I have a secret to tell: I watched Jo Koy’s show at the Mall of Asia Arena without having seen any of his Netflix specials or his videos online. I remember watching his skits on Chelsea Lately but it was such a long time ago that I don’t even remember his jokes.
I went to the show because he’s a polarizing figure and I was curious to see what makes him funny. Some people have said that he panders to fans by using Filipino stereotypes.
As a Fil-Am comic, it’s true that Jo Koy had jokes about the Filipino experience, such as deep-seated family drama between titas who are “plastic” to each other and pointing with one’s lips. There was even one quip about the size of a Filipino male’s appendage. As expected, the thick accent was rife. It went well with the crowd, who lapped up every joke.
What I appreciated the most was how Jo Koy did not use Pinoy humor as a crutch. The accent was not the punchline but the medium through which he delivered his zingers. He also didn’t do it mockingly. In fact, he cites a story when boxer Manny Pacquiao had one of his early matches against Marco Barrera in the early 2000s. Manny won the match and the world was introduced to the man who would become one of the greatest professional boxers of all time. Instead of feeling shame at Manny’s thick accent, Jo Koy felt proud because the boxer introduced the Philippines to the world.
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You can tell the comic loves the country because his jokes about his family were told with affection. He told stories about growing up with a Filipino mom, which was relatable because many of us grew up with a terror mom who believed we were kidnapped when we came home late. Even more relatable for parents were his stories about his 16 year old son, who gets into mischief every now and then. One of Jo Koy’ best routines is when he said how much Filipinos love karaoke. To prove his point, he played tracks from ’90s singers like Boyz II Men, TLC, and Brian McKnight, stopping them from time to time to allow the audience to sing. Everyone sang along, word for word (I sang along to “No Scrubs”).
Another thing that shows how much Jo Koy loves the Philippines is how he gave local comedians a platform to perform sets. He made a surprise visit to a bar in Quezon City and delivered his own set, before inviting three of them to his show at the Mall of Asia Arena. Aldo Cuervo delivered a great set about being Fil-Am, while Red Ollero dropped some hilarious fat jokes. Lastly, Yuki Harishoshi gave a lesson on the differences between Filipino and Japanese culture. Jo Koy also invited Fil-Am Andrew Lopez and Eric Schwartz, who set the tone to the evening’s affairs.
I came in not being a fan but I am a convert. Sure, some may not like Jo Koy’s humor because he’s essentially telling us things we already know. It’s true, the way we know lumpia is awesome and that the tabo is a staple in Filipino households. But Jo Koy delivers it in his own unique way. There may be a lot of jokers but there’s only one Josep.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below!
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