Jo Koy is so proud of his Filipino roots that he talks all things local all the time everytime he’s on stage, regardless of who’s watching.
On his latest Netflix special, “Jo Koy: In His Elements,” he takes viewers straight to the Philippines as his way of giving back to his homeland.
“I want to showcase the Philippines but how do I do that without shoving it down people’s throats?” he said in a phone interview. “I want to show people what Filipino food looks like. And I also want to show people what a jeepney looks like…”
According to him, he, himself, got “culture shock.”
“You go to the Philippines and you got this hybrid of 11 Filipinos now. They’re through social media, through YouTube, through Netflix, through Instagram. They’ve embraced it and they get it. It’s hipper, younger,” he related. “It was very eye opening for me like I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And I was, like, happy to be a part of that, you know. I none of us had to change our act when we were performing, because everyone got it.”
Born Joseph Glen Herbert, the comic began his stand-up career in 1994 at a comedy club in Las Vegas. He eventually moved from open mic night to being a regular performer at the venue.
Jo Koy credits his mother for his comedic and acting talents. She encouraged him to participate in school talent shows and do impromptu performances before amily and friends.
Today, Jo Koy has done numerous sold-out concerts. He’s also toured the world. The artist can be heard as weekly guest on podcast.
Apart from his mom, Jo Koy named several Filipino actors who serve as his inspiration—no other than TVJ or the popular group of Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon.
What advice could he give to aspiring standup comics trying to find own voice and style?
“Take your time and don’t rush your voice,” Jo Koy pointed out.
“And just be honest, that’s the most important part, man, be honest. And like, you know, everyone knows comedies about embellishments, and pain and an honesty, you know, being vulnerable, you know, but for the most part, just make sure it’s you. Make sure it’s you you’re talking about. Make sure it all comes to you.”
It isn’t always easy.
“Just like I don’t want you guys to think like I was just talking about my mom, right? When I started doing stand up, it took me a very long time to figure that out. How can I tell my mom’s story without other people feeling like they’re not a part of it, you know, or it was too specific, or you only have to be filled. You can only be Filipino to hear this part of the job. Like I didn’t want to do that. And I had to figure it out. Like how do I tell this story and let people know I’m Filipino indirectly? But at the end of the show, go, I got it. And my mom is just like your mom. That’s what I wanted.”
Jo Koy uses his new Netflix show to shine a light on other Filipino-American performers by welcoming to the stage famed breakdancer Ronnie, Grammy-winning producer !llmind, singer/songwriter Inigo Pascual, and comedians Andrew Lopez, Joey Guila, and Andrew Orolfo.
“Those are all my friends. I didn’t have an audition for any of those guys though. They’re all in my phone. You know Andrew Lopez, the one that looks like Coco, he opened for me for a year and a half. He was on the road with me, Joey Gaea I’ve known, you know, through the stand-up world for almost 20 years. Ronnie used to do all my D boy events in Vegas. We also opened for Snoop Dogg together 20 years ago, so that’s how I know Ronnie the B boy,” he shared.
In a separate e-mail interview, the guest artists talked about working on the show.
For Ronnie, the most memorable moments were those that saw them form bonds.
“Vibing with everyone in the tenement, including the cameramen and production team,
rehearsing with Project Pinoise before the show, and seeing how excited everyone was
to meet Jo koy backstage before we performed,” he shared.
!llmind shared some of his experiences in the Philippines.
“Everything about the Philippines is beautiful. Not just the weather, the landscapes, the food (omg) but the PEOPLE and the SOUL of the Philippines. Every time I come back, I’m reminded of where my humility, creativity, passion and pride come from.”
For Joey, it was the warm welcome of Filipinos that made the experience truly unforgettable.
“I have never ate so good in my life until I came there. The main secret ingredient was love and that’s why I LOVE the Philippines!!!”
Named one of the country’s topnotch comedians, Andrew talked about building chemistry with Jo Koy.
“He’s one of the nicest people I have ever met. I’m very fortunate to have been able to
link up with him and thankful that he put his trust in me to be included in this project.”
“Jo Koy: In His Elements” premieres on Netflix on June 12.