The comedian went viral at San Diego Comic-Con and hosts two regular shows in Phoenix.

Anwar Newton

Written by Jason P. Woodbury Category: Spotlight Issue: July 2017
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In 2014, Phoenix comedian Anwar Newton went viral when he attended San Diego Comic-Con under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms. Besieged by the pop culture blitz, he began texting a friend, and screen-captured images of his hallucinatory messages blew up on the online photo site Imgur. Newton’s bewildered response to the madness around him is indicative of his comedic approach. At his two regular events – monthly showcase Literally the Worst Show Ever at Valley Bar and weekly late-night show This Week Sucks, Tonight! on Thursdays at Crescent Ballroom – he’s quick to point out the daily absurdities we overlook. Like the 32-year-old’s comic inspirations Redd Foxx and Louis C.K., Newton pivots from dry wit to animated fervor, his sharp gaze focused on pointing out the foibles of everyone – including himself. 

One of the things you are best known for is your creation of Ja Rule Day. The rapper himself acknowledged it on Twitter. When is Ja Rule Day? how did you wind up creating it? 
Ja Rule Day is December 9, and it was literally the day I decided to make it “Ja Rule Day.” There’s no method to the madness, it’s not his birthday or anything… I just woke up on December 8 and heard a Ja Rule song. I hadn’t heard a Ja Rule song in years. So I decided the next day I was just going to celebrate Ja Rule. 

Comics often draw on their own obsessions for their comedy. Do you love Ja Rule? 
Of course I do. When Ja Rule was making music, we lived in a simpler time. It’s very nostalgic, and nostalgia is a hell of a drug for a lot of people. For me, Ja Rule takes me back to high school, to the carefree environment we lived in before the Internet was as rambunctious as it is now.

Ja Rule was in the headlines recently for his involvement in the Fyre Festival, dubbed “The Hunger Games for rich people.” Do you have a take on that? 
My [Twitter] mentions started popping. I got finished with a show the night it broke and 1, 2 a.m., I’m getting tagged, with people tweeting at me, “Ja Rule is in the news!” But of course I take Ja Rule’s side. [laughs] 

You host a weekly show called This Week Sucks Tonight!, about news and pop culture. Is it ever hard for you to find sucky things?
I’m a very negative person. [laughs] That’s one thing you have to know about me. What I try and do is turn my negativity into clown hour. I love to wallow in filth; I love to roll around in trash. I enjoy the deplorable elements of this world. I love garbage. I’m always trying to be negative, but that negativity is where I find a lot of my humor. 

There’s been no shortage of things for you to talk about in recent months. 
Oh, yes. Especially with the current political and social atmosphere. There’s a lot of very tense racial [stuff], lines being drawn in the sand. A lot of people very hurt, very upset, and very betrayed by their country. A lot of comedians are just nervous to touch these subjects. They’re just walking on eggshells. But you know what? I’ve always just loved to ignore the rage that comes with that and just find the humor in that. I feel like comedy has come under assault. People look for it to answer questions, and I think if you’re looking for comedy to answer your questions, your life is already [expletive] up. With the show, I always tell people: Let’s take our conversations offline… let’s build a forum, get your [ideas] off your chest, because sitting online festering is not going to help anybody.

Your Comic-Con rant went viral a few years ago. How did that affect your work?
At that point I was barely doing open mics… I was just sorta getting into it. But…it showed me I was funny. That scenario gave me a platform, and people thought it was hilarious. It made me say to myself, “You’re funny. Stop questioning it and go out there and do it.”