Gayla Johnson is ridiculously funny; she owns the stage and is guaranteed to leave you questioning how she does it. Her facial gestures are outlandish and sidesplitting. We were nailed by her set at the monthly Laugh-A-Latte’s seven-year anniversary party at Long Beach’s Hot Java Coffee House. Gayla Johnson is what physical comedy is all about.
Gayla is a talented actress and stand-up comedian, currently on: Showtime, www.sho.com ‘Fierce Funny Women,’ and with recurring roles on Comedy Central’s Workaholics; ABC’s Don’t trust the B—- in Apartment 23; ABC’s Brothers and Sisters; Beverly Hills 90210; Martin; The Practice; Discovery Channel’s Mystery ER; and I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.
As a veteran theatre actress, Gayla has starred in several hit plays. Most recently, Gayla appeared in Reservoir Bitches (based on the Quentin Tarantino film, Reservoir Dogs, adapted to an all-female cast), For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide when the Rainbow was Enough, A Raisin In The Sun, and The Vagina Dialogues.
When not making TV appearances, Gayla stays busy on the comedy stage, appearing regularly at the Hollywood Improv, The Comedy Store, Ice House Comedy Club, and The Laugh Factory.
Gayla’s television credits: Comics Unleashed, SiTv’s Laff Jam, Inside Joke, B.E.T.’s Comic View, TBS’ Comedy Festival, and the Comedy Time series on YouTube.
Gayla has won a host of comedy competitions, toured abroad and was honored by the LA Comedy Awards, receiving two Gold Star Awards for ‘ Most Hilarious Comedian’ and ‘Breakthrough Performer in Film and Television.’
Follow me as we journey through the world of Gayla Johnson.
RenishaMarie: Who is Gayla Johnson?
Gayla Johnson : A comedic actress! A big kid at heart, and trying to protect that spirit, still growing up.
I watch cartoons, collect Barbies, work on puzzles, play in a big plastic playhouse in the back yard and strive to make people laugh and cry! After a BA in communications, I decided against a broadcast news career.
Got fired from several temp jobs, making them even more temp-ier, I found a great guy, got married, and started acting/performing stand-up comedy. No kids yet, but the two small poodles I have are good stand-ins.
RenishaMarie: On what projects are you currently working?
Gayla Johnson: Starring in a 10 episode Web series:
Dating Savanna Love (pic) Produced by Name Brand Films.
The Film “Curdled” Screening at Mann’s Chinese Theatre Feb.
27th Gayla Johnson-Co Starring
CURRENTLY in New Film
DEADTIME STORY – director ERIC JONES
Set to start shooting late Feb 2014 to early March 2014
Gayla Johnson Stars as Detective Barns
RECENT INDIE FILMS COMPLETED (in post production):
Hackers Game – Director Cyril Morin
A-Nakba: (Film about the Sex-Trade in the middle east) – Director Nadir Bouhmouch www.nadirbouhmouch.com
Parking — Gayla starring as the Interrogator. (film about an illegitimate killing) DIRECTOR – OMAR SAID
Also, a film “PARKING” where I play a detective.
RenishaMarie: When did you know comedy was what youwanted to do?
Gayla Johnson : When I learned to write it; it was something I had control over. I didn’t have to interpret someone else’s voice. Then I got my first laugh and was hooked. My theatre experience lead me to TV/Film acting, but I realize standing on stage in theatre, in front of a live audience is sort of, like LIVE Comedy Club Theatre. I started to feel comfortable (albeit minus the 4th wall).
RenishaMarie: I caught your act at Laugh-A-Latte @Hot Java and you were insanely funny. Your face gestures are ludicrous. (All good things, by the way.) I still crack up laughing when I think about it. Were you always funny?
Gayla Johnson: NOPE! Not at all. In fact, I was an introvert, defensive, suspicious and anti-social. I had bullies in school growing up, then became an insecure adult. My self-image was low. I was really self-conscious, naïve. Didn’t have a lot of friends, my dad’s still crazy; can’t talk to him. I had graduated
college, mom died a year later, at 50. Had a college degree, but couldn’t keep a job; things were crazy, dated stupid guys.. on and on..
RenishaMarie: What was the best gig you ever performed?
Gayla Johnson: I must say, headlining The Vagina Dialogues show at the Ontario Improv (is) the first thing I think of! Standing room only. Producer Kelly Mauricio packs them in. My best gigs are the ones I never want to leave the stage… Also, filming for Showtime was an incredible experience. Fierce Funny Women was in an 800+ theatre.
RenishaMarie: Who is your favorite comedian of all time?
Gayla Johnson: Richard Pryor (loved him)
However, mosty inspired by:
Also liked a lot:…
RenishaMarie: Who is your biggest inspiration?
Gayla Johnson: Lucille Ball (she was beautiful, crazy and sweet – loved the combination).
RenishaMarie: Tell us about your most embarrassing stage moment and how you recovered from it as a comedian. What did you do? And what was the audience response?
Gayla Johnson: Did a show for a private function, a bachelor party for a bunch of drunk Armenians. Only two comedians were booked and the OTHER comedian went first. He BOMBED! Kept trying to do his material. They heckled him throughout his show. They weren’t interested. He tried to shut them up to deliver the next joke. But they turned away and started talking to each other. I was next. The audience booed him offstage. I freaked and started to leave the club; I was half-way out the door , then heard the MC introduce me.
I went on stage, set the mike off to the side of the stage and decided I wasn’t going to perform. I started wagging my finger at the crowd and berated them for being unprofessional. I told them how shocked I was to see them rude, drunk and obnoxious to the comic! I told them if they’re going to act like kids, then this is a TIME OUT. NO JOKES! THEY STARTED TO SMILE.
