Sometimes, one Netflix special is all it takes. Just ask Jo Koy, the American-Filipino comedian who’s been selling out arenas around the world since his ‘Jo Koy: Live From Seattle’ began streaming in 2017.
And to think that it almost didn’t happen.
“They didn’t originally give me that special. They said ‘no’ to me at first,” Jo Koy tells Gulf News tabloid! ahead of his Dubai debut at the Coca-Cola Arena on January 20.
“Then my manager said to me, ‘you have the money, let’s just go out and make it ourselves’. I literally put everything into that special. Once they saw the special, they changed their mind and bought it.”
Jo Koy, who was born to an American father and Filipino mother in Washington, had been performing stand-up for 30 years before that special, winning fans with his hilarious observational comedy, mined mostly from his mixed-culture upbringing.
After dropping out of university to pursue stand-up, he first cut his teeth performing at a Las Vegas coffee house.
Then followed a series of open mic nights before he landed his regular gigs.
But it was his stint on Chelsea Handler’s Chelsea Lately show as a guest that gave him prominence in the US.
He would soon appear on prime time shows such as ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’, ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden’ and ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’.
In 2018, Jo Koy was given the prestigious Stand-Up Comedian of the Year award at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal.
And last year, he landed his second Netflix special ‘Comin’ In Hot’. He also has a weekly podcast, ‘The Koy Pond with Jo Koy’, which sees him riff on various topics with other fellow comedians.
Jo Koy’s UAE stop is the first leg of his ‘Just Kidding World Tour’, which will also take him to Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.
Ahead of his show, which will feature all new material, he spoke about his first performance in Dubai, his comedy inspirations and why he is more of a storyteller.
Hi Jo Koy, are you excited for your first performance in the UAE?
I’m so excited. Playing the Coca-Cola Arena is definitely a ‘bucket list’ item for me.
You’ve been performing for many years, but it was the Netflix special ‘Jo Koy: Live From Seattle’ that truly gave you a global fan base. What was the impact for you personally?
It’s been crazy. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and that first special on Netflix changed everything.
Your 16-year-old son and your mother feature a lot in your material. What do they think about that? Do they have a say in any of the jokes about them?
They love it. It’s been able to provide them a great life. For my mom it’s never enough stories about her. She’s always trying to suggest other stories I could tell onstage.
You’ve often credited your Filipina mom for your comedy career. Tell us a little about that.
My mom has always been an inspiration indirectly as she was always putting my sister and I in talent shows. When we both decided to pursue entertainment professionally we were ready.
Which other comedians do you think are killing it right now?
I love Bert Kreischer and Tom Segura.
Give us a little insight into your creative process. How do the jokes come?
Right now my son is 16 so he provides me with a lot of material to work with. I also like to make fun of myself and everyday life.
What are the comedy lines Jo Koy will not cross?
Comedy is no different than music. There are genres and I consider myself a storyteller. I like to tell stories about my family and personal experiences.
I don’t like to talk about politics. I leave the political comedy to the comedians like Trevor Noah.
Are you satisfied with the diversity in the stand-up and comedy industry? Or do you think more needs to be done for representation?
I love where we have gotten in the last couple of years. There has been huge improvements and I only see it going up from here.
How much time do you devote to your podcast ‘The Koy Pond’? And how do you decide which guests to bring on?
I dedicate as much time as possible when I’m not on the road. I love having my friends on the pod, and having great conversations with them.
You also invested in a restaurant. Why? And how’s that working out for you?
I always wanted to own a restaurant. My son has loved shabu-shabu since he was five years old.
Then this opportunity came up for me to become a partner, so I did that for a few years then decided I should just do it on my own. Then I bought the whole restaurant.
You are on the road a lot. What are the five items you always have with you?
My c-pap machine [used for sleep apnea], denim jacket, my favourite pair of jeans, a sick pair of shoes and one of my Rolex watches.
You were a regular on ‘Chelsea Lately’. Are you still in touch with Chelsea Handler?
Yeah, that was such a fun time in my life doing that show. We both have been busy so it’s been awhile since I last spoke with Chelsea.
How does Jo Koy unwind?
Eating, shopping and hanging out at my house.
Lastly, what’s on your bucket list while in the UAE?
I want to do everything while I’m there.
Don’t miss it!
Ticket’s to Jo Koy’s Just Kidding World Tour start at Dh195 and are available online.