Comedian Jo Koy knows that if you want to get it done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.

The longtime comedian is embarking on his Break the Mold Tour, a nod to the do-it-yourself ethos of one of the country’s most successful Asian-American comedians, selling out an astounding 11 shows at the Neal Blaisdell Center in Honolulu and breaking records at the ShoWare Center near his hometown of Seattle where he launched his 2018 run with back-to-back sellouts.

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“I like playing the smaller markets, it’s new for me,” Koy tells Amplify, detailing an itinerary that includes Bakersfield, California, Midland, Texas and Bellingham, Washington, built largely on the success of his breakout Netflix special “Jo Koy: Live From Seattle” which he self-produced and sold to the streaming giant, “introducing me to a huge new audience around the world.”

Koy has been doing comedy since the early 1990s but says his breakthrough moment came during a chance appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in 2005 and he later became a regular on Chelsea Handler’s former E! talk show, “Chelsea Lately.” After taping two specials for Comedy Central, Koy decided to take control of the next stage his career and self-produced his Netflix special, paying for the production and then selling it to the streaming giant.

“I shot and produced it myself,” he said. “I’m used to taking risks — my career was a risk. Being a stand up comic is not something that’s normally accepted when your mother is Filipino.”

The Netflix special, shot at Seattle’s Moore Theater, details his life growing up with a sharped tongue mother and a white, largely absent father who met his mother while serving in the military.

“A lot of soldiers were fighting for this country; my dad was dating. I’m his Purple Heart,” he jokes, utilizing a comedy style that mostly relies on story-telling about growing up in a poor household led by his quick-witted mom, to stories about watching his son grow up with a much more comfortable life.

He says his mom has now accepted his career choice and “has her own little fame going,” doing guest speaking gigs and media interviews.

It’s so funny, she’ll come to my show and at the end, she’ll always be like, ‘you know, you should do a couple more jokes about me. There are far more stories out there that you’re not telling them.'” 

As for his son, he said he’s watched him grow up through his comedy material, saying “the first special came out when he was seven and now he’s like 14. It’s just like, ‘oh my God, life just goes by so fast.'”

While he has no problem tackling race and identity, he largely avoids making jokes about politics, saying “I love storytellers. When I was growing up, my inspirations were watching Eddie Murphy, Dennis Wolfberg and Louie Anderson. These guys were great at telling stories and I made that my own style, talking about things that happened to me and trying to make them funny.”

When he’s not performing live he can be heard as a weekly guest on The Adam Carolla Show podcast and his own podcast, The Koy Pond with Jo Koy on Podcast One. Additionally, Koy can be seen on the Kevin Hart & Lionsgate platform LaughOutLoud.com as the host of the un-scripted series Inglorious Pranksters. For more info on the podcast and tour dates, visit Jokoy.com.

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Dave Brooks

Founder & Executive Editor at Amplify Media
Dave Brooks has over 15 years experience as a writer, including eight years as the Managing Editor of Venues Today. He started Amplify in 2014 to give the industry its own voice and turn up the volume on live entertainment.
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