself at a dead end — he’d grown up in an immigrant family in the gang-heavy projects of East L.A. and ended up a teenage dad with a substance abuse problem. But he was able to turn his life around with a flourishing stand-up career, winning the Last Comic Standing competition in 2010, which led to opening shows for huge acts like Gabriel Iglesias. He will also star in the upcoming Netflix “Spanglish dramedy” Gentefied.
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