Janelle James strutted onto Campbell Hall’s stage playing “Pretty Girls Walk” by Big Boss Vette and stated, “That’s as much of Ava that y’all are getting out of me tonight.” With a sold out show of over 800 people, her April 26 set was nothing short of honesty and laughter.
The Associated Students Program Board hosted “A Night of Comedy with Janelle James,” where James delivered entertaining jokes and was candid about her experience in rising rapidly to fame from starring in the multi-award-winning sitcom “Abbott Elementary.” The multi-award nominee got her big Hollywood break through the highly favored and fresh sitcom, “Abbott Elementary.” The mockumentary show takes place at an elementary school in Philadelphia, highlighting the hard work and contribution of teachers and faculty. With the show having over 30 nominations within the past two years, James’s character and acting contributes to these accolades. Starring as Principal Ava Coleman, James’s character has perfect comedic timing with her creative insults and even more creative ways of spending the school’s money. With anticipation of her performance, James was welcomed to the stage by her best friend and comedian Hadiyah Robinson.
She started her set off with discussing how fame was not something prevalent on her agenda. Although comedy is what landed her the role on “Abbott Elementary,” she did not expect to rise to fame in the way that she did.
“It’s been wild to be famous … it’s not something I’ve ever wanted, so it’s kind of traumatic for me … surprise!” she stated during her time on stage.
She complimented her skills in acting by pointing out the contrast between her character.
“My character, that’s all she wants, so that’s some supreme acting on my part,” James said.
She continued to talk about the kind of fame she desired to have and how she believed she’d be in control of how favored she was.
“I wanted like a Hannibal Buress type of fame. Anybody know who that is?” The crowd murmured — with some in agreement and some in confusion — as she proceeded to say, “you see that? … Perfect level of fame.”
During her set, James joked about having to step away from reading what is said about her online.
“I used to spend so much time online, typing in all caps, blocking, unfriending,” she said.
James talked about how people would critique her acting, but she believes that “Some of my best work is where you guys come up to me in the streets … I’m killing this shit for free.”
She started her career as an entertainer doing standup with her debut comedy album “Black and Mild” being released in 2017. Doing writing for shows such as Apple TV’s “Central Park,” “Black Monday” and “The Rundown with Robin Thede,” James has continued to pick up comedy with her “Newly Famous” tour going to numerous states in the country.
James did not hold back on her jokes as she closed her show off with an audience Q&A. With viewers favoring her character on “Abbott Elementary” for her vibrant personality, they asked who James would prefer to play over her character.
“That’s a question for another character, and then they’ll say me … maybe the janitor, he’s funny,” James said.
With “Abbott Elementary” being her first major role in television, James opened up about getting over rejection in the acting industry.
“You have to get over that; a lot of this game is a false confidence,” James said. “A lot of people are losers, so if you can have a little bit of confidence you’re already so much higher than anyone else.”
She also revealed the truth about the comedy industry and how it is very apparent that even fans can overlook female comedians:
“I’m sure you could name more male comedians than you could name women, and men will make you feel like you don’t belong or that they’re better than you. They’re never better than us,” she stated. “The biggest obstacle is to get everybody over that ‘women aren’t funny’ bullshit … they have to support us so that we can make a living and help other women come up.”
With a standing ovation to send her off, James exited the stage the same way she entered, strutting to “Pretty Girls Walk”.
With “Abbott Elementary” being renewed for a third season, fans of James’s acting and character can expect to see more of her soon and can stream all episodes of season one and two on Hulu.
This appeared in the May 4th Daily Nexus printed edition.
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