Eleven years, 91,000 Twitter followers, tens of millions of YouTube views and two hourlong comedy specials later, she's a recognizable on-screen personality and an established stand-up comic. She's touring steadily, including a three-day stint at Buffalo's Helium Comedy Club beginning Thursday.
But for the 32-year-old Johnson, who became YouTube famous with a video called “Nail Salon” before becoming traditionally famous through roles on “MadTV” and in a handful of movies, success has bred an elusive sense of responsibility: She wants to make everyone laugh.
It's a high-aiming but nearly impossible goal.
“You don't want to let people down, and that's so hard because you're never going to please everybody,” she said in a telephone interview. “There's always going to be someone that's a naysayer.”
Johnson shared an anecdote about a guy at one of her performances who won a meet-and-greet, came backstage, thanked her, and told her he had been to several of her shows.
“Then he goes on Twitter and bashes me a little bit, saying, 'You have to get new material, I've already seen this before,' ” she recalled. “If you follow me from city to city, the show is not going to change very much.”
It's in moments like that when Johnson questions herself, and has to remind herself to see the larger picture.
“You feel like you didn't deliver your best in that instance,” she said, “but at the same time, there were hundreds of other people who had the best time ever.”
Johnson's brand of observational comedy is based on her own life. Formerly, she focused on life as a single woman in her 20s, “stories about the way guys hit on me and things like that.”
Today, she's single no more. Johnson and musician husband Manwell Reyes are celebrating their third anniversary while in Buffalo. In her show, Johnson shares stories of marriage, family, jury duty and getting older.
“It's a lot of fun,” she said. “I love sharing my life with people.”
But with that comes the responsibility.
“Which is so hard as an artist, because you put yourself out there, make yourself vulnerable, and you just want to make people happy,” Johnson said. “It's definitely a lot of pressure to deliver. I want people to be happy.”
What: Anjelah Johnson
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Helium Comedy Club, 30 Mississippi St.
Info: 853-1211 or www.heliumcomedy.com/buffalo