Jo Koy, headlining comedian performing at the Addison Improv this weekend, has managed to capture lighting in a bottle. A guy named Tom Werner, co-creator of the Cosby Show, thinks so, too. Now, Jo Koy, comedian is now developing a half hour sit-com for Warner Brothers Studios.
Koy’s high energy, engaging persona on and off stage has managed to capture audiences, producers and other comedians in its frenetic swirl to the top. That pathway has not exactly been linear, but in 18 years of working as a comedian you get the impression Jo knows how lucky he is.
After growing up in Washington State, the bi-racial son of a first generation Pilipino mother and American born father had moved to Las Vegas to attend UNLV but decided early that school was not for him. The lure of the microphone pulled him to open mike nights at coffee shops and local clubs. “My mother literally cried when I told her I was dropping out of school to become a comedian, she was heartbroken, a university education for their kids is one of the most important goals a immigrant parent,” says Jo, “I used to do a bit about it in my act.”
Jo’s personal life has always been a big part of his act, as a storyteller rather than a one liner comedian, Koy’s electrified personality, animated actions and emotive face brings you into his highly relatable world and masterfully twists you into fits of laughter.
Most comedians make their mark in LA or New York, but Koy’s path of starting in Las Vegas had some advantages. As he honed his craft working he got noticed by the booker for one of the casinos Jo explains, “A girl I knew was dating this guy who was booking acts for ‘Catch A Rising Star’ at the MGM Grand, she brought him to see me and I got booked the next day.”
Performing, refining and performing is the key to success for a comedian and as Koy began to garner a reputation around comedy circuits, other comedians looking for an opener would show up and offer to take him on the road,“I was always getting let go after one or two shows. It was hard but they would say things like ‘you need to be a headliner, go to LA and become a headliner’. At the time I would end up making as little as $40 a week after I paid for gas and food. It was awful but I learned a lot.”
Hard work and luck again paid off as Koy was offered a chance to do Comic View on BET. Serendipitously as we were discussing this, Dallas comedian Rudy Rush walked into the Green Room at the Improv to say hello. Pointing at Rush, Koy’s says, “This is a guy who gave me a big shot, I was doing a show for Bob Sumner doing Def Jam on the Road, Ricky Harris was hosting and Rudy was a feature. They wouldn’t even let me open the show I had to stand in front of the curtain before it went up and crawl through it after my set. Rudy looked at Bob and said, ‘Who the fuck is this guy’ Bob was like, ‘I don’t know I just met him today.
Rudy then asks if I wanted to do the Apollo? I was like Hell ya! Rudy says he is going to have his manager call the next week and he was true to his word it was like two weeks later and I was onstage at the Apollo. Rudy was the host.”
For a non-African American comedian to do Showtime at the Apollo is rare, the legendary theater is in the heart of Harlem in New York and for a comedian, it is a very tough room.
That exposure lead to a spot at the Montreal Comedy Festival six years ago, where talent scouts for ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’ approached him as he left the stage. “Congratulations you have just got the Tonight Show,” Koy smiles, “I called my Dad and told him and I think I called everyone else I know to tell them I was going to be on the Tonight Show.”
The path to what is still the biggest stage for a young comic is not exactly linear, Koy explains, “Before they let you on the show they want to make sure your act is tight. You only have 5 minutes and they want to make sure you are not a risk to swear and that you have a chance to do it right.” After telling everyone he was going to be on the show it took months for it to happen. “They would come to see my “Tonight” set over and over and for a comedian doing a 5 minute set is hard, usually we want or need at least 20 to get in and rolling right.”
The work was worthwhile as Koy registered one of the few Standing Ovations in tonight show history.
While coming up Koy would work three jobs at Nordstrom Rack, Borders Books and on Saturdays and Sundays doing catering on a yacht and still hit the Laugh Factory for a set at least 4 or 5 times a week.
