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Q&A: Jo Koy

After getting his start in Las Vegas, Jo Koy has become one of today’s most in-demand comedians with his takes on American-Filipino family life and what a true functional family looks like.

Donna Leahey
November 28, 2018

Jo Koy (born Joseph Glenn Herbert) is riding high on comedic success. He’s the latest winner of the Stand-Up Comedian of the Year award from the prestigious Montreal Just for Laughs Festival. His current tour, “Break the Mold,” has gone worldwide after the success of his Netflix special Live from Seattle. Koy is likable, engaging, and relatable as he roams the stage and shares stories about his Filipino mom, his son, his sister’s family, and more. His humor is infectious and universal.

Q. Your comedy seems to focus a lot on the dynamics of your family. Has your mom seen your act?
A. Oh yeah. Of course. A million times. She loves it. Nothing wrong with the truth, you know what I mean? I keep the stories real, so she appreciates that.

Q. You have a very popular podcast.
A. I got the one, it’s called The Koy Pond. Adam Carolla actually produces it. So, it’s cool. I get to use his office and his people cut it up for me. It’s really nice, they do a lot of work for us and it’s been great ever since. And, of course, I do the Carolla podcast a lot too, so I’m kind of a feature on there.

Q. Is it true you got your start at a coffee house in Las Vegas?
A. That was a coffee house called Fuzzy’s Cafe. It was right by the college there, UNLV, and every Wednesday night they’d do open mic there. And, of course, I went and that’s where it all started for me. It went from like a couple people watching to packed to the back where I had to find my own place to perform again, because people were coming out to see me.

Q. What’s the tour about?
A. It’s so crazy what’s going on this tour. We all decided that we wanted to do a world tour. We didn’t think it was really going to happen. And then later on, these dates started coming up, and next thing you know I’m in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, London, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Amsterdam … It was crazy, just to see the reach that it did. I didn’t know Netflix was that big a deal. I knew it was big, but I didn’t know it was that big of a deal, where the whole world used it, you know? And I had no idea that they understood what I was talking about, but they do. They get it. They get our humor, they get our everything.

It’s a whole new hour. It’s not what you saw on the last special. If you saw Live from Seattle, it’s completely different.  

Q. Your humor frequently deals with race. Do you find your humor is received differently in our current climate?
A. Nah, it’s the same. You know, I do it in the way where it’s not offensive but it’s more like, you know, you relate to it. I’m doing an accent with my mom and you know, when I do the other ones, people just relate. It’s funny. Like when my mom met Andre. It’s so great. I love that joke. Calling my mom out on that, it’s so funny.

Q. You have an album available on iTunes.
A. It’s the Netflix special [Live from Seattle]. Audio version. It was very well received.

Q. Tell us about This Functional Family, your series coming out on TruTV.
A. It took me a while to sell that show, but TruTV finally gave me the greenlight. It’s based on my stand-up. It’s pretty cool. It all stemmed from me just feeling like everyone looks at my family as this dysfunctional family because we come from divorce. My mom is divorced. My son’s mommy and I divorced and she’s got the boyfriend, but you know, we all get along. From the outside, it just doesn’t look real, but I think we’re the best family out there. I mean, we function so well together, and that’s where I got This Functional Family from. We’re more functional than those other people out there.

Q. You won Stand-Up Comedian of the Year at the Just for Laughs Awards Show.
A. That was amazing. You know, they got the Montreal Just for Laughs. When you’re a stand-up comic just starting out, everyone knows about Just for Laughs. It’s our World Series. It’s our Super Bowl. Every comic in the world is there. And when I say every comic in the world, I mean every comic you can think of is out there.

And that celebration was just beautiful. And I was honored. The people in different categories were amazing too.  Hannah Gadsby won, Tiffany Haddish won, Lil Rel [Howery], the writers for GLOW [Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch], they won. So, it was a great class of people who won.

It was so special, very emotional too. I think all of us cried when we are onstage. Rightfully so, because being a comic is a tough job. And it’s like we’re constantly selling ourselves. No matter how successful we get, we always got to sell the reason why we’re a comedian and why we’re not household names yet. Howie Mandel gave me the award. Mark Maron, Dave Chapelle and Kevin Hart were in the audience. It just felt really good to have my peers there to witness that.

Q. Have you been to Tulsa before?
A. No, I haven’t. You got a Waffle House there? If so, then I’m happy.

Jo Koy
Paradise Cove | River Spirit Casino Resort
8330 Riverside Parkway | Tulsa
Dec. 7: 8 p.m.
Must be 21 or older to attend