Bright Lights Jo Koy opens up to CULTURE about his successful comedy career and latest endeavors

Comedian Jo Koy grew up looking at the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip. He imagined one day performing his stand-up comedy to huge crowds and selling out shows. This dream became a reality this past year when Koy’s comedy tour brought him right back to the city he called home, and every seat in the house was filled. His career really started to take off in 2005, when he performed for the world on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and received a coveted standing ovation.

Koy has appeared on over 100 episodes of Chelsea Lately, and he is also a regular guest on The Adam Corolla Show. He is currently touring the country, and he just released his third live comedy special and Netflix debut Jo Koy: Live from Seattle. Koy also hosts the weekly podcast, “The Koy Pond,” with new episodes every Thursday on Podcast One. We had a chance to sit down with Koy and chat about his explosive career, his family, and of course, cannabis.

“I hope federal [cannabis] legalization happens soon; I don’t even know why it’s illegal. I can count 10 drugs off the top of my head that should be illegal . . .”

What was your role on Chelsea Lately, and what was it like working with her crew?

To this day, people still think that show is on. People call into my show and they’re like, “I watch you every night on Chelsea Lately,” and I say, “That show hasn’t been on in years.” That thing was a daily show, it wasn’t a weekly show, and people watched it every single day. It was being viewed by everyone. That show had so much power and impact in my career, that it really did change everything. It changed the game for me. It just kind of blew up in front of everyone’s faces—I don’t even think Chelsea expected it to do what it did.

We would love to hear about your current comedy tour, are you enjoying yourself?

I love it. We are hoping to be international next year. I’ve already done Australia, the Philippines and Guam. This year we are staying right here in the states, and it’s been great. I’ve been nonstop; I just did Vegas last, my hometown. I played the Mystery Theater at Treasure Island, and I sold out every single seat, which was unbelievable. Imagine just living there and looking at the strip and thinking, “Someday I’ll perform there.” And when it actually happened, I sold the place out. I pinch myself every time I think about it. It’s just one of those things where you pinch yourself and you say, “Is this really happening?”

Nevada recently legalized recreational cannabis, what are your thoughts on the growing number of states with legal cannabis?

I hope federal legalization happens soon; I don’t even know why it’s illegal. I can count 10 drugs off the top of my head that should be illegal, but for some reason they’re A-OK to have, you know? I think the reason why it’s illegal is obvious. I think that the government can’t control it and capitalize on it the way they really want to. Once you legalize it then, boom, everyone is growing it in their backyard.

“I think that the government can’t control it, and capitalize on it the way they really want to. Once you legalize it then, boom, everyone is growing it in their backyard.”

If your 13-year-old son asked you about smoking cannabis, what would you say?

Things are going to happen. I think I’ve done a very good job of showing what drugs can do. And I’m not saying anything bad about cannabis or anything, but it’s your environment, it’s the people you surround yourself with. It’s your responsibility, as long as he can be responsible and make sure little things are alright, then I’m fine.

You talk about your mom a lot in your stand-up. Can you tell us about the influence she has had on your career?

My mom indirectly got me into comedy. She was the one who got us onstage in these Filippino talent shows. She was just fulfilling her responsibilities as the entertainment person with the Filippino Association. I don’t think she really saw talent in us, or thought that she was going to make us stars. She had to fill the stage at these events that the association would have. She would say, “Oh my daughter can sing, and my son can dance.” Then when my sister and I both wanted to pursue it, she said, “Well there’s not really any money in it.” She was just like any other mom, trying to get us to go to college and get a job with benefits. But then when stuff kind of started taking off for me and my sister, she was like, “Oh it was my idea, I knew you guys were going to make it.”

Your third comedy special and Netflix debut was just released on March 28, were you excited?

Yes! Netflix, baby. My first comedy specials were with Comedy Central and now this one is with Netflix. I’m just so happy to be a part of this family. Man, they are just changing the game, and I’m just happy to be a part of it. They are so good at what they do.

Tell us about your weekly podcast “The Koy Pond.

You know what I love about “The Koy Pond”? I like to sit on my improv skills. So when I have a guest come on the show, they will tell their stories. I like to just dig right in and recreate the stories that they just told. Like if they are talking about their mom and dad, I’ll create the character where I become the mom and just start improvising with my guest. We just go with it and see where it takes us. That’s more fun to me, and that’s the kind of podcast I like to listen to, so that’s why I like to do it that way. Anything can happen.

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