Papp Johnson is a stand-up comedian from Oakland, California – a fact he’s proud to point out. Within his stand-up you’ll be hard pressed to find something that doesn’t connect directly with your daily life. His tone, demeanor, and material combine for a laid back vibe – and to keep it real – when’s the last time a comedian made you think laid back? It’s usually more like, “Damn, that guy has a screw loose!”
From his YouTube movie reviews, to his stand-up at the Purple Onion, Papp makes doing comedy look easy like no comedian I’ve ever seen. After a few Twitter DM’s, AmericasComedy.Com set up an interview. Check it out.
AmericasComedy.Com: After watching your movie reviews, one thing I always wanted to know was how did your walls get hella green?
Papp Johnson: Green is one of my favorite colors so when I got a chance to repaint my room I picked the most outta pocket green I could find. I fucking love it.
AC: It works well, people think green screen. It goes well with the movie reviews.
PJ: Yeah everybody says that. I just like the color. When it’s hella dark I can see pretty comfortably.
AC: I get the sense that there is a nerd in you somewhere. Is that accurate?
PJ: Yeah I would say I’m a nerd. I don’t consider myself a “cool” person, I just do what I do and I like what I like. I talk my shit, either you like it or you don’t, aint nothing more I can do about that.
AC: How does living in Oakland influence your material?
PJ: It influences everything I do. Growing up and fucking living next to San Francisco, people just talking so bad about Oakland and making San Francisco seem like it’s so nice. In all honesty San Francisco is a disgusting ass city. It’s gross. There’s homeless people everywhere, there’s crack heads walking around. It’s like, this is a city people come to when they visit the country, and Oakland is like so much cleaner than ‘Frisco.
I do comedy in S.F. I don’t hate S.F. I have that Oakland mentality and I want to see it get its proper respect. People think S.F. is so great and when you tell them you’re from Oakland, they’re like ‘Oh, I’m so sorry for you.’
AC: (Laughs) Do you plan on performing any in S.F.?
PJ: It’s funny like, I do comedy, but for a comic I’m not really on the comedy scene that much. Doing comedy is fun to me, and I love to do it but it’s not like my life like most comics. That’s like all they do, and that’s all they talk about id comedy, comedy, comedy comedy.
I’m a person. I do other shit. I like watching sports, kicking it with my friends. We watch movies. Being on stage is a small part of my life. I love comedy, but for comedy to be my everything, nah. I can’t be that consumed with one thing.
AC: Is it what you want to do to make a living?
PJ: Yeah, definitely. At the same time I want to enjoy my life. Like every day, I have fun, and I tell jokes regardless. People are like ‘Why are you always smiling?’ It’s because I’m enjoying being an old man, being from Oakland and being 28 (years old), that’s actually like an accomplishment. So it’s a good day every day for Papp Johnson.
AC: Were you always like that growing up, being able to entertain and make people laugh?
PJ: Yeah my whole life has been nothing but shit talking. My mom talked shit to me, my family talked shit to me. Growing up I went to Berkeley High and it was basically 50 people talking shit to you every day. It was basically my training to do comedy to talk shit and make people laugh.
AC: What was it like having a mom that talked smack?
PJ: My mom talking smack to me is a blessing. Yeah, at first it’s like ‘Damn, moms is hella tough on me, cut me some slack.’ But I learned fast that it’s outta love and only to help me stay on my shit. Like, she doesn’t bullshit with me about things. If I’m fucking up she lets me know, so now when others talk shit to me it doesn’t phase me because I know that’s all it is and how to handle that mentally.
AC: When did you realize putting your movie reviews on YouTube would be something appealing to fans? Was it something you randomly did one day?
PJ: I would love to tell you I have a plan with the shit I do. But I really don’t. (What happened was) I just saw a movie, and I was like ‘I want to talk shit about it. I have nothing else to do.’ And I got my computer out and put it on YouTube. Some people like it, some people ask me to review certain movies. So I’m going to start trying to do video requests and do the reviews so people can watch them and hear what I have to say about certain movies. Like Snow White and the Huntsman. I got some shit to talk about that.
AC: Do you plan on making more videos like the one’s you did on your trip to Stanford?
PJ: Yes, I got like six videos I’m working on right now. Most of them are just me taking trips somewhere and I’ve got my little handy cam. That’s the funniest shit to me, just making some stupid videos…And trying to figure out what I can do to make it more out of pocket. Like that mustache guy. I videotaped him and I had my home girl interview him just because I wanted to get his mustache on video.
AC: Was your best stand-up set the “Girl Scouts Video”?
PJ: By far, I think that’s my best set. The funny thing about that is, I didn’t really think about anything I said before I said it on stage. I was just up there enjoying myself talking shit. I got a lot of audience participation, which is always great.
AC: You’re using social media regularly. Do you notice a difference in the number of people who go to see your shows?
PJ: Naw. I think most people who watch my videos are not even in California, so they can’t even come see me live.
AC: You use the N-word pretty frequently in your reviews. Do you use it in your stand-up and how do people react to that?
PJ: Yeah…yeah, I mean I use it all the time. It’s part of my daily vocabulary. It’s a word and it’s something I own. My ancestors, my great-great-great-great grandpa was called a fucking n***a and he made it up out of slavery, so why do I think I’m better than him? Like I’ve done nothing compared to that. People who have a problem with it usually are trying to be something they’re not, in my opinion. If you go anywhere in the world and you’re a person of color you’re going to be seen as a n***a.
Obama is a n***a. That’s something I can be proud of, that we’ve come from the cotton fields to the white house, regardless of the job he’s done. N***as can do great things. Even with the deck stacked against us we find a way to beat the odds. So own it. Why try to hide that? Or make people think something different?
People try to put up some bullshit to seem politically correct.
AC: When you see comedians getting in trouble for jokes, what’s your opinion? Where do your beliefs fall in terms of censorship?
PJ: I’m a comic. It’s supposed to be racy, it’s supposed to be controversial. It wouldn’t be funny if it didn’t have some truth to it. It’s only right for (a comedian) to walk that line, and sometimes go over it.
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