Jo Koy on the presidential election, sleep apnea and Chelsea Handler's benevolence
Comedian, Jo Koy
You probably know him best from his weekly appearances on E!'s Chelsea Lately, where host Chelsea Handler frequently questions his sexual orientation and capitalizes on stereotypes related to his Asian-American heritage. But Jo Koy isn't just a basic-cable punching bag. He's been climbing his way up the comedic echelon for over fifteen years, and is now working on his third hour-long special for Comedy Central.
Westword recently caught up with Koy, who will be appearing at Comedy Works South tomorrow through Saturday, to talk about the downside of touring, women's basketball and everything in between.
Westword: So, how's tour life treating you these days?
Jo Koy: It's been tough. It's been really stressful being on the road a lot, especially when you're a dad. You miss your son a lot. But you gotta make it work because you get to live a good life. I have to sacrifice. I always think about when I was a kid and I didn't have anything and now I get to see my son live a good life. But I'm happy at the same time because I'm doing what I love to do. There's a lot of people that work just to put food on the table, so you have to grateful to be in this position.
You incorporate your son into your act a lot. Is he growing up pretty fast?
Oh, yeah. He's going to private school now and it's kind of stressful for him. The curriculum is a lot harder than it was in public school, so I think he's stressing out about that. I'm having to get a tutor. It's a whole different world, what I'm dealing with now.
Is he still overly fascinated with his "ting-ting"?
No, he stopped. But we all know it's going to start right back up again when he hits his teenage years.
You say your mom cursed a lot when you were younger. Does she curse around your son and is he starting to pick up any bad words?
My whole thing is, I'm a comic and I curse. I know in three years my son is gonna get some words that are worse than what I say. I mean, what little boy isn't cursing in middle school? He said "fuck" to the PE teacher last year. I wish I would have saved the voice mail. It was the funniest thing ever.
Your Wikipedia page says you're 6-foot-4 and you say your mom is 4-foot-10. Is your dad secretly Andre the Giant?
No, I'm not 6'4". I'm 5'11". I don't even know who wrote that damn thing. There's so much stuff on Wikipedia that doesn't make any sense. I need to go in and take care of that right now. But you know what's crazy is that my mom is the tallest one in her family. She's abnormally tall for a Filipino lady. So I'm assuming I got my height from her even though she's short -- as funny as that sounds.
Do you still sleep with the "jock strap," as you like to call it, around your face for sleep apnea?
Yeah, I have to. And it's actually getting worse! I might have to have surgery and get my tonsils cut out. But the machine -- I can't live without that damn machine. I had a gig in San Jose and my assistant was driving me home and I had this adapter that plugs into the lighter. I had just put on the mask and we pulled into McDonald's, and do you know how creeped-out the person at McDonald's was when we got my food and I pop up with this mask and hose sticking out of my face. I bet I freaked her the fuck out, man. I probably looked like that dude from Batman. What's his name? Bane? I bet I looked like fucking Bane from Batman. That's what I looked like.
So are you gonna go through with the surgery and get your tonsils taken out?
Yeah, it looks like I have to do it really soon. I might have to do it early next year. I can't do it this year because I'm booked. When you get your tonsils taken out, it's at least three weeks of healing.
Are you gonna keep your tonsils like souvenirs?
Yeah, I'm gonna bronze them. I'm gonna wear them around my neck like a chain.
Well, if they've been bothering you for so long, you might as well show them who's boss, right?
Exactly. Don't fuck with me. That's what happens when you fuck with me -- I wear you around my neck.
Do you ever get any negative responses from the Asian community who perhaps feel like you're stereotyping the way they talk?
No. My whole thing is, when I first started talking about me being Filipino, there's no difference between me talking about my mom and Eddie Murphy talking about his mom. The only difference is, my mom has an accent. But she's still a funny mom. In terms of throwing in the accent -- I have to. How am I going to act like my mom without the fucking accent? I always wanted to let people know I was Filipino but I didn't want to go up on stage and make it so you wouldn't understand my jokes because you're white or black. I always wanted to let people know I was Filipino through my mom. That was always my goal. That way everyone got it. You don't have to be Filipino to understand my mom. Everyone has a mom that does the same shit. Mine just happens to have an accent.
I don't know about every mom doing the same things your mom does. What about the "ting ting" grabbing?
[Laughs] Now that's some real shit. That's fucking real. That's a real story and I'm glad I said it, because it's fucking true. In the Philippines it's a joke. Here in America, with something like that, you'll go to jail. But in the Philippines it's no big deal. It's supposed to be funny.