“Being on the Tonight Show changed my life completely,” Koy says, “When I booked it people told me it was “Good Tape” because I could use it to send around to clubs to the managers so I could get booked. I mean people would downplay it like it wasn’t as big a deal as it was. Within two weeks I was doing a national ad campaign for a cell phone company and was booked on a national tour and all of a sudden I was making great money for the first time.”
From there Koy’s path started to rise dramatically getting his own Comedy Central special, ‘Jo Koy – Don’t Make Him Angry,’ he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel and was featured on Jamie Fox’s Laughapalooza tour. From this, his routines have hit “the Foxhole comedy station on Satellite Radio.
“I really like the way things have come together, it is kind of like the old way of doing things where I was out there making it happen one night at a time,” Koy admits that there are now times he has to almost pinch himself to know this success is real, “When Tom (Werner) approached me about the sit com I had to sit back and go WOW! I mean this is the guy who created the ‘Cosby Show’, how cool is that? I couldn’t believe he was having dinner with me let alone developing a television show for me.”
Werner also owns the Boston Red Sox and Koy had the experience of sitting in the Owners Box with his father watching the Sox play at Fenway,“I couldn’t believe we were sitting there. Tom actually comes to my shows and watches. It is just crazy he knows my bits and talks to me about things that can be the basis of an episode.”
Koy is also working on a book, is a regular every week on ‘Chelsea Lately’ and is touring extensively and is performing this weekend at the Addison Improv.
During the Thursday night set at the Addison Improv, a woman sitting down in front – who may have gone from “Dos Equis” to “Bente Equis” – started calling out a request for “Orange Chicken,” a signature bit from early in Jo’s career, “I hate that, I really do have an idea of where I am going with what I do. I don’t do that one in my act any more, I don’t just want to sit up there and do a “Set”. That would be boring for me and for my audience. I have people come back to see me and they make comments that it is different every time. To me that is a great complement.”
His set now is reflective of where he is in life, still dealing with his mother, and now primarily with his son, who is even featured on some of Koy’s merchandise, “I grew up with next to nothing and now I am in a position so my son can have everything, but I am on the road so much it is hard.” Koy makes sure when he is back in LA his spends as much time as he can with the little guy, explaining, “His mother and I are not together anymore, but I make sure she is ok and really, now, we are the best of friends.”
As Koy’s career takes off into the stratosphere, he remains rooted in remembering how hard it was to get started, “The guys who I bring with me as openers, Adam Hammer and Ty Rivera, I really want them to have a chance to enjoy the road. I mean, when I was out there starting it was horrible and some weeks I lost money. I decided very early I wasn’t going to make my openers lives miserable. I am going to help them because I didn’t have that, after all Adam , my opener here, has to get the crowd going and you can do that better when you are into the act.”
Judging from the nearly sold out crowd at the Improv for a Thursday show, getting tickets to Koy’s sets this weekend might be difficult. It is an act you may not be able to see again at such an intimate venue as the next time you see Jo Koy will most likely as the star of his own show on NBC or CBS.
Improv Comedy Club
4980 Belt Line Road
Dallas, TX 75254-7037
After spending twenty years working as a comedic writer and standup comic Greg Behrendt achieved fame very quickly.
It was sudden, a line he created as a writer on “Sex and the City” was somewhat off the cuff and became a tag for a stand-up routine, then a New York Times Best Selling book on relationships (co-authored with Liz Tuccillo), a movie and even opened the door for his own daytime TV show.
The line “He’s just not that into you…” was a phenomenal word combination that seemed to unlock something, primarily in women, and suddenly Greg Behrendt became the “Guy” with the answers for understanding guys. “The book came about because a really small publisher thought a relationship book for women from a guy’s standpoint would be something we could sell a couple of copies. So the Sex in The City gig was over and I was out of work and it was something fun to do and get paid for.” Greg says “It went out on a really small imprint and then I went on Oprah and it sold a lot of copies.”
Prior to his Oprah appearance as a “Relationship Expert” Behrendt had been a headliner touring the country doing his stand up, writing stories appearing on the Tonight Show and Conan O’Brian building his stand-up career his own Comedy Central special “Greg Behrendt is UnCool” in 2006.
