With so many truly bad men in the news these days, it’s easy to forget there are still plenty of good guys around. This weekend, the Ice House comedy club will be spotlighting one of them when Jo Koy hits its stage to headline eight shows from Thursday through Saturday night.
A native of Seattle who started his stand-up career while caring for his grandmother in Las Vegas, Jo Koy (born Joseph Glenn Herbert, his stage moniker is a family nickname) has built a rabid following by facing live audiences for 300 shows each year. The 46-year-old has become beloved across the US and Canada by sharing his universally funny tales of family misunderstandings – a niche rooted in the fact he started his career while caring for his grandmother in Las Vegas, and has spent years detailing the ever-shifting relationship between himself and his now-teen son.
“My son is loving it, especially now in junior high when he’s seeking attention and getting noticed,” says Jo Koy, speaking from a tour stop in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. “He has a lot of friends watching my Netflix special now, so he’s enjoying the limelight for sure.
“It’s crazy because I get scared sometimes,” he continues. “I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but it’s just the way we talk at home and are with each other. He gets it, and he knows that if he screws up, dad’s going to talk about it, so it straightens him out.”
The comic was proud to share a truly positive moment with his 14-year-old son recently, when the city of Honolulu proclaimed Jo Koy Day there on Nov. 24 after he sold out 23,000 tickets to become the largest-selling solo entertainer in the city’s history. He is especially fond of recounting the ceremony in which he was bestowed the key to the city.
“It was a World Series kind of moment where you want to show off to your son, and he happened to be there when it happened,” he recalls enthusiastically. “After all those years, and my son was able to be there so I could say, ‘You see, son! Do hard work and it pays off!’”
One other creative endeavor keeping Jo Koy busy these days is his podcast “The Koy Pond,” which he launched after podcasting kingpin Adam Carolla offered him a show on his Carolla Digital network. On the show, he blends interviews with fellow star comics with his never-ending range of impressions, from a P.F. Chang’s greeter to an angry black cabbie.
His own ethnic background is with the Pinoy community, a wing of Filipino heritage that reflects the fact his mother is Filipino and his father is a Caucasian Air Force officer. He moved with his family from Seattle to Las Vegas after high school to be near his ailing grandmother, originally enrolling in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before dropping out to do stand-up.
His rise through the comedy world was rapid, starting on BET’s “ComicView” for two seasons before becoming the national spokesman for Amp’d Mobile Phones, earning a rare standing ovation on “The Tonight Show” and becoming a regular panelist on the long-running E! talk show “Chelsea Lately.” He has also had three Comedy Central specials, as well as a Netflix special released last March that he credits with his recent wave of sellouts nationwide.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind, get a sitcom, but if not then what I did with Netflix was amazing,” says Jo Koy. “I am proud of myself for that. I paid for it, put it together and it paid off 10 times over with bigger audiences everywhere.
“My work ethic is the minute you get on stage, just talk about it and don’t get scared to say it,” says Jo Koy. “If they laugh they laugh, if they don’t its fine. That’s how I build my content: I never question myself. If I don’t get a laugh within 30 seconds I know it sucks, and let’s bag that. Don’t be scared. Improvising and ad-libbing is my strong point. If I go into a different market or city, I’ll freestyle new stuff and it may end up on the special.”
Jo Koy performs at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. tonight, Dec. 21, and 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Ice House, 24 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Tickets are $40. Visit icehousecomedy.com or call