Review: In ‘Elements,’ Jo Koy juggles time between being a comic, a travel guide

Dominic Menor, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 16 2020 02:46 PM

Part standup, part nostalgia trip. That’s “In His Elements,” Jo Koy’s latest comedy special to hit Netflix, a gig he calls “the highlight of his career.”

The Tacoma, Washington-raised comedian has had two such shows on the streaming service, but “Elements” is different in that it was shot in the Philippines, his mother’s homeland, and he shares the spotlight with other US-based Filipino artists.

“We’re gonna showcase Filipino culture to the world tonight,” Jo Koy says at the start.

He delves into some of that — the dance culture, for example, featuring the Tenement community and one of Jo Koy’s buddies, online b-boy sensation Ronnie Abaldonado.

“This is where we’re from, man. This is our bloodline,” Abaldonado says. “It’s humbling. It’s a big honor to be here.”

Jo Koy also takes stand-up comics Joey Guila and Andrew Lopez — children of Filipino immigrants and first-time Manila visitors — for a jeepney ride. He tags along another friend, comic Andrew Orolfo, to check out Farmers Market in Cubao to try local adobo. 

“Filipino breakfast at its best. Point, point,” Jo Koy says, as he treats Guila and Lopez to street breakfast, or turo-turo, for the uninitiated.

Ramon Ibanga Jr., aka record-producer Illmind, who provides music for the special, makes an appearance, too. 

“We give our people the chance to realize that it’s possible (to succeed),” says Ibanga, who has collaborated with Drake, J. Cole and many other music A-listers. 

Which means, Jo Koy replies looking straight at the camera, “I don’t have to be a nurse.”

Fans long entertained by Jo Koy’s jokes about nurses, his mom Josie, and the Filipino accent won’t be disappointed. 

To add to that, he talks about his auntie Evelyn and how his nom de comédien came about. (Like all origin stories, it starts with a mix-up.)

“Elements” is a case of came for the comedy, stayed for the side trips, the latter one wishes there were more of.

If this were purely a travelogue featuring Jo Koy making observations of the country in the company of his friends and then those comedic musings were spread out over an 8-part series, that would truly live up to this being a showcase of Filipino culture. 

(It would be interesting to see him do something similar to “Conan Without Borders.” Like “Jo Koy Without Boundaries,” perhaps?)

This special tried to show a bit of heart (with The Tenement segment), a bit of history (with the jeepney), and a bit of what Pinoys love to talk about most (their food). But those topics can’t be served piecemeal.

Too many, well, elements were crammed into one hour and that diluted a lot of what could’ve made it a compelling watch.

Follow this writer on Twitter @dommenor.