Anthony “AJ” Johnson, actor and comedian, died at the age of 55.
Johnson’s death was confirmed by his representative to multiple news outlets. However, no cause of death has been disclosed at this time.
According to TMZ, Johnson’s nephew described a medical issue that occurred a month prior. Johnson was discovered lifeless in a Los Angeles store earlier this month and rushed to a hospital. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Johnson’s representative, A Comedian’s Comedian LyNea Bell, confirmed the news to multiple news outlets.
“The world of comedy has been shook once more,” Bell told USA Today. “He has left us with incredible memories of his laughter, dynamic acting abilities, but most importantly, his colossal personality and golden heart.
“We will continue to pray for his entire family, including his wife Lexis, three children, brother Edward ‘Peanut’ Smith, sister Sheila, and Mike D., his lifelong manager and friend. Kindly allow them the time they require to process and grieve such a significant loss.”
Johnson starred in a number of films that became underground cinematic cult classics.
A 1990s Film Star
In the first installment of the “Friday” film franchise, his character Ezal is a cultural icon. The minor role took center stage, inspiring the famous catchphrase, “You got knocked the &%*# out!”
That occurred in 1995.
However, Johnson’s body of work predates that pivotal moment. Johnson made his film debut in 1989’s “Lethal Weapon 3,” and he reprised his role as EZE in the classic 1990s film “House Party.” He also appeared in the cult classic Los Angeles street film “Menace II Society” from 1993.
Johnson also starred in the films “The Players Club” and “BAPS.” He did, however, make his feature film debut in Master P’s “I Got The Hook Up.”
In 2019, he reprised the classic cult role in “I Got The Hook Up 2.”
The film was released in 1998, at the height of Master P’s and No Limit Records’ popularity. Johnson portrayed “Blue,” an endearing hustler who transports cellphones throughout the hood with the assistance of an always-ready “Black,” played by Master P.
The Original Self-Deprecation of the Small Man
Johnson’s signature routine featured a small man complex. It existed long before Kevin Hart perfected it, and his facial gestures solidified his style.
Johnson was a pioneer of the Def Comedy Jam circuit and was part of the wave of comedians who became screen stars in the 1990s.
Johnson also guest starred on classic crossover television shows such as “Martin” and “Malcolm & Eddie.”
Johnson grew up in Compton, California, and was honored today via Twitter by Ice Cube.
“I was saddened to awaken to the news of AJ Johnson’s death. Naturally funny dude who was also straight outta Compton. Regrettably, I was unable to reintroduce your character Ezal to the big screen in Last Friday.”
Johnson, in his own unique way, elevated the supporting character to a central role in a film. Johnson was always a sidekick to the main character and possessed an uncanny ability to steal the show with his branded shenanigans.
He paved the way in his own way, inspiring the type of comedy that many now take for granted on social media. Johnson was fearless, amusing, and self-deprecating whenever he appeared on screen.