Comedian Jo Koy is having a great year, even if he isn't having a great week. He's got the flu and he's spending the holidays in airports and hotel rooms as he travels around the country doing his stand-up show. Hair Balls got to talk to him between flights, after he had just spent two hours waiting on a tarmac, but he was his usual charming self (except for a few coughs and sniffles here and there).
Hair Balls: Thanks for talking to us. I'm sure it's rough being sick while you're on the road, so we appreciate you making time for us. How are you feeling, by the way?
Jo Koy: I can't complain. I love my job, I love what I do, and everybody can't say that these days. But it is really exhausting. I went from Australia to Miami to San Francisco to Texas all this last month, so it's been busy.
But I love me some Texas, I tell you that. Texas is the best. People are just there to have fun, and to laugh. It's very much a Texas-sized welcome.
HB: We talked to Josh Wolf recently ....
JK: Why'd you talk to Josh?
HB: He was here recording a project. And he said the same thing, that Texas audiences are ready to laugh.
JK: I love Josh. He opens for Larry the Cable Guy, so he has that whole southern thing down pat.
HP: Now, you and Josh got dissed not too long ago ...
JK: What? Who dissed us?
HP: Chuy, the little person who's Chelsea Handler's sidekick on Chelsea Lately, he got all the girls at the club you all were at.
JK: Oh man! Me and Josh just killed this show and we go to a club afterwards. People were lining up for Chuy, totally passing up Josh and I. One girl even waved Josh down and he's thinking, 'Oh, she wants to talk to me.' Then she says, 'Can you introduce me to Chuy?' (Laughs) And it's so funny the way Chuy reacts, like this is totally the way it's supposed to be. He gives us that look like, 'Hey, guys, watch this. This is how it all goes down.' There was one time when we were at the theater and he disappeared. We were all like, 'Where's Chuy?' and someone said, 'Oh, he left with two girls.' We were like, "WHAT?' Then later at the club, there he was with the two girls.
HP: One of the topics you talk about a lot in your routine is your son ...
JK: That's my everything right there.
HP: But of course, if he is everything you say he is -- that is obsessed with his penis, wild, and completely uninhibited -- once he hits puberty, you all are going to be in for some trouble.
JK: It's gonna be ridiculous. He still hates girls, though, I don't get it. Like he [didn't] want to get anything for his cousin for Christmas because she's a girl. My mom says I used to be just like that though, still it's funny seeing him walk around saying, 'I don't like girls!'"
HP: Your mom is also in your act quite a lot.
JK: You know what's crazy is that I was always scared to talk about my mother on stage, mostly because I didn't think people would get it. I always had these funny stories about her but I was scared to use them. Then one day, I just said, 'Screw it, I'm gonna tell these stories about my mom.' But I wanted to do it in a way where I didn't isolate the crowd, like Cosby did [not isolate the crowd.]. You didn't have to be black to understand Bill Cosby's experiences, so I wanted to do it in a way where you didn't have to be Filipino to understand my mom. And now people ask for bits about my mom.
I was in Kansas City and I didn't do the bit about my mom. At the end of my show, people were screaming, 'Jo-seph, Jo-seph!'
HP: That's what your mom calls you, right? Joseph.
JK: Right. And they wanted me to do my mom. So here I am at the end of my show, doing this new 25-minute bit on my mom that I've been working on, and they start yelling, 'Do the Wii, do the Wii!' (Note: The audience is referring to a bit Koy does about his mom merciless beating him at Wii bowling and tennis.) So they loved the new stuff and they still wanted some of the old stuff too.
In Houston, I'm doing a whole new routine, with a lot on my mom and some more on my son.
HP: How does your mom react to the pieces you do about her?
JK: Oh, whatever I do, she loves. She's a big ham and she just loves the attention. Even if I do something that's real exaggerated, she does not care, she'll stand up and say, (in his mom's voice) 'That's me. That is me. Oh my God, I do that.' My half-hour special, she wore a red jacket, a hot red jacket. She stood out like a sore thumb. I know why she wore it, so everyone could see she was my mom. (In mom's voice again) 'Here I am, right here!' This is coming from the same mom who said I couldn't be a comedian.
HP: Really? Didn't she think you were funny?
JK: Oh, like any first-generation parent, especially coming from the Philippines to America, the last thing you want is for your kids to make a bad career choice. Being a comedian isn't really a stable job and that's very important to my mom. My mom busted her ass so her kids could go to college and get a good job. The last thing she wants is for her son to be a comedian. She thought I'd always have to work open mike and not make any money. She wanted me to do something with benefits and a retirement plan. I understand, but I always told her, 'Mom, this is what I was born to do. It's my passion, and I'm funny. I wanna do this.' It took her a while, like eight years, to come around. In the beginning, I was still struggling, and living at home and she'd say, 'Why don't you get a full-time job and do comedy as a hobby?' But she didn't know there's passion involved in this job. Sometimes you just have to struggle and eat a lot of crackers until you break out.
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Finally, it started to happen for me and now my mom takes full credit. She tells everybody, (In mom's voice) 'Oh, I knew he was going to be a comedian. He was always so funny. Even when he was inside my vagina, he was funny.' (To a passerby in his regular voice) Hey man, how are you? (Back to mom's voice) 'The umbilical cord was his first microphone.' So she takes all the credit.
HP: One of the things that's real noticeable about your style is that you use lots of whispers and quiet moments on stage. Some guys are just bam, bam, bam, but you have real dynamics to your performance.
JK: Thank you. When I got my Comedy Central special there were a lot of people saying, 'He's got a lot of energy and energy is what carries his comedy, ba, ba, blah.' I wasn't really getting credit for my acting ability, my performance and my writing. So my whole goal when I got the special, the one thing I wanted to show them that I could take them to another place. I wanted to show them I could do the physical stuff, but I also wanted to get into a character and tell a story. I wanted to showcase my acting and take them into another world. So I told my manger, 'Watch what I do on this set. I'm gonna do something completely different.' And I did.
Jo Koy performs at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday, 7 and 9 p.m. Sunday. Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit www.improvhouston.com. $18 to $20.