Gospel, comedy tonight at Livingstone

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 22, 2011

By Laurie D. Willis
Livingstone College News Service
SALISBURY — If you spend more than a few minutes around Salisbury’s Willette Johnson and don’t chuckle a time or two, something’s probably wrong with your “funny bone.”
That’s because Johnson is a gospel comedienne who’s known for making people laugh until they just about start crying.
Tonight at 7, Johnson will bring her talent to Livingstone College’s Tubman Little Theatre, where she and others will perform in a show she’s calling “The Igniting of GUFU.”
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door.
Johnson officially started performing her gospel comedy routine at churches two years ago. Originally from Merritt Island, Fla., she is a member of Dorsett Chapel United Church of Christ in Spencer, where she has performed.
She considers tonight’s performance to be her “launch.” She said she wanted to perform at Livingstone College because she’s a woman of deep faith and identifies with the college, founded in 1879 by members of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. “I wanted to start at Livingstone because irrespective of my beginnings, my home is in Salisbury,” Johnson said. “So if I was going to launch, I wanted to launch from a place that would provide me a lifting port based on the foundation of my faith.”
The show will include local gospel group Distinguished Gentlemen, who will sing two or three selections, a mime dancer, a woman who will perform spoken word and The Lexington Community Fellowship Mass Choir.
According to the urban dictionary, GUFU (pronounced goo-foo), means that essential something that makes a thing that which it is. Visit www.gufugospelcomedy.com for more information.
“Livingstone was founded on faith and hope. And that, to me, is what education does. It gives us a hope that no matter how we start out in life we will be able to obtain a good quality of life and end up better than we started.”
Besides Dorsett Chapel, Johnson has also performed at Fairview Heights Baptist Church in Salisbury, as well churches in Lexington, Greensboro, Charlotte and the Washington, D.C. area.
She’s excited about tonight’s performance and said she hopes for a good turnout in Tubman, which seats 301.
“We’d be glad to have 500 people there, but we’d quickly say hello and then tell about 200 of them bye,” Johnson quipped.
Sherlyn Edwards, associate director of the physical plant at Livingstone College, has worked diligently to help Johnson with the logistics of tonight’s event. She has never heard Johnson perform but looks forward to the show.
“I know I and others who attend tonight’s performance are in for a treat,” Edwards said. “When I tell you this woman is funny, you can trust me on that because she is really funny.”
Johnson said she chose to incorporate GUFU into the title of her show because she liked the word’s sound and meaning.
Although she’s known around town for her ability to make people laugh, Johnson said she’s actually introverted. Her joke telling developed, in part, because of her desire to make people smile.
Johnson said she gets both nervous and excited before a performance – because of who she’s trying to uplift with her message.
“I feel the greatest weight is to make sure we showcase the brightest star in the constellation, and that’s Jesus,” she said. “Our purpose is to showcase the gospel in a joyous way, believing that God has a sense of humor.”
To prove her point, Johnson added this nugget for good measure: “One of the things we tell people is God will meet you at the well,” Johnson said. “He’ll meet you at the well whether you’re near the well, about to do well or ain’t done well at all. Oh well. He’ll still meet you at the well.”