A Fiendish Conversation with Jo Koy
When the lights go down next Friday and Jo Koy takes the stage, he'll finally be living the dream he's had since he was a little comedy nerd growing up in Tacoma. On April 30, the Los Angeles based comedian returns home to tape his new standup special at the Moore Theatre in front of two sold out audiences. A former regular on Chelsea Lately, Koy found a huge audience when he became a reoccurring guest on the ultra popular The Adam Carolla Podcast, performing as variety of improvised characters. In March, Koy launched his own podcast, The Koy Pond with Jo Koy. He may not have taken the most traditional path to standup fame, but he's earned the dream homecoming that awaits.
For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Koy about finally getting back home to tape a special, seeing Eddie Murphy in Seattle, and his comedic bond with Adam Carolla.
When planning this upcoming standup special, was the plan always to get back up to Seattle to tape it?
Yeah, it was always like my goal to shoot a special in Seattle. That was like my dream come true. My first special I had no choice, Comedy Central paid for it in New York. My second special, we had to stay locally in L.A. for budget reasons. And this third one, I’m paying for everything. It’s coming out of my pocket, so I’m like well, let’s go to Seattle. Since I’m paying for it, might as well go where I’ve been wanting to go all my life. I’m going to go home. I finally get to perform at the Moore Theater in Seattle and tape it. I’m not visiting Seattle, I’m going there to perform. And that’s kinda cool.
Did you go to comedy shows at the Moore when you were growing up?
Never, never. The only live performance I saw was at the Coliseum (now known as KeyArena). It was Eddie Murphy Raw, 1985. I was 14, and that was the best day of my life. And I remember watching it, laughing, and then also saying to myself please Lord let me be able to do that. [Laughs]
So then what were your initial comedy influences? Watching things TV?
Yep. We had the basic HBO cable setup at the house, and that’s when all the hours and the half hour specials kept coming out. Back in the day, you couldn’t buy blank tapes, so I would literally put tape over the hole of VHS tapes and record all the specials. I had An Evening at the Met, I had Whoopi Goldberg, of course Delirious, Bill Cosby: Himself, all those specials. And I would just constantly rewind and watch them all day every day. That’s all I would do. That was my form of entertainment when I was a kid. I couldn’t wait to throw in those standup specials.
Did you ever try performing locally during those early years?
No, not until I went to Vegas. That’s when I pursued standup. I literally did like a comedy competition—I bombed. Then I did another variety show competition called Starmania—I bombed there, that was horrible. And then I started doing some open mics—bombed a couple times. And then finally I got a couple laughs one day and was like ooh, I think I got it. And I think I bombed like 6 or 7 times before I got like half a chuckle. And that chuckle was all I needed, man. Then it was off to the races.
Did you move to Las Vegas specifically to pursue standup?
Well unfortunately it’s a sad reason, but my mom moved there because my grandmother had terminal cancer. And she only had a few months to live because the cancer had moved to the breast and the lymph nodes, so the whole family moved out there to be with her. And thank God, she lived another three years! So it was actually a great move. It was a great move because I got some great stories from it that I was able to share with people on stage.
But that was the main reason for Vegas. You know it was a sad reason, but it was good because I was kind of lonely in Seattle. That’s where my mom and dad divorced. And my mom didn’t have any family there, and my dad’s side wasn’t really paying attention to us. I was kind of like in was this lonely standup world of recording specials and laughing to myself. [Laughs] And then when I moved to Vegas, that’s when I got to be on my mom’s side of the family with all my aunts and all that. So I had that positive reinforcement to push me towards my dream, which was standup. And now I’m glad I did move.
Is there anything you look forward to doing whenever you get back up to this area?
Uhh… drinking hot coffee. [Laughs] Going to the pier, getting fish and chips man, going to Skippers. I know that’s probably gross to you, but they don’t have Skippers out here. And it’s like dude, I can’t wait to get an all-you-can-eat fish and chip basket and just kill that Skippers clam chowder. And I’m probably not gonna ever do it again after I’m done. [Laughs] But when I was a kid, Skippers was like a reward, man. We went there if we did something good in school, you know? I can’t wait.
You recently launched your new podcast Koy Pond. In a sea of a million podcasts, what do you feel like makes Koy Pond stand out?
Well god bless Adam Carolla, you know what I mean? He blessed me with his audience, and I was able to grab a hold of a great fan base because of him. And then he offered to give me my own pod.
When he did that, I told him I really want to jump on the things that made me shine on his podcast, which was the improv. The ability to just go off cuff and create stories and act them out—we do a lot more act outs than we do on his show. I always warn my guests right when they come on: I go if you tell me a story from your childhood or something that happened to you this weekend, I want to act it out. I wanna become that situation. And I think that’s what stands out the most with our podcast. It’s really cool to see at the end of the pod, some of the guests look at me and go I didn’t even know I could do that, and it’s kind of cool. And then I say the same thing, I didn’t know I could do that either, I didn’t know we could make that situation funny, and we did.
Was there a moment that you realized your comedy really clicked with Carolla?
Well I knew I always had a chemistry with Adam before the pod, because he used to let me call in to his radio show that he had out here. I remember hanging up the phone going shit, that was one of my favorite radio shows ever calling into. I double Dutch with that guy at lot. It’s his show and I gotta know when to jump in and when to jump out, because the guy is just a genius and I don’t wanna walk on anything that he does. When see that opportunity, I jump in. And when I go in, he comes in with me. It’s been a lot of fun doing that.
And even though I was only doing it once a week, the fans are like calling out my characters as if they were part of The Adam Corolla Show. You know what I mean? I noticed that on my social media or my Twitter people were shouting out characters that I did on the show. They’ll say Black Lab or they’ll call me Joy. At my live performances I get so many Corolla people walking up to me and I’m just like wow, this man’s army is strong and huge. [Laughs] I have people come up to my shows with PF Chang’s menus, wanting me to sign it at the end of the show. It’s crazy man. The guy shares his stage and his platform, and I’d always have to thank him for that.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about the special taping?
I’d just like to let everybody know that this is my project. It’s coming out of my pocket. I’m wearing all the hats, and it’s really important to me. It’ll be self-released, and we’re gonna try distribute it ourselves. The cool thing is I hold 100 percent of the content, so it’s my material now. I’m not sharing it with anybody and having to make a phone call just to sell my own product anymore. This has been my 26th year in standup, and I want to let my fans know, I wanna let my hometown know, that I’m representing hard.
Jo Koy: Standup Special Taping
Apr 30, Moore Theatre, Sold out