Zainab Johnson is among the best and brightest standup comedians working today. Her perspective is unique, and her voice is fresh. During this winding chat, Zainab and I talked about how she found her way to comedy, what she’s learned from failure, how she handles fear, and the role faith plays in her life. There is funny stories, inspiring gems, and excellent wisdom tucked away in this episode.
Behind Her Brilliance: Her Upbringing + Her Family
Say hi to Zainab on Instagram: @zainabjohnson
ZAINAB JOHNSON | Comedian + Actress
Zainab Johnson, a stand-up comedian and actress, is quickly being propelled as one of the most unique and engaging performers on stage and screen. Zainab’s comedy is based on her unique point-of-view, which was shaped growing up in Harlem as one of thirteen siblings in a Muslim family. After getting a degree in Math and taking a job as a teacher, she quickly learned that she had a different calling. Zainab was named one of Variety’s Top 10 Comics To Watch in 2019, she can be seen as a series regular on the new upcoming Greg Daniel’s half hour comedy titled “Upload” an Amazon original series in the near future, and she made her first late night stand up appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Zainab had a breakout appearance on HBO’s All Def Comedy (2017) and has made appearances on NBC’s Last Comic Standing (2014), Arsenio (2014), BET’s Comic View (2014), AXSTV’s Gotham Comedy Live! and just recently starred in a new web series titled Avant-Guardians. She is a regular at the Improv Comedy Club in LA and the Comedy Cellar in NY. Zainab has performed in the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival as one of the 2014 New Faces of Comedy and returned numerous times since. She also had a breakout performance at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in 2018.
How Zainab found herself in LA doing comedy after being a math teacher
Zainab’s transition for amateur to pro
What her failures have taught her (and how she keeps winning)
Her favorite cities to perform in
How Zainab handles moments of fear
The best advice she’s ever received
Zainab’s perspective on her hair and how it fits into her presence on stage
How Zainab’s Muslim upbringing and faith impacts her life
And much, much more!
STUFF MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
Abstract: The Art of Design – Tinker Hatfield (Lisa Likes)
All James Baldwin books (Zainab’s book pick)
Kindred by Octavia Butler (Zainab’s book pick)
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Joy a Degruy (Zainab’s book pick)
The Autobiography of Malcom X by Malcom X and Alex Haley (Zainab’s book pick)
Becoming by Michelle Obama (Zainab’s book pick)