Josh Johnson could’ve taken it easy. The comedian and Daily Show writer could’ve followed his 2017 comedy album I Like You with another typical stand-up record, an hour or so of him telling jokes in front of an audience, and still gotten the attention he deserves based on how damn funny he is. Instead he’s created something unique: Elusive is a 33-track mixtape that combines music and live stand-up together, letting Johnson touch on moods, vibes and emotions that aren’t always feasible with either music or comedy alone.
“Using the tools of music and comedy helps to tell a more complete story,” Johnson tells Paste. “The whole purpose of comedy is to make people laugh so even when things go to a dark or controversial place there is still supposed to be an uplifting ending. Music has all the tools, emotions, and timelessness of the human experience, and comedy is how we process all of those things.”
Comedy, of course, is Johnson’s main form of expression. The Louisiana native is a still-young stand-up veteran, and before joining The Daily Show’s staff wrote for Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show. Music is new for him, though; Elusive isn’t just the first time he’s released music, it’s the first time he’s created music. So, what lessons from stand-up can a first-time musician bring to the songwriting process?
“Comedy is all about timing and getting to the memorable moments,” Johnson says. “With music the entire song is the moment. Having to work on a body of work where every moment is important was very different. It actually reshaped how I think about comedy, if I can make every moment of my jokes important from premise to punchline I’ll truly be doing something special.”
Elusive comes out on June 11, but here’s a little preview of what you can expect. Johnson’s shared one song and two stand-up tracks from Elusive with Paste, along with a few notes for each. Check ‘em out below, and keep an eye out for Elusive when it hits streaming services and music shops on June 11.
“This is about the feeling you get when you first fall for someone. Imagine cruising on an eternal highway with your crush, nothing but you two and the road. I wrote this along with Groovebox to pen a perfect summer jam infused with instant nostalgia. Groovebox performs pillow talk lyrics with rich melodies that start the listener on a journey in a four part love story I tell between jokes onstage.”
“In a year that was filled with uncertainty, and everyday seeming more and more like an apocalypse movie, I contend with how I can go about defending myself and the people I love in case society collapses. Imagine rushing to get supplies to survive armageddon with the timing of someone doing their Christmas shopping December 24th. Even after returning home with a weapon I realizes I don’t have the training, skill, or size to use it effectively.”
”’Dating Profile’ is a description of how the ideals and expectations in dating have changed not just in the modern age, but with the advent of a global pandemic. I calls comparison to a time where the standards were much higher and highlights the confidence with which men meet those new low expectations. The subtle fact that as a person’s ability to move through the world freely is diminished, so too is any ability to be picky.”