When Houston-based news-producer-turned-comic Jenny Johnson a few months ago tweeted controversial R&B artist Chris Brown—who found himself in an awful media glare in 2009 amid charges he’d hit his singer-girlfriend Rihanna—she had no idea she’d end up a “hot topic” on The View, having temporarily shamed the superstar into quitting the social media network. Now with TV and book deals in the works, not to mention 380,000 Twitter followers of her own, the 34-year-old razor-tongued blonde and stepmom of two sounds off on the infamous feud, her dedication to stupid celebrities and life post-Twitter-tantrum.
OK, so there you were, reading Chris Brown’s Twitter feed in November. And you decided to reply. I was in Galveston, hanging out with my [energy exec] husband at our beach house. I couldn’t think of anything to tweet. I usually write five to six times a day. I just looked at Chris Brown’s feed to see what was happening, like I usually do with Kim Kardashian or Tara Reid. It’s the lowest form of joke writing, really. He wrote, “I look old as f---,” and I replied, “I know! Being a worthless piece of s--- can really age a person.” A few minutes later my friend, who’s a writer on Modern Family, texted me and told me [Brown] had replied. Within minutes, I had 2,000 “at” replies—a mix of Chris Brown fans and mine. My husband was, like, “Leave it alone.” I should have.
But you didn’t. You and Brown were going back and forth. Well, that wasn’t the first time he had ever replied to me. It’s happened before. My reply, though, was not well thought out or well-crafted.
But it was pretty funny. The exchange exploded online, with coverage and opinions even from the ladies on The View. Elizabeth Hasselbeck came to your defense, calling Brown’s tweets to you “verbal rape.” Well, I don’t know that Elizabeth was taking up for me. I think she was trying to serve up some controversy. I mean, she used the words “verbal rape.”
Honestly, I’m over the whole thing. It became much bigger than I expected. I hate that I’ll be forever associated with him. When I heard my name on CNN, I was, like, “Oh, man. I don’t want to be the Chris Brown chick.” It was never-ending. When he said, “Ask Rihanna if she’s mad,” when he deleted his Twitter account, I knew it was going to be something. Then people started talking about me. My friend Natalie Maines [of the Dixie Chicks] told me to stay off the Internet. I had 15-year-olds tweeting me that they’re going to kill me. People said they were going to stab me in the neck.
Thankfully, you were a news producer for a decade. You know how the cycle works. It comes and then it goes. I have to ask, now that you’re a comic, wasn’t this exciting and career-making for you? You were even asked to write about it for GQ. I don’t think so. I’d already sold a television pilot. I’m working on a book. My Twitter followers were like 300,000 before and about 380,000 now, and I don’t know that all that is because of Chris.
Something tells me he takes some of the credit. When I read about this, I just thought you were another comic doing your job. My job is not to pick fights. It’s my job to be entertaining, to give people some laughter in their day. Anything I write—essays, tweets—it’s just to make people laugh. I don’t think I’m ever meant to ever be taken seriously. I wrote one time that my stepdaughter ate the last bowl of cereal, and I said that I backed over her with my car. I shouldn’t have watched The View. They said I did it for attention. They said, “Who’s she, she’s a nobody, she got what she wanted.” Listen, ladies, I put little or no effort into that exchange. I didn’t do this for attention. Don’t you think I would have done The View when they asked me to? That’s what prompted me to write my response for GQ. I wanted to set the record straight. But I’m not sorry for any of it. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not apologizing for it. Honestly, for me, it wasn’t the kind of attention I wanted. I didn’t even want to talk about this anymore. This whole interview isn’t just about Chris Brown, right? I blocked him, he blocked me. You can ask me anything else if you want.
Deal. Any plans for another celebrity feud? Uh, no. I plan on writing more observational humor. I do it from time to time. I recently tweeted about these moms who write all over their cars about their kids. Like, “Hey mom! Good job with the perverts following you home. Now everyone knows your daughter is a cheerleader and knows her name.” It’s a little f----d up.
I have a lot of friends who post pictures of their kids in the bathtub. Do you not realize that’s f----d up? I was a television news producer for 10 years. People just don’t realize what’s out there, that there’s some sicko out there saying, “Awesome.”
Who’s the last celebrity you tweeted? Tara Reid. Bless her heart, she’s just not smart. Late at night, the Ambien kicks in and she starts writing things, terribly misspelled. She’s one of those people, like Kim Kardashian. She tweets how hard she’s working or asking for prayers that she makes her plane to Australia. I’m like, “Sorry, cancer kids! Your prayers are going elsewhere.”
So what’s up with your sitcom? It’s loosely based on my own life. A production company bought the idea before I had ever written anything. In the script and in real life, my husband is in the oil and gas business. I’m 34 and stepparents to two kids. When we got together they were 8 and 11 years old. I never wanted to have kids. I’m not particularly good with kids. I did a lot of stuff that was f----d up. They loved me, and I was indifferent to them. I was living in Austin at the time. I did whatever I wanted to do, but then these kids came along. I would rather go out drinking, but I’d have to go to a piano recital or something. I thought that was something that would make a good TV show. I just turned in the script. Believe me, it’s a lot more fun than writing [as a TV journalist] about apartment fires in southwest Houston.