Uncool was stand-up of the then 40 year old, who had dreams of being a rockstar’s evolution from cool young dude to creepy old guy and becoming a devoted husband and father of two little girls. His wife worked in the music industry and his ambitions have now resulted in an emerging band called “Reigning Monarchs”
“I started stand-up in San Francisco after being encouraged to give it a shot by Margaret Chow.” Explains Behrendt. Chow was a fellow member of an Improv Comedy troupe called “Crash and Burn” and after a taste Greg was hooked. He joined the writing team on Sex and the city as a straight man (pun intended) giving notes and suggestions to the writers who were almost all women or gay guys.
When two of the characters were trying to decipher the intentions of a suitor Carrie’s new boyfriend explained: “He’s just not that into you, if he was he would have come up meeting or no meeting.” For the female characters in the show and millions of women across the country that line was powerful. Ironically the short lived “boyfriend” (Jack Berger played by Ron Livingstone in season six) who delivered the line eventually got very tired of nonstop decoding men for the women.
The incredible success of the book, and other “Self help” books like “It’s called a breakup because it’s broken” propelled Behrendt into the cusp of celebrity and suddenly 20 years of work became an overnight success. A syndicated Daytime Talk show followed and the Greg Behrendt became the “Dude Whisperer” to millions of women.
The TV show only lasted a year, but as Behrendt says in his stand up (Appearing this weekend at the Addison Improv) women all over the country suddenly took self help to some sort of Oracle of Dude’s. As the “Jack” character foretold being the “Answer” man got worn out. “It first really hit me when I was on stage in New York. There was a table full of women who were talking while I was on stage and I just snapped. I yelled at one woman, who was talking loudly and she held up a copy of the book, she didn’t come to see my act she came to ask me why her boyfriend broke up with her.” The rest of the story he tells on stage but it resulted in a 2-year hiatus from performing.
Basically what happened is he answered a woman’s question as a guy, a Dude if you will. He saw the problem, proposed a solution and expected to be able to move on as guys tend to do. Behrendt was unprepared for the volume of follow up questions that hit him from thousands of women struggling to understand men.
As his fame grew he began to feel uncomfortable in his own skin. Some women were approaching him on the street expecting him to solve their problems, which is sort of funny when you think about it. As “Greg Behrendt – Self Help Guy” he noticed that a lot of the people approaching him were not interested in helping themselves but having someone else fix them.
He went from being a stand-up comedian to a strange blending of Dr. Phil and Tony Robbins moving further from what he knew was his core, comedy.
During his break from the spotlight Behrendt started playing music more and pod-casting “Walking the Room” a title is a bit of an inside joke to other comedians identifying someone who walks out during a set or clearing a room with a mass walkout. He has set up a new twitter account so as to take a complete break from the “Greg Brehendt” persona and what people expected of him.
Back in his first love of on-stage stand-up comedy his keen wit and personable presence still has some stories of what happened in his time as “Oracle of Dudes” and relatable humor of now being 47 years old and having two very different daughters beginning to really develop into their own worlds.
Sitting in the green room of the Improv Greg is relaxed in his skin and seems to have found some peace being back telling stories and making people laugh. His musical knowledge is amazingly deep and discusses old Reggae, early Ska Surf and just about every other genre of music.
He is lighter having lost over 25 pounds and has toned up both his body and sharp wit it. His audience is still skewed towards a female demographic but his humor is universal with two shows tonight and one on Sunday it is an act that is well worth catching, don’t expect him to solve your relationship problems but if you know a little about music….
Improv Comedy Club
4980 Belt Line Road
Dallas, TX 75254-7037
- 3 Non Juans Tackle The Addison Improv
- Justin Foster at the Improv Comedy Club
- There’s No Business like Cho Business: Henry Cho Headlines the Addison Improv This Weekend
Fresh from finishing a Showtime special, three very funny men have pulled up to the brick wall façade at the Addison Improv for their first stop on a national tour.
The three, Al Madrigal, Johnny Sanchez, and Carlos Alazraqui are far better known for their voices and characters then on name recognition.
