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Silly Songwriter Phil Johnson Filming Musical Comedy Special At SLG Art Boutiki & Gallery

In Music
Licks and Laughs: Comedian Phil Johnson tickles crowds with his jocular jams.

Licks and Laughs: Comedian Phil Johnson tickles crowds with his jocular jams.

Comedian Phil Johnson never expected to earn a living making people laugh. As an established guitarist with a degree in music, he had a very different vision of the path his career would take. “I had rockstar dreams like anybody else”, Johnson says.

He inadvertently stumbled into comedy songwriting when he penned a couple of humorous tunes for some friends, and was surprised at their reactions. His pals not only enjoyed the songs—they suggested he make a career out of his jokester jams.

“I was like, ‘No, no, no. It’s just a garbage song,’” recalls Johnson, who grew up in the Berryessa area of San Jose and now calls Milpitas home. But his friends persisted and he ultimately gave in. After drawing big laughs from crowds in San Francisco and elsewhere, Johnson realized he had found his calling. “It just kind of snowballed from there.”

Ten years later, Johnson is an established comic/musician with a resume that boasts two comedy specials and performances at such notable festivals as the Sundance Film Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. Now he is in final preparations for his third full-length comedy special, which will be filmed Nov. 8 at the SLG Art Boutiki & Gallery in downtown San Jose.

“I’ve been working on this [show] for about four years now.” Johnson says. He had originally planned to do it two years ago, but realized he wasn’t happy with the material, and spent two more years polishing the set.

While most comedians do straight stand-up or comedy music exclusively, Johnson’s act is a hybrid of the two, with about a third of his stage time devoted to just telling jokes. His act ranges from silliness to satire, and most of it is rather upbeat.

“My comedy isn’t too dark, because I’m a pretty happy person to begin with,” Johnson says. “But there is a little bit of social satire. I’m big on self awareness.” And though people will  come up to him after shows thanking Johnson for his refreshingly clean humor, that isn’t to say he pulls any punches—there are plenty of sexual references and four-letter words in his act to keep Johnson from the “squeaky-clean comic” classification. “Somehow I manage to do a lot of that stuff without coming off as a blue comic,” he says.

Phil Johnson is filming his new comedy special at SLG Art Boutiki & Gallery on Nov. 8. More info.

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