The joy of being Jo Koy
Jo Koy is about to tell his funniest jokes yet.
The Filipino-American stand-up comedian is coming to the motherland for his sold-out shows—The Theatre at Solaire in Manila, and Waterfront Hotel & Casino in Cebu—and it’s nothing like his fans have seen or heard before.
“This is all new. If you’re expecting the Netflix special, it’s not. This is all new stuff, even better, I think. You like the Netflix (show)? You’re gonna love this! I have some gems waiting for you,” Jo (or Josep, as his fans and his mother fondly call him), told Super during a phone interview.
The 46-year-old stand-up comic is confident. After all, Jo and his fans here have something in common—a Filipino mom. He never runs out of stories about his mother, Josie Harrison, who has the propensity to heal all types of illness with Vicks VapoRub and whose discipline methods border on child abuse, something Filipino kids are familiar with.
Even at age 11 Jo was pretty confident that he was funny enough to become a jokester one day. He made his debut at a bar during open mic night.
“I was so bad, that was a long long time ago. I was just out of high school. I don’t remember, it was the worst routine I’ve ever done; I bombed so bad. I was like a deer in front of the headlights; I just froze,” he told Super.
But Jo had come a long way from the nervous underage dreamer. He graduated from a Las Vegas café and eventually had numerous TV stints on shows like “Chelsea Lately,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” where he received a standing ovation.
He was confident, all right, but he had the balls to go the extra mile—produce his own show.
“I didn’t wanna wait anymore. I didn’t wanna sit around and wait for someone to offer to do (a show) for me. So, I finally just decided to do it myself, and when it was all said and done I sold it to Netflix, they bought it from me. It turned out to be a great decision, thank God,” he said.
The production cost a lot of money, but for Jo, it was money well spent.
“We didn’t cheap out on anything. We pretty much spent every dime that we could… I think the material is good but the overall look is beautiful,” he added.
The result is “Jo Koy: Live from Seattle,” an hourlong Netflix special that makes viewers cackle, tear up and pee a little. Some clips from the show were uploaded on his Facebook page like “My mom helps me find my keys by not helping me find my keys,” which was viewed 9.5 million times. Let the numbers speak for itself.
Since “Live from Seattle” was uploaded early this year, Jo has gone around the United States and performed in packed theaters and clubs. He sold 45,000 tickets (13 shows) at The Blaisdell Concert Hall in Honolulu.
The Philippine shows will not be available on Netflix, but Jo is already planning his next special for the streaming site.
Production aside, what makes Jo outrageously funny are his family stories. He talks about his mom who “hustled” her way to America by marrying a member of the US Army.
“I think it took me about 10 years to figure out how to finally sell my mom. I didn’t wanna do it the easy way, that took a while, how to make people relate to it,” Jo said.
His spot-on imitation of his mother’s accent and his incredible stage presence make his fans remember that Filipino moms are all the same—they want their children to become nurses.
“Now (my mom) thinks I’m funny, but when I started stand-up she was like, ‘No, I don’t want my son to do this.’ You know how it is. (She) was discouraging me, telling me to go to college (and) do something else,” Jo said. “Finally I was like ‘No, you’ll see mom.’ And, of course, 20-something years later it finally happened.”
In 2005, when Jo went on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” he talked about his then 2-and-a-half-year-old son who mostly says “ba ba ba.” Now his boy Joe is a 14, struggling with math, puberty and the smelly odor it comes with.
How do we all know this? Because “Live from Seattle” is basically a 101 of Jo’s life. He tells his stories, and he’s not afraid to talk about his mom’s racist tendencies, or his masturbating adventures when he was a teen.
Strong fan base
“I don’t think you can ever say enough. I think the more you throw out (stories) the funnier it is, people relate more.” he said.
Super asked how his son feels about being a subject of his shows. Jo said: “He loves it! Especially (since it’s on) Netflix. The kids that go to his school have seen it, they repeat my jokes to him and he loves it, he loves the (attention).”
His hilarious stories ultimately became the reason he established a strong fan base in the Philippines. And now he is coming back to the Philippines! (His mom and his son are not joining him. No, he’s not gonna get paid with chicken and flip-flops.)
“Tell them I can’t wait! I can’t wait to come back to the Philippines, and I can’t wait to perform in front of my people,” Jo said.
Catch Jo Koy at The Theatre at Solaire on Nov. 30, 5 p.m., and Dec. 3, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.; and at Waterfront Hotel & Casino on Dec. 1, 9 p.m. Call Ticketworld at 8919999. Visit www.jokoy.com; stream “Jo Koy: Live from Seattle” on Netflix.
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