Published Jul 13, 2016Anjelah Johnson's Not Fancy is her third standup special since launching her career in 2006. The former MadTV cast member, actress and standup comedian shines as a performer and writer, though she has a tendency to come off as a parody of herself from time to time. It's difficult to tell if that's due to a lack of comfort on stage — hard to imagine given the audience's uproarious, at times even overzealous reaction to her every move — or due to her long experience as a character actor.
This 2015 Netflix special is a little hard to sink your teeth into at first. Not Fancy has an enormously trend-conscious feel at the start, what with Johnson's liberal use of 2015's most popular slang words — the word besties for example. It can be difficult to tell if she's putting on her kitschy persona somewhat ironically, or if it's something she actually aspires to. It certainly isn't nearly as present in her earlier work.
Whether one thinks she lays it on a little thick or not, it is difficult to discern whether she eases up on her caricature further into the special or whether the viewer just gets used to it. One thing's for sure, her jokes do get significantly better after the first 15 minutes of jokes about airplane chairs and Liam Neeson.
Johnson's take on Latino hierarchy through cuisine is a particularly funny stretch of her set. Combine that with her recounted attempt to learn Spanish via Rosetta Stone — a major highlight of her special — and you've got an impressively hilarious 20 minutes of material to follow the more dodgy beginning.
Johnson really hits her stride when riffing about her roots, and she carries that momentum into some terrific bits about family, in-laws, Law & Order: SVU and — in particular — jury duty. In these areas, Johnson seems most at home. She's far less self-conscious when railing on things presumably closer to her experience than Liam Neeson's uncanny knack for finding things.
Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.