‘Upload’ Breakout Zainab Johnson on Handling ‘Especially Difficult’ Themes in Her ‘Hijabs Off’ Comedy Special (VIDEO)

Zainab Johnson needs to be our new Queen of Comedy. She’s just so good. And gutsy.

As Aleesha, one of the AI-afterlife managers on Prime Video‘s Upload, the former semi-finalist from Last Comic Standing has had three fire seasons of cracking us up in an ensemble element. But this past October, Johnson took center stage—and owned it from every angle!—for her first hour-long comedy special. Shot in the round at Harlem Stage in her New York hometown, Hijabs Off allows Johnson to finally showcase her brainy, brave and deeply personal material.

Zainab Johnson

Prime Video

“I feel like stand-up comedy started out as a transformative art form,” she notes in the video above. “And I really wanted to try to capture that thing that I used to watch when I was growing up.” Adding that she’s always been told that she “reveled in the silence” during her sets, Johnson acknowledges that she is not one of those comedians who wants her audience to be laughing non-stop. “I look at my comedy like a conversation, and that’s not how conversations go.”

In fact, throughout the special, which is currently streaming on Prime Video, Johnson—a Black female Muslim—adroitly navigates a slew of sensitive subjects that lesser comics may shy away from, especially in today’s cultural climate. “It’s a very interesting time,” she agrees. “There is the responsibility or the pressure of using your voice, speaking loud, and taking a side, for lack of better words. So it can feel really…hmmm…un-fun? Burdened, it’s burdened.” And despite having the best intentions and all the empathy in the world, as well as a dazzling knack for addressing issues without preaching, she realizes the pitfalls of having a platform.

“As an artist, sometimes you feel like you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.”

And damned if she doesn’t just slay in this special anyway.

Zainab Johnson: Hijabs Off, Streaming now, Prime Video