When Anjelah Johnson auditioned for a role on the long-running sketch comedy series MADtv in 2007, she did so armed with a handful of characters. The stand-up comedian and former Oakland Raiders cheerleader had been doing a great impression of her grandfather onstage, so that was an obvious choice. But then there was Bon Qui Qui, a character she described to producers as her sister who wants to be a rapper. Not only did Johnson land a job on the Fox show, but Bon Qui Qui – who was portrayed as a disgruntled burger joint employee on screen – also became one of MADtv’s most beloved characters.
But with the show’s cancellation, Bon Qui Qui vanished— that is, until last year. Johnson reprised the character in a viral video campaign for fashion house Alexander Wang, where she starred alongside Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio and actress Natasha Lyonne. And that was only the beginning of Bon Qui Qui’s rebirth. Just weeks ago, Johnson signed a deal with Atlantic Records to release a full-length music album as Bon Qui Qui.
“Never in my life did I think people were going to love Bon Qui Qui so much,” Johnson says. “Fans have taken such a liking to her to the point where they actually dress up as her for Halloween, or they’ll come to my shows dressed up like her. They’ll even refer to their friends as ‘Bon Qui Qui!’ It’s just amazing that people would identify and relate to this character so much. People know Bon Qui Qui more than they know me sometimes.”
Johnson, 31, isn’t being hyperbolic. The comedian has more than 161,000 fans on Facebook. Bon Qui Qui has almost double, racking up nearly 247,000 likes. The latter number is still growing exponentially, due to the recent release of Bon Qui Qui’s new video for the song “No Boyfren,” which features singer and American Idol champion Jordin Sparks.
So, does Johnson ever get jealous of her loud-mouthed, super-rude, ghetto-fabulous creation?
“I love it!” she says. “I don’t walk down the street and people automatically think, ‘Oh she looks like Bon Qui Qui.’ That’s such an alter ego that I’m glad people can’t recognize me as her. If they did, we’d probably have a problem.”
The San Jose, Calif. native will be herself on Saturday, July 20 at 9 p.m. ET, however. That’s when her new one-hour comedy special, The Homecoming Show, premieres on NUVOtv, the new network that recently found a powerful business partner in Jennifer Lopez.
In a somewhat bittersweet turn of events, Johnson won’t even be home to watch it. “It’s funny,” she says. “I’m actually in a wedding that night. So I’m DVR’ing it and I’ll have a viewing party with some friends another night. But I’ll still be on Twitter and Facebook so I can reach out to the fans watching!”
Bon Qui Qui would approve.
Dylan Gadino is the founder and editor of Laughspin.com, the premier editorial destination for all things comedy. He's also the co-host of the Laughspin Podcast, a weekly comedy news roundup and interview show. Gadino contributes to The Huffington Post, has appeared on SiriusXM and has been quoted as a comedy expert in many national publications. He hopes the Shire is real.