I told a fat guy to close his mouth or the Devil might get out! THEY LAUGHED. I told another guy to button his shirt, his pubic hair was showing. I told a guy in back to get a breath mint, I can smell his ass onstage. I told them they should all be deported for driving high-performance BMWs with LOW-PERFORMANCE “PUBLIC BUS” mentalities.
I asked them if all Armenians are as hairy, fat, and impotent as they were. THEY STARTED CLAPPING, One guy stood up, took off his shirt, turned to face the crowd and patted his belly. THEY LAUGHED, I demanded to see green cards, THEY STARTED TOSSING $1.00 bills on stage. So I pulled the mic stand over and started to pole dance. THEY SCREAMED. I started to flirt, etc… my set went on for 30 minutes. I Never told a single joke. Standing Ovation.
RenishaMarie: What generated your bit?
Gayla Johnson: Observation. I watched that comedian fail over and over again. I took my mind off of my intended show and decided to watch the audience’s reaction to the comic.
RenishaMarie: Was it thought-through and calculated?
Gayla Johnson: Part of it was and part was improv. As a professional comedian, I operate under the idea that the audience is responsible for my career. If the audience is not happy, my career, reputation is not happy. (The same can be said for the theory “the customer is always right.”) The comic was trying to force-feed the audience something they did not want. I thought this through and tried to see what they did want. I decided they wanted to party! They wanted to bullshit with each other and not watch a regimented show, where SOMEONE ELSE would be in the spotlight. THEY wanted the spotlight. I decided to ‘join the party and be one of the guys.’
RenishaMarie: Was it an emotional, gut-level comedic response? Or were you angry, afraid?
Gayla Johnson: I was TERRIFIED! I didn’t know if they would let me in. I took a chance. Thinking like a guy, I knew if I wanted in, I had to be strong. Either attack and be able to back it up or be the victim they can make fun of and make them right about everything, agree with them.
They were predators and had already (eaten) a victim. I chose to confront, challenge them. The rest of the show was relationship and reaction back and forth, involving ’emotional, gut-level comedic responses.’ I was ready to adjust, apologize, and take a hit, but they kept enjoying the hits I was giving, so I kept giving until it got old. Then I went with the flow and morphed into the next hot topic (until my time was up)!
I spoke to the other comic afterwards. He was amazed at what I did. He asked me how (I did it). I told him, “I became a part of the group; jokes don’t always work, audiences don’t always cooperate. My comedic ability can’t be limited to material – it’s too restricting and inflexible.”He said, “Well, that’s good for you, but I don’t do that. I’m pro comic. I don’t improv, I do material. That’s what comics do, we tell jokes and do our set. I talk, not the audience. If the audience doesn’t act right, then that’s on them. The booker of this show or security should have come in and protected me, tell them to quiet down. I did my job; they just missed out on some great jokes and tags. I’ve been performing for 10 years. I know what I’m doing; they were drunk and belligerent. A bad crowd. I hate gigs like this!”
I just nodded and walked away. Hey, I didn’t really like the gig either. It was awful, hard and unusual, but in my ten-plus years of performing live comedy, I like to be RE-BOOKED in shows. If I do my job, I will get re-booked. I think my job is to be FUNNY and ENTERTAINING, at all cost. I do that with jokes,
routines, improv, relating to the audience, emotional honesty and flexibility, talking directly to the audience, interviewing, riffing; apologize for making mistakes, being contrite if I screw up, acting like a MONKEY! WHATEVER!
Some audiences will condemn you for being born. They will heckle and hate you onstage. It feels awful and you want to run away BUT, I think, “WHAT’S MY JOB?” Adjust and go with it. I would just apologize for being born. I’d say, “Yes, It was a bad decision I made, you guys are right, I tried kicking the bitch in the belly to get her to abort me, or at least punch me back, but she thought my kicking her was gas! What’s a baby to do? I agree. My spirit should have become a tree, or grass or a hamburger, then I would have been useful, right? They laugh, I WIN! OK …. WHATEVER! I do my job with any tools I have and I have humility amongst other tools I’m willing to use.
It was always funny to me how the skill of IMPROV is spelled the same way as IMPROVE. So when that comic said, I DON’T DO IMPROV. (I listened to him, but heard in my head, I DON’T IMPROVE my act – I keep it the way it always has been and it just should work.)
A comic never can predict what will happen.
RenishaMarie: Tell us about some qualities that a good comedian should have?
Gayla Johnson :
*Flexibility, every crowd is different. You can’t always predict what will happen at a live show.
*Sense of play. Always have fun on stage, enjoy yourself.
*A willingness to be honest and show you’re human. If you make a mistake,
apologize, laugh at yourself. The audience will usually be on your side.
*Establish eye contact with “the people.” Audiences want to connect, so don’t just stare at the back wall of the room.
RenishaMarie: What advice do you have for aspiring comedians?
Gayla Johnson: You will fail! Get ready! You will be judged, chastised, and if you’re really honest, you will offend many, many people. It gets WORSE before it gets better but if you survive, you will also be loved, admired, respected, and powerful. Stage fright will hold you back.
You can’t hide from an audience. Jokes aren’t always funny. Prepare yourself to share ‘you’ openly. Make sure you know what to do if you aren’t funny. Bombing is a part of it. Make sure you have other tools to use when you suck! Keep in mind, it’s never the audience’s fault. Oh, and have fun!
Metaphor: When your car breaks down, it’s good to know how to ride a bus, hail a taxi, or hitchhike (but, really, don’t hitchhike – dangerous)
Contact Gayla Johnson:
Aur-Aelion Isreal 323-934-5500
Patrica Dawson 310 /201-0120
Next Level Entertainment Management:
Next Level Entertainment
Executive Assistant to Talent/Music ArtistsManagement
P: (310) 435-9445/ (818) 469-1257