Comedian Josh Johnson has made some great strides in his life and not just as a comic. His progress shows as he talks about Tabitha, the first album he’s set to record on Friday at Andy’s Bar in Denton.
“For the most part, I have to tell myself that it’s set,” says Johnson. “Since I announced that the album was going to happen, I’ve gone through 40 different set-lists and none of them have been good enough for me personally. A lot of them have done well but I’d like to think I’ve got to the point that I’m comfortable with it, even though I know I’m gonna wanna change literally everything including my name and the name of the album.”
It may not sound like much of an improvement on its surface, but it’s a big one for the kind of bruised psyche that’s required to want to become a comic. In fact, Johnson has sort of carved out an interesting persona for himself through his personal and professional progress as someone who can devote all of his energy, frustration and anger to tearing something apart that seems minuscule and still laugh right along with his audience at his own bewildered anger.
“When I go on a, I guess, rant and I’m getting passionate about something silly like Pimp My Ride or something, I’m like, ’Is this Earth? Is this the planet we all live on? You do realize I’m actually explaining something that does exist. I didn’t make this thing up. It was real. You all enjoyed it and it was preposterous’ and I have to laugh at how preposterous it is.”
The Fort Worth native says his earliest targets as a comic seemed to go all over the place and he's learned how to focus it enough so that he can not only focus on what's most absurd about it but also enjoy it right along with his audiences.
“I think my anger was very scattered and I’m not an angry person but that energy that’s on stage was very scattered and very frantic,” Johnson says. “I think doing this for six years and meeting so many people and going up in front of so many audiences and getting things that are immediately bothering me off my chest almost instantly that night because there’s always an open mic somewhere. I feel like I’ve made some strides. Professionally, I feel like I’ve definitely made some strides. Personally I’ve definitely made some strides. I’m nowhere near anywhere I want to be as an adult but I’m thankful for where I am as an adult.”
Johnson, a Funniest Comic in Texas finalist who has become one of Dallas/Fort Worth’s must-see comedians, has been plotting his first stab at a live comedy album for the last three years when he “felt confident enough” to commit enough material to a full album. All he needed was the right moment and it finally happened when the head of the Denton-based label Gitmo Music chose him to record their first comedy album in their discography.
“The head of the company [Keldrick Scott] had seen me do standup a couple of times around Denton and followed me on Twitter and he was like a friend of mine,” Johnson says. “He approached me one day at Andy's Bar while watching a show and asked ‘Have you thought about doing an album?…I want to help you make this thing happen. Whatever you need.' It was super awesome for him to do that.”
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Most comics who decide to record their first album usually go with material that they’ve been honing and refining for years, but Johnson says he wanted to make his live album and video as close to a real comedy club experience as possible. That required doing a lot of brand new material, except for some choice jokes that he feels are more important to his career including one that his mom Gina Bivens wants to hear on the album because “I can’t say no to her.”
“I want it to feel as organic as possible, as close to you being in an actual comedy club with me, not just yakking it up but that you feel that natural conversation going on between the audience and the comedian on stage,” Johnson says. “I think you get that by taking a chance and going, ‘Hey, I haven't done this joke a million times. I’ve only done it five but I betcha it could work because I feel that joke so deeply' or however doesn’t sound weird.
“The title Tabitha itself is part of a joke, but it’s one of my favorite jokes. It isn’t a good joke, but it’s what I feel is one of the most important jokes and I think it really sums up who I am as a person and a comedian,” he says. “I like to think this is going to be a pretty personal album, while not sounding too heavy. We’re gonna have fun on it but it’s a very personal project in that’s it’s a symbol of the last six years of my life and what I feel like they’ve counted towards.”