Speaking of the Philippines, are you a big Manny Pacquiao fan?
Oh, are you kidding me? There's another one, too -- there's another one? [laughs] There's another Filipino champ by the name of Nonito Donaire who's a lightweight and he's making us proud.
Did you watch the controversial fight this summer when he lost to Timothy Bradley?
I was there! I was tenth row, dead center. I was totally pissed. I couldn't believe my eyes. You could totally tell it was fixed. Yeah, Manny had a shitty fight but he still beat the shit out of him. Everybody knew he won. I was really upset, man. I couldn't believe it. But that's what happens in boxing. There's too many promoters and too many hands. It's such a shitty sport. No matter how good you are, the promoters always run it.
Are you a sports fan in general?
Oh, yeah. Everything except for soccer and women's basketball. [laughs] Don't even put those in the sports category. It shouldn't even be on ESPN. Just don't show us the fucking highlights. Nobody cares. [laughs]
So have you been following the MLB Playoffs?
Oh, yeah. I love it. I love what the Giants are doing. None of these teams are mine, but I love the fact that Detroit beat New York. That was amazing. That city needs every bit of help it can get. It's great for that city. Then the Giants, coming back from all these deficits -- it's crazy. But I'm a Mariners fan! I'm from Seattle, so I'm all about the Mariners and the Seahawks.
What did you think about the controversial game where Russell Wilson threw that last-second bomb that they called a catch?
That was an amazing throw and an amazing catch. Those refs were amazing. What a great call by those refs. [Laughs.] That was a catch, dammit. What were they calling them, "scrub refs"? I was happy that day day being a Seahawks fan.
You're going to be in Denver this week. Do like visiting Denver?
Oh, yeah. That's my home. I love it. I'm always in Denver. The people there are great. They've always supported me since Day 1. My very first professional club was Comedy Works. It was my first big gig and I love that club. I will always stay true to that club, man. They've been so good to me.
Pot is kind of a big deal in Denver. What are your thoughts on the legalization of marijuana and pot in general?
[Laughs] You know it sucks because all my friends are, of course, potheads and I've never gotten into it. But I don't care. Why is it illegal, anyway? It just makes no sense. Legalize it and we don't have to worry about spending extra taxpayer money to break down doors and lock people up for something that's not causing any type of harm. Just don't blow the smoke around my son. That's all I ask.
Have you been watching the debates lately?
It sucks and I hate saying this because people always ask me, but I really don't get into it. I keep my decision to myself and really don't get wrapped up in the debates. I know who I'm going to vote for already and I keep it to myself. I don't like taking a stand and choosing a side. It's kind of weird. My dad's all about it, though. He's like, "Let's debate about the debates!" And I'm like, "You know what, let's not. We're good, actually." I will vote for my president and we'll see if my vote turns out to be the right decision.
So you don't feel obligated to vote for Obama because you come from a biracial family and were raised by a single mother at times like he was?
[Laughs] No, there's more to it. But you know what's crazy is that as much as I don't like to talk about politics, I'm so addicted to watching Bill Maher or Dennis Miller. I'm so intrigued by that style of standup. I guess that's my way of listening to politics is through comedy. It's such a weird thing, because I'm really addicted to it. I don't have a view or an argument with what they're saying but I do enjoy watching them. But that's about as far as I go in terms of politics. I'll never bring it to stage with me. I like to keep stuff more personal.
My dad's favorite show is Chelsea Lately. What's it like being a panelist on a show with someone as witty as her?
Yeah, she's really that fast. It's not an act. She's so talented and good at what she does. I'm just proud to be her friend and I'm honored to still be on the show. I was part of the original cast, too. I've been with her since the start and it's been a great journey coming all this way. I knew Chelsea when she was featuring for Dave Attell and Jon Lovitz. So it's kind of crazy to see her go from that to the most powerful woman on cable. I'm happy for her, though.
Have you two ever dated?
[Laughs] No, no, no. But she's always taken care of me. She's so dope. She takes care of everybody. And I think that's part of her success. That's how I want to be if I ever get to her level. I want to treat people that work for me the same way. She really goes above and beyond. She does things that she's not supposed to do for people that work for her and are loyal to her. That's why people love her.
Any future plans besides bronzing your tonsils?
Yeah, bronzing my tonsils. Then I have my new hour-long special that I'm working on right now for Comedy Central, which I'm pretty excited about. That's really it for the near future, though.
Get the Arts and Theater Newsletter
Weekly information keeping you in the know when it comes to the art and theater scene. Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events.