Over the past few years, comedian Josh Johnson has been building up a seriously impressive resume. The Chicago-based stand-up performer, writer, and podcaster regularly juggles more projects than we can keep track of, and his hard work is really starting to pay off. Last year, Johnson received an Emmy nomination for his writing work on Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show, and he was recently named one of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch in 2021.
The rising star is now preparing for multimedia releases of his debut stand-up special Trevor Noah Presents Josh Johnson: # (Hashtag). The hourlong special first aired on Comedy Central on June 18th, and will be made available for streaming on Paramount+ on August 11th; an album version will follow shortly in September. First, Consequence is exclusively premiering a clip from the special on Wednesday (August 4th).
In the clip, titled “When a Bee Flies into Your Hair,” Johnson describes his most traumatic episode from last year: although so many aspects of 2020 felt like a living nightmare, the comedian’s worst worst fear came true when a bee got lodged in his magnificent head of hair. Johnson explains to the audience that he’s deathly allergic to bees, so to have one of the little insects stuck anywhere on his body really was a matter of life-or-death. He hilariously reenacts his panic-induced frenzy while throwing in a shrewd one-liner about the fetishization of black hair, demonstrating his keen storytelling sensibilities and quick wit.
Besides almost losing his life to a bee, Johnson also spent last year working hard on his mixtape Elusive, a 33-track project that puts traditional stand-up segments side by side with nine pieces of music that tread the same thematic waters. It’s a truly innovative project, made for modern times, and it all but guarantees that we’ll have our eyes and ears on Josh Johnson for years to come.
Watch the # (Hashtag) clip and read our Q&A with Josh Johnson below.
How long did you work on the special for before it aired?
All in all, I’d say it came together in about 4 months. Even though I was initially supposed to tape the hour in early 2020, the hour you’re actually seeing had to be rewritten and come together much faster. After the insanity of a year like 2020, it would have felt tone deaf to just do the same jokes I had prepared before the pandemic so once I had a shoot date I had to put all my focus on building a new hour. It was difficult because there were still covid restrictions everywhere, so touring to get it ready was out. Luckily in New York I had a bunch of friends with Zoom, patio, and rooftop shows that let me workshop and polish up the hour.
How does it feel to finally have it out in the world?
It feels incredible. The response has been spectacular, honestly far better than I dreamed and the fact that my peers enjoyed it is all a comic can really ask for.
What are some of the reactions/responses from fans you’ve seen — and did it surprise you to see which jokes people loved (or didn’t love) the most?
People are really connecting with my joke about picking two out of three attributes in a guy. I of course think it’s really funny and there’s a lot of truth to it, which is why I tell it, but to see all the shares and messages is a beautiful thing, because it means that people are relating to the joke in a deep way. That’s one of the main reasons I do stand up — no matter which jokes people identify most with in the hour, I’m just overjoyed they’re identifying at all.
You’ve talked about how you consider Trevor Noah a mentor — did he give you any specific advice as you prepped your special?
Even before I had the special coming up, we had some great conversations about structuring an hour and leaving an impression with the audience. Those conversations stayed with me as I began building and forming the hour, and are still with me as I map out shorter sets to perform around New York. Never forgetting to have fun, and making the show for the audience in front of you in that moment, are key nuggets that I will always be mindful of.
You’re both a Daily Show writer and a standup. How do each of those disciplines inform one another? Did your writing experience prepare you at all for this new venture?
My writing has vastly improved since I began working at The Daily Show. Working with the incredible staff there and being a part of that writer’s room has helped shape how I approach telling a story, make my message clear, and make sure it appeals universally. Even though I am not the most political comedian, the way that I write my standup has been heavily influenced by the way I have to write for television, mainly because I have to explain a news story and make it funny at the same time which is what most of stand up is like. You’re telling the audience something they didn’t know, making it interesting so they want to find out more, while making sure it’s funny the whole time.
Anything else in the pipeline you want to share?
I’ve started work on my next mixtape project, and am polishing my next stand up hour that I’m taking on tour the rest of the year. I’m also wrapping up the album version of #(Hashtag) with Comedy Central.