Jo Koy Talks Stand-Up Comedy & Dr. Pepper
High energy comic performs at Spreckels Theatre
Jo Koy started his career as an entertainer at an early age when his mother would make him perform for large groups of friends and family during Filipino events in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington. Once he graduated from high school, Koy moved to Las Vegas where he attended UNLV (to appease his mother) while simultaneously plotting to become professional stand-up comedian. After honing his chops on the Vegas strip for a few years, Koy realized he need to move to Los Angeles in order to take his comedy to the next level. Koy has since appeared on The Tonight Show and has become one of the favorite panelists on E’s late night talk show, Chelsea Lately. Currently in the midst of his Lights Out tour, SanDiego.com had a chance to catch up with Koy from his home in Los Angeles and talked about his early years in comedy, advice on how to get representation as a young comic and why Filipino’s love Dr. Pepper so much.
From what I could gather your mom played a pivotal role in starting you out as a performer at a young age.
Jo Koy: She was in charge of this thing called the American Filipino Association. It was just a group of Filipinos that got together and hung out a lot and they would always through these events. She always seemed to be the one to take care of the talent, and that talent just happened to be my sister and myself.
Do you remember the first time you did stand-up?
JK: The first one was at a place called the Ventura Comedy Club and I don’t even know if that thing exists anymore. I didn’t tell anyone about it and I went up and I bombed so bad, I went right back to Vegas and it took me about a year and a half to get back onstage again. It was bad man, I didn’t tell anybody about that.
So you grew up in Tacoma, Washington and then moved to Las Vegas after high school?
JK: I never went onstage in Tacoma, I just went to high school, and when I got out of high school I moved to Vegas. And Vegas is where I call home now. That’s where I started stand-up at a coffeehouse. I was living in Vegas and I went to this place called the Ventura Comedy Club and I didn’t tell anyone about that place. My mother doesn’t even know about that.
Why did you drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles just to do an open mic?
JK: I was scared man. I was scared for my life. Getting onstage is scary dude. Being funny is one thing, it’s the stage that scares you; the public speaking. Even though when I was a kid I was doing it, but to go onstage and now I have to make people in the audience laugh, that was scary. I was really young too; I think I was 19 when I did that.
You’ve been doing stand-up for about 20 years now.
JK: Once you get that first laugh; that one applause break, it’s so addicting. It’s kind of like golf, where you can suck at golf but you have that one hole where you get a par on one hole, you’re addicted. You’ve got to go back and play even though you suck on all the other holes. That’s how it is with comedy; you get one applause break or one huge laugh and it’s addicting. I can’t even explain it.
What was it like developing as a comic in Las Vegas?
JK: It was once a week and I couldn’t wait to go to this coffeehouse and do stand-up. I didn’t care about money; I didn’t care about how many people came. Every Wednesday night at this café called Buzzy’s. I couldn’t wait for that Wednesday to come around.
What were you studying at UNLV?
JK: That was pretty much me pretending I wanted to get a college education. I think my mom was like, ‘You’ve got to get a college degree if you want to make it in life.’ It wasn’t going to happen; I knew I wanted to be a stand-up comic.
So you never finished your degree?
JK: I don’t even think I finished a class, and I’m not even trying to be funny right now. I was buying classes and not really going and making my mom feel like I was going to college, but I always knew I was going to be a comic.