by Whitney Ullman
From the stage of 'Chelsea Lately' to the Music Box at the Borgata, comedian Jo Koy brings his act to Atlantic City this Friday, June 14. He chatted with NJ.com about everything from working with Chelsea Handler to how he got his unusual name.
NJ.com: What is your favorite part about performing in Atlantic City, especially at the Borgata?
KOY: I love the Borgata, it’s just so classy. It’s one of my favorite hotels to perform in when I do casinos; I just like the vibe there. It’s just so funny because I rarely leave it and go to other casinos when I’m there because they have everything. One time I was there for Thanksgiving, and I ate in Bobby Flay. It was the best Thanksgiving I ever had!
Your name is Joseph Glenn Herbert, how did you come up with Jo Koy?
KOY: My auntie Evelyn gave me a nickname - although she says it all in one word with a Filipino accent and almost like she’s sneezing, it’s so funny. I’m the one who separated it into two words. When I first started with standup I was known as Joseph Herbert, and when you first start you get like 5 minutes on stage, so the emcee would do 5 minutes just on my last name, and then I would have to defend my name. It was always about my name and I wasn’t able to concentrate on telling jokes, so I ended up changing it. My nickname around the house was Jo Koy but I never thought to take it on stage until I realized that Herbert was so difficult. Boring story I know.
What's the best part about doing stand up?
KOY: Everyday is something new, every show is different, and the audience is a big part of your standup. If you do 2 shows a night, the first one you will absolutely crush, and then once you say bye to all the fans, they start seating the room for a second show you think oh man I have to start over. I have to re-do everything I just did and hope that it works and that’s the cool thing that I love about standup. The crowd is a big part of who you are. You know you’re doing well because the crowd will let you know. You know you’re doing bad when they aren’t laughing. It’s an instant response. That’s what I love about stand-up it’s real.
Being real may not be the same as reality, what’s your opinion of reality show competitions for comedians?
KOY: I’m a fan of the old school, so I don’t like those shows because you’re not really seeing what it’s all about. I like the trenches. I believe in craft and I think working the road was something I am proud of, and you work your way up the ranks. You build your own fan base and when I watch the shows there’s a little cheese factor. I saw a lot of comics coming out of character because you have to play to the TV and become something they weren’t. So i’m not a fan.
Well you sure do a great job on 'Chelsea Lately,' what’s it like working with Chelsea Handler?
KOY: I love it man, she is...what can I say, she’s got the Midas touch; everything she’s put her hands on so far turns to gold and I love it. I was there from the beginning. Chelsea and I met through a comic named Jon Lovitz. I was opening for him and he was like you have to meet this woman named Chelsea, she is amazing. She started opening on the same show and that’s how I met her. She was alway a fan of my work and I was always a fan of hers. Then she told me about this show on E!, how it’s going to be great and she wanted me to be on it. Now she is the most powerful woman in hollywood and it’s just beautiful to see how fast it grew for her.
What do you like the best about being on her show?
KOY: Her show is kind of like the modern Johnny Carson. Back in the day if you got on his show an did good it would do great things for your career, and that’s how it is on Chelsea. It’s been a blessing man, I love being on that panel with her. And I think people see how genuine we are.
Looking at your history, they say you dropped out of college to do stand-up comedy, do you ever regret that decision?
KOY: We shouldn’t say dropped out because it makes it sound like I had the option to stay in college. I don’t even know why I was in college, I barely passed high school . What happened was, I knew I wasn’t supposed to be in college. I always wanted to be a comic and I was doing horrible in college, failing everything, and I just looked at my mom and said “why are we bull[expletive]ing, let’s just buy a car so I can go on the road”.
My mom wasn’t supportive, she hated life when I told her I wanted to be a standup comic, but she didn’t know the potential of what could happen. She’s from the old school...and thinks that once you go to college you’ll have a great job and a great life, and I had to convince my mom that this is America, this is where opportunity is, and if you want to chase your dreams and make it, it’s gonna happen.
Your first big break was an appearance on 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' where you received a standing ovation. Did that help catapult your career?
KOY: I didn’t know how many people watched the Tonight Show because I didn’t really watch it myself. Then I did the show, and I was working 3 jobs at the time. I was working at Wells Fargo, Borders Books and as a shoe salesman at Nordstrom Rack, so the day after the Tonight Show, literally every other person was like “Hey weren’t you on the Tonight Show? “ and it was the weirdest thing, and then they would say, “yea I need a 9.5 in this shoe”, and I was like ok back to reality. It literally changed my life. A lot of people in the industry saw that set and I even got a commercial out of it.
You believe in helping he Lupus Foundation, what inspired you to do that?
KOY: The Jo Koy Foundation moved on to Lupus, and we are concentrating on that now. My sister has Lupus and so it’s personal for me. I really want to raise as much money as I can to get out awareness and end this stupid disease. It’s my way of helping my sister. We are doing great so far, as I have one walk that I put together and I have a show coming up in July in Hollywood. All my friends will be there and every penny will go to Lupus. I also sell a shirt where proceeds go to the Lupus Foundation. My goal is to beat the record of $100k by the end of the year, and when I say I want it I get it. I’m going to raise $100k for them, I promise.
As a world famous comedian with a soon to be sold out tour, this will surely be a really fun night out for everyone. Here are the details:
WHO: Comedian Jo Koy
WHERE: Borgata, The Music Box
TICKETS: $35 and can be purchased at www.theborgata.com or by calling 866-900-4TIX(4849)
Whitney is an on-air multimedia personality, and works behind the scenes helping businesses gain extra exposure, through her WIN Promotions video production services.