1 of 5 | Josh Johnson's second standup special, "Up Here Killing Myself," is streaming on Peacock. Photo courtesy of Peacock
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Comedian Josh Johnson's new comedy special, Josh Johnson: Up Here Killing Myself, streaming on Peacock, includes jokes about growing up poor and a harrowing police stop.
Johnson, 32, told UPI in a recent Zoom interview he works to find humorous beats throughout the story, even though they are based on true events.
"You don't want to just be telling this 10-minute story with one funny line at the end," Johnson said.
In the special, Johnson shares how a police officer pulls him over when driving with his family for having too many people in a single car.
After making Johnson wait several minutes, the punchline was that the officer surprisingly presented the Johnsons with a gift, not realizing they were terrified that the cop wouldn't let them go.
"It took choosing the words and choosing the rhythm of the story to get people to feel, hopefully, the way that I felt," Johnson said. "Any amount of time they're gone is going to feel like forever, but it wasn't like a full hourlong thing."
Looking back further into his childhood, Johnson talks about growing up poor. When he began losing teeth, he thought selling teeth to the tooth fairy was a moneymaking opportunity.
Johnson tells stories about trying to procure other teeth, and relatives helping him pull his own loose teeth.
"That's where a lot of artistic license gets taken," he said.
He honed the set on tour, figuring out the most concise way to tell the story and which sections could be cut. Johnson said his family responds amusedly to his recollections.
"It's more like, 'Oh, is that how you remember it?'" Johnson said. "They also know that I'm doing a show and that I'm trying to present it in a way that feels universal to people."
Johnson has been performing standup since 2012 and writing for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah since 2017. Johnson said he grew up admiring comedians and realized he had a unique perspective when discussing his life with childhood friends.
"When you're little, you're like, oh, everyone eats at this time or goes to bed at this time," Johnson said. "It's not until you start sharing experiences with your friends when you're little that you realize, oh wow, no, maybe we're the only ones who do something."
The feelings of poverty lasted into adulthood, Johnson said. Performing standup spots at clubs in New York, Johnson had to carefully navigate the city.
"I'm fortunate enough that in New York you can get around really easily, so I can do multiple sets a night," he said. "You have to be really careful how you maneuver because just a couple Ubers could set you back the whole night's worth of pay."
Johnson said his steady gig on The Daily Show allowed him to finally relax about money. A pivotal moment was going to the grocery store and not having to meticulously budget his food purchase.
"It wasn't until I was leaving a grocery store and I realized I did that that I was like, 'Oh man, this is crazy,'" Johnson said.
Peacock filmed Up Here Killing Myself at the beginning of 2022. He has a new hour of material he's been performing on the road since.
Johnson plans to eventually record that, too. Fans who attend his live shows will hear Johnson tackle material from his more recent life than childhood.
"You'll get a real sense of the way that I handle problems as they come at me," Johnson said. "I don't handle things well."
Johnson's upcoming tour dates and tickets are available at JoshJohnsoncomedy.com.