Comedian Jo Koy on Latina Moms and Using His Kids for Material
Robyn Von Swank
Jo Koy is a family man through and through.
It was his mom who first encouraged him to get up on a talent show stage, which led to his career as a standup comedian. In fact, a large portion of his routine is centered on her idiosyncrasies. He also lovingly rips on his son and family in general, turning personal experiences into stories that resonate with audiences across the nation.
This weekend, Koy will take his family act to South Florida to make locals laugh Friday at the Casino at Dania Beach and Saturday at Magic City Casino. New Times spoke with the former Chelsea Lately regular and current favorite on The Adam Carolla Show ahead of his latest stop in town.
You’re a big fan of Florida, aren’t you?
Between Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, I think it’s damn near my second home. I’ve been there so many times. Miami has been a blessing. I’ve sold out both times I’ve been to [Magic City] Casino. I can’t wait to go back there again. The crowd is just amazing out there.
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Any wacky or weird nights here?
[Laughs] No, man. It’s been really, really good. I always say that Miami is not part of the U.S. If you wanna get away, just go to Miami. They’ve got all the flavor, all the culture. I think they got their own set of rules out there. I love it out there.
A lot of your standup is family-oriented. What was the most surprising part of becoming a dad?
That I had it in me [laughs]. You know what I mean? That’s the most surprising part. I [thought], Oh, man. I’m a dad. I didn’t even think I could raise a dog, for God’s sake. Now I’m taking on a human? I turned into a dad in like 24 hours. I thought, We can do this. That’s when the career shift changed. My focus on standup was different. Before, I was this guy who was happy with just $50 gigs and living with a roommate. Then my son came, and I was like, I need to get health insurance and make more money. This kid needs diapers. I can’t be working for $50. I gotta step up my game. That’s the cool thing about having a kid — it sparks something inside of you.
And then there’s the fun part…
Oh, yeah. I’ve just enjoyed watching him grow. Every year, he gives me between 30 and 40 minutes of new material, being him, being genuine. This is the best part of these years, before they figure out what lying is all about. He just turned 13. Seeing him deal with acne and talking about girls now, he’s a whole new kid, and I’m enjoying it.
Any pranks you plan on playing on him?
My son knows that I’m going to embarrass him at any given time, so he’s always on edge, man. Introducing me to his friends, he’s reluctant. He’s like, I don’t really wanna do this because I know my dad is going to do something really stupid. But I still find my way in there.
Does he think you’re funny?
Yeah, I crack my son up nonstop. I get him onstage sometimes and roast him, and he loves that.
What about your mom? How does she feel about your impressions of her?
Oh, she loves it. She can never get enough. She’ll come to a show and I’ll do 20 minutes on her, and after the show, the first thing she’ll complain about is I didn’t do enough time on her.
Some of the mom behaviors you describe in your shows are universal.
Exactly. A lot of my Puerto Rican fans, or my Latino fans in general, identify with my mom. "Oh, my mom does the same thing," they say. I know! We’re all the same; my mom just happens to be Filipino. Moms do mom stuff. She’s Filipino, she’s aggressive, and that’s what makes her her.
Outside of comedy, you do a lot of philanthropic work for lupus awareness and research to help your sister, who has the disease. What information do you think people need to have about it?
The thing with Lupus is that no one knows what it is. It’s a horrible disease that attacks the immune system. It can affect anything. We didn’t know what my sister had for a long time. We kept coming up with all these different things. She had rheumatoid arthritis; she was losing her eyesight. We didn’t know what was going on. It just sucks. We need to find the cure for that and find things that could help us figure it out, and it takes money to do it. I always say this, I do these fundraisers, I do these shows, and I’ll donate the door to the foundation. I’ve got T-shirts that I sell, and I literally give 100 percent of that after the cost. Every dollar helps. It also helps my sister. My sister is kind of like in that little world where she doesn’t want to get out; she doesn’t want to talk about it. But when she’s around other people who also have it, it gives her a reason to open up and talk about it and realize she’s not the only one who has it.
8 p.m. Friday, November 4, at the Casino at Dania Beach, 301 E Dania Beach Blvd., Dania Beach; 954-920-1511; visit casinodaniabeach.com. Tickets cost $30 to $100 via evenue.net. 9 p.m. Saturday, November 5, at Magic City Casino, 450 NW 37th Ave., Miami; 305-649-3000; magiccitycasino.com.
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