On Sunday, December 8th, Houston comedian and host, GoJJGo hosted the “Class Clown” Comedy Show at Cafeza. The interactive show, which modeled NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and MTV’s “Wild ‘n Out”, was jam-packed. Joined by fellow comedians Shabaz Playtime, MC Lotto, JCann, CTun and Carlos Garza; and musical guests, Dende, Richelle Gemini, Jenna Lynn and Visuewelle, JJ incorporated both stand-up and improv comedy into the show. Sounds were provided by DJ Tay Powers and the cozy room was filled with laughter from beginning to end.
Having opened for some of the biggest names in comedy and touring with Houston breakout star Tobe Nwigwe, JJ is well-recognized as a local and national host. JJ may be small in stature, but she is, indeed, a stick of dynamite. As the creator, executive producer and host of the innovative Comedy Show, JJ kept the audience in tears with her quick-witted, on the fly jokes and candid stories.
Forward Times had the pleasure to catch up with the Houston, Texas native after her wildly successful show to learn more about her comedic beginnings:
Chelsea Lenora White: JJ, it’s amazing to speak with you today.
JJ: Likewise. Let me just say that it is an honor to speak with one of the most historic newspapers in the land. I cleared my schedule. I have on a prom dress.
CLW: (Laughs) This is already the most hilarious interview to date.
Let’s get right into it. I heard you say something very interesting last night. I’ve always known you to be a host but I assumed, like most people, that you have also always been a comedian since you fuse the two so seamlessly. But you stated last night that you became a comedian on accident from being yourself in the right place at the right time. Let’s talk about that.
JJ: I’ve been hosting events since the 5th grade. The Principal at my school said, “JJ, you’re going to host the 5th grade graduation.” And it was the same thing in 8th grade. I hosted my 8th grade graduation. This isn’t something that I asked for or tried to do. It is an organic people gift; understanding timing and reading the room. It’s almost like a crowd intelligence.
CLW: So, in terms of you becoming a comedian, how did that transpire from hosting?
JJ: About a year ago I had some career disappointments. The thing about being a host is because a lot of people don’t know how to categorize it, they also don’t know the value attached to it. And I realized that when you host other people’s things, you pour and pour into something that isn’t yours. Don’t get me wrong, I love hosting. I love when people bring me in to bring their vision to life and connect with the audience. But I realized, that at the end of the day, when you give off so much energy to other people’s ventures, you don’t have your own product to take away with you.
So I was having those feelings on a Friday. On a Saturday, I did some research on what form of entertainment I could transition into. I needed something that was mine, that I could build on and leave a legacy.
I was actually in a TLC-type girl group when I was 13 years old. I was a songwriter and a rapper. Then when I went to college I hosted everything at Texas State; homecoming, step shows, everything for residential life. I was the official student host for Texas State when I was there.
So fast forward to a year ago, I thought to myself, I have co-created and poured into a lot of things that I don’t own. So I wanted to create something that was mine. So it was process of elimination. I said, “Okay, I don’t want to be a rapper.” Because although I can rap and I enjoy it, there are elements of the business that I don’t enjoy.
I thought about songwriting since I’m good at that but I realized I can’t really tie hosting in with that. You can but there are so many other layers to that, so I put a pin in that one.
I thought, “Girl group?” and I said “Nope.”
But then I thought to myself, everyone thinks I’m funny as hell. I’m a comedian! So on a Saturday, I said “I’m a comedian.” I looked up shows and comedy clubs that were coming to town to start researching. So Friday, I was sad. Saturday, I said I was a comedian and came up with a game plan. Sunday, I went to a comedy club to start researching.
I went to the comedy club for Torrei Hart, Kevin Hart’s ex-wife’s show and a lot of people knew me in the room from my live show days in Houston. So people kept coming up to me and the promoter who was there said, “Hey! What do you do? Everyone in this room knows you.” This promoter was from out of town. I said, “I’m a comedian.”
CLW: Wow. The power of manifestation.
JJ: Yep! So he invited me back to the green room and it wasn’t even on some weird, creepy stuff. A lot of times, women in the industry have to be leery of men trying to be predators. But because I don’t have titties, I never get that “’Let me sleep with you’ vibe.”
JJ: So I went backstage and Torrei Hart was back there. And mind you, I was there doing research for the Wild ‘n Out show that was coming to town that next week. I was back there just being myself and Torrei Hart was cracking up the entire time. She overheard me tell a virgin joke, that was actually 100% true. I was serious. I wasn’t trying to hit a punch line. But she tells me, “The promoter said that you’re a comedian. Go ahead and do a 10-minute set and open my show. We’re ahead on time.”
I wanted to s**t a brick. I wasn’t ready. I was just talking that talk. So I went to the bathroom and was literally trying to find an exit. Torrei was by the front door and I thought to myself, “Is this lady crazy?” This is so different from hosting. Having to structure jokes, comedy is different than hosting.
So Torrei Hart came in the restroom and I told her that I just got a text and I had to leave. And she was like, “Wait, you’re about to go on in two minutes.” And I was like, “I have to go right now, right now.” So Torrei locks the door and she told me, “JJ, I feel like you have something special. When you have an opportunity, as a woman in this industry, you shouldn’t run from them.”
So I told her very humbly and honestly, “Torrei, I get opportunities all the time. I don’t take advantage of all of them because opportunities don’t necessarily come easy for me but they have not been few and far between.”
