Comedian Jo Koy to perform in Toledo for first timeWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The expression goes that success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. In conversation, the red-hot comedian Jo Koy points to many people who have helped steer his career toward its current remarkable success. As far as failure, well, he hasn’t seen much of that for a while.
In an interview with Toledo Free Press, Koy — who will be appearing for the first time in the Toledo area with a gig at Fat Fish Blue, Aug. 17-19 — said that one of his main inspirations came through observation and imitation of a very prominent individual in his life: His mother.
“The reason why I started talking about my mom is, it was something I was always doing when I was a kid anyways. Like, whenever at school, someone would always tell me to impersonate my mom at school, I would always do it,” Koy said.
Those kind of experiences — learning how good it felt to make people laugh — helped steer Koy into stand-up in the mid-’90s, though as he found his footing onstage in the early days, talking about his family was not a regular part of his repertoire. He finally began to open up by taking cues from two of his comedy heroes: Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy.
“I was a huge Cosby fan, and his whole thing was, talk about family. So, I kinda took that approach with my stand-up. That’s my style.
“I love Eddie’s style on his stand-up,” Coy added. “He talks about his family, but it’s kind of in a cool, hip way, you know what I mean? And Bill Cosby’s really cool, I love him — it’s an older version. You know? You can tell like, he’s a dad when he tells his dad jokes. Whereas when Eddie talks about it, it’s like, here’s this young kid making fun of his mom.
“So that’s kinda where I took my style. It’s kind of a fusion between Cosby and Eddie.”
Koy also noted that as he has grown into his onstage persona, he’s also grown in his willingness to experiment and ad lib while performing.
“When I was younger, I used to get scared to try, because if I already knew I had something that worked, it’s like, why try and change it, you know what I mean? And then I realized, when you become a headliner, okay, you need new material because you got people that’ve seen your special, you got people that’ve seen you before live. You have to change it up,” Koy said.
“Even when I try something new, I have enough material to, even if the new joke doesn’t work, I have a joke that I can go to that’s gonna take care of that. You know what I mean? ‘Oh, they didn’t laugh there, let me change it up real quick and get a laugh real quick.’
“The more I do onstage, it’s just easier for me.”
Hard work and his ability have begun to pay big dividends for Koy. In addition to numerous appearances on clip shows such as VH1′s numerous “I Love the …” series, he also has made a name for himself through appearances on talk shows like “The Tonight Show.” It’s an experience, Koy said, that can be a little rattling.
“That takes a lot of mental preparation,” he said. “I don’t really do it as much as I used to, but man, it’s overwhelming. So many rules that you have to abide by, and of course you’ve got the pressure of everybody, from the family to the whole world watching. So, you really prepare hard for that one. Those are the ones where you’re like, ‘Okay, I’ve gotta do this and really structure my set and get this thing right.’ Because the last thing I wanna do is just destroy my whole career in, like, three minutes.”
He’s also very well known to fans of the comedy gabfest “Chelsea Lately,” where he appears as a regular panelist.
“It’s kinda like a free-for-all, I guess you can say. But it’s cool, because we’re all friends, so we kinda know each other’s chemistry really well, like even before the show started. So, the interaction is just like we’re in the green room, and this is how we act anyways. So, just throw out a topic and we just go for it. It’s kinda like double dutch — you gotta time it. You look for your opening and you get in there as quickly as possible.”
Koy, though, has been looking for an opening to a bigger spot in the pop culture landscape. He said becoming a successful performer on the big or small screen is one of his ultimate goals.
“I think that’s every comic’s goal, to see their vision onstage become a TV show,” Koy said. “I’ve had several opportunities, and they haven’t gone through yet. But, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna stop trying, you know? Keep going at it, keep plugging at it.
“I saw an interview with [Dave] Chappelle, said he had eight pilots before he had ‘Chappelle’s Show.’ Eight failed pilots before ‘Chappelle’s Show.’ And I was like, ‘All right! I have four! So, I’ll give myself four more to go!’”