Filipino-American comedian Jo Koy on bringing his laughs back to Dubai

Stand-up finally heads to the city to perform this weekend


Ambica Sachin

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Published: Wed 11 May 2022, 2:01 PM

Last updated: Wed 11 May 2022, 2:04 PM

Catching up with the 'funniest Filipino-American on the planet' (his catchphrase) is no walk in the park as we find out. Unless you already have tickets to Jo Koy’s upcoming Dubai show this weekend, of course!

A 7:20am Zoom call (back in December 2021when he was originally slated to perform here) gets cancelled since he is out with his girlfriend (more on that later) and his phone battery is drained. We are more fortunate the second time around.

“I’ve been on the road non stop and my time zones are all messed up,” he apologises. With back to back sold out shows in the US where he is currently on tour, we can only empathise.

The American stand-up (his mother hails from the Philippines) who performed at the Coca-Cola Arena a few years back was excited to bring his family here, at the time we spoke to him, so he could share the ‘beautiful stuff’ he got to see during his last visit.

“I cannot wait to come back. I had a blast last time I was there,” he exults. Our conversation is peppered with references to his ‘girlfriend’ - SNL’s Chelsea Handler. He was a regular on her late-night talk show, Chelsea Lately and they’ve known each other for over 20 years, and went public this year with their romance.

Here Jo Koy shares his thoughts on getting back on stage, his Netflix hits, upcoming Hollywood movie and of course, the special woman who is all over his social media and his life!

Also read: Dates changed for Jo Koy show

The ‘funniest Filipino-American on the planet’. Any doubts?

“I just love to say I’m a comedian first and being Filipino is just extra special. I get to be that person who talks about my culture and not just laugh about it but educate people about it. I feel that Filipinos love that because now they have this voice that serves them - telling people what we sound like and it is fun to be represented that way.”

Comedy in his genes

“It is definitely a gift and I’ve been blessed. I love watching comedy myself so it’s a double blessing that I actually get to perform it, go on tour and make people laugh. It is obvious that the entertainment aspect came from my mom and family - my sister sings... My family is very fortunate when it comes to entertainment I guess.”

Stand-up, Netflix shows, Podcast, Memoir, Hollywood movie. Phew….

“When they stopped the touring there were so many other outlets and avenues that I took advantage of. And one was getting that book (his memoir Mixed Plate: Chronicles of an All-American Combo came out in March 2021) done a lot earlier than scheduled, (I) landed that movie deal (Easter Sunday, a family comedy based on his life, directed by Jay Chandrasekhar) and on top of that I get another deal with Netflix. I remember what I was doing before I was telling jokes and I never want to do that again. I don’t want to sell shoes! I don’t ever want to go back to that. I always want to stay busy, and if I can find that opportunity, I will.”

Yay! It’s time to tell jokes in public again

“People are just wanting to laugh, they are just wanting to be in public, hanging out and interacting and laughing out together. People miss that. The last year especially was so sad for a lot of people and now we all have this reason to go out and it’s fun. Like my girlfriend says, she is the reason people get to go out and laugh and I love when she says that!”

But how do you get away with making a joke about Covid...

“During my stand up, I just tend to try and make people laugh. I tend to stay away from anything topical but it is hard not to talk about what just happened in the last year. Of course, I found the funny; you know how I went through (the pandemic) and how I handled that. The best bet is to tell your story and see if others relate with it. I enjoy putting that element into my stand-up.”

Being a stand-up in a world where ‘cancel culture’ is in, is no joke

“I just like to tell my truth and my story. It is all relevant to me and very specific to me, so those are my truths. My stand-up is just being relatable with other people and in finding that voice. So I’m not the one that wants to offend but I want to shine light on the generalness of our culture.”

The secret of my success as a comedian, you ask?

“Just enjoy it. The minute you start not enjoying something, just get out of it, because then your heart and soul is not in it. I am passionate about this. I love to stay fresh. If I go back to another venue that I have played before, it has to be different. I can’t go back and do the same jokes. Then I feel like I’m robbing my fans and I don’t want to do that. I always want to stay fresh and always want to stay funny, and always want to be new. That’s always been my goal and that’s my key to success.”

The pressure of always being the funny guy in the room….

“I’ve lived with it my whole life, - be the funny guy. My whole thing is I’ll decide when to be my funny! It’s not fun to walk in and all of a sudden just be expected to be funny, you know? Sometimes I’m more relaxed. I just listen.

Who’s funnier: Chelsea or Jo Koy?

“It’s her. She is such a beautiful ball of energy. She’s so smart, she’s so quick, and she’s just so funny. She makes me laugh from my gut. I love that. I love being in a relationship where it is not just me being funny, its her. She is quick, so you’ve always gotta stay on your toes… so I enjoy that.”


Greatest fear while performing

Peeing on stage. There was one show in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I forgot to go to the bathroom, and I went up on stage and for an hour and a half I had to hold it in and that has traumatised me my whole career. Now right before my show even if don’t have to pee, I’ll run to the bathroom and force myself because I never want to have that feeling again.

Greatest extravagance

My cars. I like nice cars. My latest, a Ferrari, is my favourite.

The funniest person I’ve met

Eddie Murphy. He has always been my idol. Meeting him was just a joy, because it was me meeting my comedy god.

A word I tend to overuse

Crazy! Its so annoying. It’s not really that crazy!

A talent I’d like to have

I guess, fly a plane.

My greatest achievement

This tour I am on. I didn’t believe that it could happen, and the minute I started believing that it could happen, it happened. I pinch myself every time I walk out on the stage and see so many people there to see me.

My most treasured possession

My son.

My favourite line

I love you!

Hollywood figure I most identify with

Adam Sandler. He’s very funny, he’s goofy, and he feels like a kid, you know? I love that.

How I’d want to be remembered

That I took chances, and that I repped (represented) my people well.

At the time of the interview Jo Koy was slated to perform in Dubai as part of his Funny is Funny World Tour in December 2021. The show got pushed to May 14, 2022. You can now catch Jo Koy at the 
Coca-Cola Arena. Tickets available,,

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