Chicago says goodbye to Josh Johnson

Photo credit: Andrew Fowler

Josh Johnson is a Chicago-based comedian who is moving to New York City this October. On September 24th, he had one last show to say goodbye to the Chicago comedy community. The show was held at the Under The Gun Theater where Johnson is an ensemble member. The venue is the same space in which he held his solo show “Good Kid, Mad Family,” making it an incredibly fitting choice for Johnson’s goodbye show.

Photo Credit: Andrew Fowler

Photo Credit: Andrew Fowler

It might seem a bit strange that Johnson is already leaving for a bigger city, having only been doing comedy in Chicago for three years. However in that time, Johnson has quickly become one of the city’s fastest rising stars. Regularly performing at the World Famous Laugh Factory, Zanies Comedy Clubs, and Jokes and Notes, Johnson is also a writer for The Whiskey Journal and has been performing at colleges and festivals all over the country.

The Attic Comedy, a stand-up show regularly featuring four acts on the first Thursday of the month, hosted Johnson’s goodbye show. Johnson is a founding member of the group and the Sept 24th performance was a truly special night. The show not only featured Johnson as a headliner, but also local favorite comics Bobby Hill, Brandon Kieffer, Logan Nielsen, Ronnie Ray, Ed Towns, Martin Morrow, and host Joel Boyd.

Joel Boyd hosted the show. Photo credit: Andrew Fowler

The opening comics served up jokes that ranged from celebrity impressions and incidents on public transit, to run-ins with cops and drugs. The South was also a prevalent theme, foreshadowing experiences that Johnson would later tell in his set about growing up in Louisiana.

When Johnson finally took the stage the audience leap to their feet with thunderous applause. Johnson, wearing a black blazer and white shirt (buttoned up to the throat) in lieu of the usual ‘hoodie, flannel and denim,’ uniform that most comics don, smiled and displayed ever the slightest bit of nervousness as he took the microphone and murmured, “Wow. I hope I’m actually good.” The audience erupted in laughter for what was far from the last time of the night.

Photo credit: Andrew Fowler

Beginning his set with friendly banter, Johnson poked fun at the other comics who had like-wise treated him some light “roasting” earlier in the night. Then Johnson sauntered into familiar territory, telling stories of attempting to flirt with beautiful women, being broken up with via text-message, growing up in the South, and feeling the need to convince the robbers that broke into his apartment and found him naked and eating cake out of his fridge that he is actually an alright person. Incorporating use of the full stage in a way that showcases his theatre background, Johnson walked around and utilized his full body in his story retellings. He even sat on the lone stool in the middle of the stage, which Morrow had earlier described as Johnson’s signature “power move” back when he was doing open mics early in his comedy career.

Speaking at an ever-comfortable rate, never quickly and never too slowly, Johnson continued to humanize himself by sprinkling in a fair amount of self-deprecation along the way. Standing at just over five and half feet tall, Johnson describes his slight stature as “Just small enough where if I was fighting with my girlfriend in public, no one would have a problem.” Johnson’s set also managed to incorporate truths about psychology, history and anthropology in with his jokes, leaving everyone a bit smarter and happier than when they started the night. Johnson finished his set on a serious note, genuinely expressing his love and gratitude for everyone in the room. The audience echoed the response with a standing ovation and a receiving line that stretched the entirety of the venue after the show.

At just 25 years old, Johnson has already made a name for himself in the comedy scene. The winner of the prestigious Devil Cup stand-up comedy competition in New York, Johnson was also a semi-finalist in NBC’s Stand-Up for Diversity showcase. Johnson performs at colleges across the country through the Joey Edmonds Agency and is soon to be found in every comedy club in New York City.

You can keep up with Josh Johnson via his Facebook and Twitter.

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