So she says to me, “Well in that case, you should be further along then. You’re not taking enough of them.”
She told me that if I left that night, I would never step on a comedy stage. So, I said okay. I told her to tell the DJ to play “Be Careful” by Cardi B and I’ll go on in one minute. When she left out of the bathroom, I screamed into a towel and cried a little bit because I was afraid. Then I started figuring out what I was going to talk about. I knew they laughed at my virgin joke, so I said, “Okay, I’ll say that” and talk about how it’s awkward to date.
The DJ played “Be Careful” by Cardi B and I was vibing with the crowd. I told two quick stories and was onstage for about four minutes. When I got off the stage, I got big hand claps and a few people stood up and clapped. When I walked to the back, everybody started doing the slow clap and were like “That was not your first time.” And I said, “Yeah, it was.”
Torrei told me, “Your first time on stage was better than some of my shows now.” So she told me that I was going to open up for her second show in 45 minutes and to get prepared. The other comedians back there were helping me to structure my jokes that I just told so that I could get to the punch lines quicker.
So the second show, I did my same jokes but with more structure. I was comfortable. I interacted with the crowd. I played off of my host energy and I got a standing ovation. Then, the promoter who didn’t know that it was my first time doing stand-up informed me that he was the one bringing Karlous Miller and Chico Bean next week from Wild ‘n Out. So he booked me to open up for them.
CLW: That was destiny. So is hosting much different than doing stand-up for you? Or do the two intersect easily?
JJ: A lot of people already don’t separate the two because when I said, “Hey, I’m a comedian now” everyone was like, “Duh. You’ve been funny to us.” So, I don’t separate it in a sense. Because I host in such an organic way, people forget that there’s a science to it. My hosting is like improv comedy. I’ve always had big opportunities with hosting, without trying or practicing. But with stand-up, you have to practice. So, to me, it is different in that sense. With stand-up, you have to work it and cultivate it. You have to get to the punch lines quicker sometimes. You have to bring the joke back around.
CLW: Do you get nervous during your stand-up sets, as opposed to hosting?
JJ: It’s not nerve-racking but by nature, I don’t like to be confined. So with hosting, it’s 100% in the vibe and in the moment. I let the moment tell me what to do. I think that although comedy is scripted, I have to leave enough room for the energy to just do its job and I have to find a better balance for that. I think I’m overthinking it a little bit.
CLW: That’s honest. We all overthink at some point. And it makes sense in your case, especially considering that your comedic career started out where a lot of people work many years to get to. You’ve shared the stage with comedic legends. Let’s talk about some of the people you’ve shared the stage with.
JJ: Most recently I opened up for DL Hughley, Mike Epps, Kid from Kid ‘n Play (Christopher Reid). I’ve opened up for the Wild ‘n Out guys the most; Karlous Miller, Chico Bean and DC Young Fly. I opened up for them four times.
CLW: Have you experienced any hardships in the industry being a double-minority (Black woman)?
JJ: You know what? Because I’m a triple-minority I actually haven’t experienced many hardships. I’m a triple-minority because I’m a tiny, Black woman and it has saved me. When I was in girl groups, producers would try to sleep with all of my group members and they would look at me and be like, “Aww, JJ, hey.”
So I don’t know if it’s because I don’t twist when I walk but I haven’t dealt with people having sexual intentions or even discrimination from people saying that I can’t do things as a woman.
CLW: Well, that’s a great thing.
Let’s get into The “Class Clown” Comedy Show. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced in Houston because of the way you fused so many art forms together. There was freestyling, improv comedy, stand-up, there were musical performances. Talk to me about how you conceptualized the “Class Clown” Comedy Show.
JJ: So leading up to the “Class Clown” Comedy Show, I realized that I had been a part of some really cool things but I told myself that I don’t want to be brilliant for anything else that I don’t own. I’m also one of those creatives that starts something and stops. So last month I came up with the idea of wanting to do a comedy show but also wanting it to be a ‘JJ style’ comedy show. Anything that I do is very interactive. My main gift is curating energy in a room and connecting with people. So I told myself that in 30 days I wanted to plan and do all of the logistics of my own comedy show. And when I say logistics, I was running chairs, cutting fruit for sangrias, putting the turkey legs in the oven. Every piece of a production that usually has seven people on the backend, I did solo. I wrote and assigned every piece of the show besides the comedians’ stand-up.
I wanted to end 2019 by saying that I started and executed something within a month. Sometimes creatives are all creativity and no execution. I have learned that it doesn’t matter if you’re the most talented person in the world; if you can’t be consistent for an extended period of time, it doesn’t matter.
CLW: That’s very true. The line-up was also impressive and seemed like a very good balance of people and personalities. How did you select the comedians and musical guests who performed?
JJ: Because I’ve hosted shows for about eight years, the people whom I spend the most time with are entertainers. So most of my community is made up of artists. Besides that, availability and commitment played a big role in my decision.
CLW: Will the “Class Clown” Comedy Show be a recurring event?
JJ: The “Class Clown” Comedy Show was a one-time partnership but you can definitely look forward to quarterly interactive comedy live shows in 2020. I feel like I’ve been waiting for people to take me places that I can take myself. Oftentimes, artists will brainstorm and try to wait for the right time, or the right moment. But I decided to just jump in and do my own show so that I could know what to do and not do next time. It’s a learning curve. But I will definitely fine tune it and make this a quarterly event.