Fifteen minutes into his routine at Honolulu’s Blaisdell Arena, and Jo Koy has the audience roaring. After making hilarious impressions of laidback, slipper-wearing Hawaiians and a handful of Asians, he moved on to the similarities between Filipinos and Mexicans. “It goes deeper than Vicks Vapor Rub,” he deadpans, after which he cracks a joke about a 15-year-old girl and her quinceñera.
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At the punchline (we won’t spoil it for you), the audience half-groans and half-chuckles. But the 48-year-old quickly waves it off, asking everyone to not be too sensitive. “Stereotypes are funny because they’re true. We all have stereotypes. Embrace it. Fuck it. Laugh at it. Who gives a shit? Not all Filipinos are nurses but a lot of you motherfuckers are,” he exclaims, as the crowd comes back to laughing agreement.
That last stereotype is often part of the comedian’s schtick, along with other tidbits of his Filipino-American life and upbringing which include the crazy tales he’s collected about his son Joe and mother Josie. Jo Koy, whose real name is Joseph Glenn Herbert, has been in standup since 1994, and his brand of storytelling comedy has brought him to everything from popular late night shows to several distinguished stages in the US.
The comedian replied to a few of ANCX’s questions on the heels of Comin’ In Hot, his second special for Netflix.
Your mother is often the subject of your stand-up. How does she feel about being the butt of your jokes?
She loves it. She’s always trying to suggest more stories to tell.
At what point did you realize that you wanted to do this as a full-time career?
When I was 11 year old watching Eddie Murphy on Delirious.
Why do you think your brand of comedy resonates so much with American audiences?
I just tell stories about my family and at the end of the day, your mom isn’t any different than my mom. We can all relate.
What does your son think of your comedy?
He loves it. He’s enjoying the fruits my labor and I’m glad that he is.
In terms of stand up, what is a line you won’t cross?
Comedy is no different than Music. There are genres so you won’t ever see me getting political. I’m more storytelling so I’ll leave the political comedy to the other guys like John Stewart and Trevor Noah.
What have you learned from your son?
I’ve learned that my son was a lot cooler and more confident than I was as at his age, and without my son I wouldn’t have much to talk about on-stage.
About your early years in standup...is there a worst memory and a best memory?
Just finding stage time was hard to do. I literally had to rent out my own space to perform until I got a fanbase. The journey was very long, but so worth the ride.
Writers each have their own rituals. What is yours?
I like to work my jokes out on-stage and that’s the best way to be creative when writing.
What’s the best thing about doing what you do?
I love what I do. I love getting on-stage and just making people laugh.