Hawaii: The perfect place for a hard-working, acclaimed comedian to take respite before his Australian 'Just Kidding' tour – and to celebrate Thanksgiving with his dysfunctional, hilarious family. For US stand-up comic Jo Koy, his family are the butt of many of his jokes.
His Filipino heritage plays a part in many of the hilarious stories he shares with global audiences. From his teenage son to his stereotypically Filipino mother, Jo’s jokes are, despite the cultural focus, universally understood.
So very clearly a family man, for Jo, going through life with two very important people – his son and mother – it’s been an incredibly special experience for him to create a career from life’s journeys. “I was always a fan of stand-up comedy, and my favourite style was hearing comics talk about their parents,” he says. “I loved it because I felt like I could relate to it.”
“I feel like it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are, mums are mums, and uncles are uncles, so when it came to doing stand-up, it was indirectly the style I gravitated toward.
“Whenever I talk about my son or my mum, it’s really fun to do because it’s just my life. All I’m doing is repeating what happened at the house!”
So all the jokes you’ve heard Jo share, from the incident with his then future brother-in-law and his mum’s fried chicken, to her messing with him when he loses his keys, that’s all true in Jo’s world. Laughing, he says, “100 per cent! You know, there’s a little bit of innocence to it. She’s a baby boomer, the politically correct isn’t there yet and what she’s doing, she’s not trying to be offensive, she’s just cute and funny.”
“That’s what I love about her character, it comes from an innocent place. There’s no malice to it, that’s my mum. And they’re allowed to get away with it because they’re old!”
Jo says all mums are the same, but in a way, they’re not. His platform has afforded an insight into Filipino culture in an area where there wasn’t much attention given to it before.
“I don’t want to say, ‘yeah I’m the one that did it,’ but my whole goal was to tell my story and let people hear what it’s like to have a Filipino mum and take them through that journey. All the stuff that happened after that was just a bonus.
“I didn’t know what I was doing, a lot of people were so proud of it because they finally have a voice, finally the mainstream can understand what or who a Filipino is, and they all feel my comedy has given them some kind of identity and I love it.
“It was never my intention, but I’m so happy it’s happening – I’ve always said this about my stand-up – there was no social media to find out about Filipino comics when I was growing up. Now my son can Google Filipino-white comedians and pictures of thousands of them across the world will pop up and it’s a beautiful thing.
“That’s why, when I did those jokes, I felt like I wanted to be that guy that could inspire another Filipino comic to be like, 'I can do stand-up too because Jo Koy can do it'.”
Jo Koy Tour Dates
6 December – Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre 7 December – ICC Sydney 13 December – Riverside Theatre (Perth) 14 December – Thebarton Theatre (Adelaide) 15 December – Plenary (Melbourne)