Madrigal has had his own Comedy Central special and has been a regular on many sitcoms like CBS’s ‘Gary Unmarried’ and has appeared on dozens of talk shows and has been touring with his act for years. Much of his act is rooted in his own experience of being of Mexican origin but lacking the expected Spanish skills that can land him in situations like trying to hire day laborers at Home Depot to work on his house.
Breaking it down to being an uncomfortable rose ceremony on a bizarre version of the ‘Bachelor’ between two semi non-verbal workers he builds a pantomime tale of confusion that leaves the audience gasping for air.
Sanchez, a veteran of MadTV and a voiceover actor who provided the voice of Leonardo, the Spanish-accented penguin in ‘Happy Feet’. His razor sharp observational comedy is accented by a command of impersonating celebrity voices and creating stories of alienation and assimilation and odd twists on being known but not known in the entertainment industry.
Alazraqui (Al’s Racky if you are trying to figure out how to pronounce that mouthful) is a voice and comedic actor you know better than you might think. His first real huge success was as the voice of the Taco Bell Dog ad campaign and dozens of animated characters (including the penguin, Nestor, in ‘Happy Feet’) but by far he is best known for spending five seasons and two movies playing Officer James Garcia on Comedy Central’s ‘Reno 911!’. You’ve heard his voice in everything from “Family Guy” to “Fairly Odd Parents” and the unique voices and characters he builds up on stage are as animated in person as any pen and ink guy could pull off in a studio. Frantic and very funny, Alazraqui brought the house down with his tales of being a basic cable celebrity, which is kind of like being sort of recognized in the way someone who saw a wanted poster on the news kind of recognizes you.
With shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, this show is a must see. The three draw straws in the back to determine who hits the mike first which is unique because the three are all headliners in their own right.
For a night of gut busting comedy do not miss the Three Non Juans.
I’ve known a few improvisational comedians in my life. The obvious expectation is that every encounter with them is a laugh riot. That’s not really the case, though I’ll concede that they seem to be gifted conversationalists, with a unique ability to draw people out (probably mining for new material, no doubt). Von Daniel is one such individual. It was his talent for chit-chat that introduced me to Locked Out Comedy, his improvisational comedy troupe that performs monthly at Dave & Buster’s inside Stonebriar Mall in Frisco. I haven’t gotten a chance to check out one of their shows yet (I mean, Frisco is far), so it’s convenient that they’re coming to me.
This Thursday, LOC performs at The Public House on Greenville in Dallas for a fundraiser benefiting the Camp Life ministry of Legacy Missions. Camp Life is an annual camp for AIDS orphans held in Zambia. More than 500 American volunteers travel to Africa to assist with the eight-week program, which attracts 10,000-plus campers. It demonstrates LOC’s versatility to be able to work a church-y gig like this one and then turn around and perform at, say, a bachelor party or corporate training or retirement celebration. The group bills itself as “clean” and incorporates audience participation to keep shows fresh and lively.
Members also conduct improv workshops, where introverted scaredy cats like me learn how to be confident that they can turn whatever audience input they receive into something laugh-worthy. They call it “mental flexibility.” I call it something that is likely to make me sweat profusely. If you do attend one of their shows, it’s possible you’ll get called into service without the benefit of prior training, which is one argument for workshop attendance. Still, I think I’d be sweating regardless.
Our BOTX marketing goddess sent me word this afternoon, on behalf of Moroch’s Lauren B., that Mockingbird Station has at least FIVE new residents moving in soon!
If comedy is your thing, or heckling comics for that matter, looks like the Angelika Film Center will have Hyena’s Comedy Club as a neighbor. And remember folks, laughter is far nicer a sound than crying, unless you’re a snorter like me. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one, people.
If you’re a fashionista on a budget, local designer Oscar Fierro is moving in between Café Express and Ann Taylor Loft. Though the store will feature couture and gown collections, his Go-To collection promises “sophisticated, yet clean and sexy” items which will all retail for under $30. Read more