Cast of Caricatures 

Anjelah Johnson vies with Mike Epps for New Year's Eve comedy supremacy.

There are plenty of reasons why New Year's Eve is the biggest comedy night of the year. It follows on the heels of that great Trifecta that is Christmas-Hanukah-Kwanzaa, right about the time your post-holiday depression has reached its nadir. On a normal year, there's plenty to gripe about: lonely standard time; inclement weather; the ten pounds you gained over Christmas; and that last gift that broke your pocketbook. Add to that an economic recession which made 2008 look like a bleaker year than most. We no longer have the money to laugh the night away, but it's understandable that most of us want to do it anyway.

Around the last week of December, stand-up comedians start taking over small theater venues throughout the Bay Area: Paul Mooney does his week-long run at the Black Rep; Will Durst and friends descend on Dean Lesher and Julia Morgan; in San Francisco you have Bobby Slayton, Marga Gomez, Bucky Sinister, and W. Kamau Bell. Even Oakland has a couple hot tickets to offer, namely Mike Epps' Black Comedy Explosion at the Paramount, and at Tommy T's, former Raiderette Anjelah Johnson doing her latest sketch, "The Nail Shop Lady."

If nothing else can drag you out of the house this New Year's Eve, try those five titillating words: Anjelah Johnson's Nail Shop Lady. No, she's not all that funny. But when you think about it, the 26-year-old former NFL cheerleader has such an interesting and twisted pedigree, her sense of humor is really the last thing you need be concerned about. Johnson has two signature routines, both based on some timeworn caricature that she appropriated and made her own. First, a sassy fast-food worker named Bon Qui Qui with an exaggerated Rosie Perez voice. Second, a nail salon operator whose accent is bizarre and hard to place — it sounds about 20 percent rural Southern, and 80 percent like an American comedian trying to imitate a first-generation Vietnamese person. For some reason, this one seems to kill every time. It might be that the spectacle of Johnson performing the joke is funnier than the joke itself. That's worth $85 to $99 ... right?

If the prospect of watching an ex-Raiderette for two hours doesn't pique your interest, there's always good old Mike Epps, with his parodies of Michael Jackson and Sir Mix-a-Lot, and his rather candid memories of special education class. He'll take the stage at Oakland's Paramount Theater (2025 Broadway) on Dec. 31 (11 p.m., $39.75, $65.75, $75.75, Anjelah Johnson's "Nail Shop Lady" comes to Tommy T's Comedy Steakhouse (5104 Hopyard Rd., Pleasanton) Dec. 31-Jan. 4. $25-$100.


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