comedians you should know

Jamel Johnson the Effortless Crusher

Photo-Illustration: Selman Hoşgör; Photo Courtesy of Subject

This week, we’re highlighting 22 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual list “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talent that has the comedy community and industry buzzing. (You can read more about our methodology at the link above.) We asked the comedians on the list to answer a series of questions about their work, comedy during the pandemic, and more. Next up is Jamel Johnson.

When did you feel that you were funny enough to make a legitimate go at comedy?
First open mic at Brittany’s in Woodbridge, VA. I didn’t think I was going to make it at all, but I knew I couldn’t stop.
Describe your comedy in five words.
Honestly it’s really whatever, bro.
What of your work do you think you’re best known for, and what of your work are you most proud of?
I’d say I’m most known for talking to a bot about South Park on Tinder as heard on Yeah, But Still. Shouts out to Brandon Wardell and Jack Wagner for boosting my feature price. I’m most proud of having nine podcasts of my own — Air Buds, Sorry We Love Football, and NBA Storytime. Please listen to them if you have time.

If there were a ’90s-style sitcom built around you and your material, in which you had to have a different job than comedian, what would be the title and logline?
I would be a sports talk-radio host. It’s called Jamel It Like It Is and the logline is “This is literally Martin with more white people in it.”
What have you done for comedy during COVID that you thought you would never do?
Be on camera in my underwear, but also star in a sketch show about sneakers with Rob Haze that was crazy. It’s called Sneak This. It was created by C.J. Toledano for Bleacher Report and BR kicks. We all wrote it together along with Mo Welch and Will Miles. I am willing to say publicly that it’s very funny. If that’s not nutty enough for ya, I co-produced a variety show for Twitch called The Comedy Juggathon. I put it together with Talib Babb around Christmas 2020. Special thanks to all the very funny people who contributed time, video, and audio for that as well.

Who are some of your favorite comedians right now? Who is putting out work that excites and inspires you?
Everybody in the trenches right now is my favorite no bullshit, but Sam Jay is running things as far as I’m concerned. Pause is some of the funniest shit I’ve seen in years. Rob Haze is a joke technician. Jordan Temple’s delivery is off the charts. I would watch Petey DeAbreu anywhere, Dubai included. We’re all waiting to see what Jak Knight does next, right? He’s like the rawest, but I could literally name 1,000 more people. Stavros Halkias, Nick Mullen, and Adam Friedland all inspire me as individuals, but Cum Town is why I do podcasting at all. Christina Catherine Martinez is a force of art nature. Natalie Palamides and Courtney Pauroso make me laugh and throw up simultaneously. David Gborie is comedy George Gervin, and special hat tip to my folks Sarah Squirm and James Austin Johnson for getting them SNL roster spots this year; never seen anybody as goofy and intense as Sarah, and JAJ has the best voices, period. They’re both very deserving.

What is the best comedy advice, and then the worst comedy advice, you’ve ever received, either when you were starting out or more recently?
Very early on Khalid Lamb told me, “Never let anybody take the mic from you.” That was the best advice. The worst is one time Louis C.K. told me to quit smoking weed — he’s probably right, but at what cost, ya know?

Tell us one story from your childhood that is a good representation of your life.
My grandma used to always tell me one year she asked me what I was going to be for Halloween and I kept saying, “Me gon’ be Jamel.”
What’s an embarrassingly earnest goal you have?
I guess owning my own business? I have dreams of getting into management; that’s pretty embarrassing. That or start a vintage store that has only big and tall sizes.
If you had the power to remove anything from the comedy world right now, from trends with material to how the industry operates, what would it be?
I would make it free to wear logos on TV everywhere. That copyright-infringement shit is bogus.

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Jamel Johnson the Effortless Crusher