Nine years ago, Jo Koy’s visit to Hawaii left him out on an island.
The comedian was emceeing a hip-hop show at Blaisdell Arena, but the headliners were hours late, leaving Koy to keep the stage and the crowd warm.
"I had to do a ton of improvisation, coming off the top of my head, making fun of the crowd," said Koy, who returns to the Pipeline Cafe for three shows this weekend. "It was rough, man, but I got a good review. … A reporter wrote, ‘He was the only positive thing to happen from this.’ But I will never do that s– again.’"
It looks like he will never have to. Koy is now one of the top draws in comedy, with the Pipeline having to add an appearance the last time he was here.
COMEDIAN JO KOY
Where: Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St.
When: 7 p.m. tonight, 5 and 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Info: 877-714-7668, www.pipelinecafehawaii.com
Koy makes regular appearances with Chelsea Handler on E! network’s "Chelsea Lately," offering choice commentary on celebrity misdeeds of the day.
He even has a new sitcom in the works.
"It’s based on my stand-up, but the cool thing is that it’s with a guy named Tom Werner, who produced ‘Cosby’ and ‘Roseanne,’" he said. "It’s not going to be a reality show, but it’s going to be based on my family. … It’s going to be a lot of fun."
Werner’s family-oriented comedies appear to be a perfect fit with Koy. Though he often pokes fun at different ethnic groups, Koy, who is of Filipino and Caucasian ancestry, said his humor is more focused on family relationships and the dynamic between parent and child.
"All I do is tell the stories. I’m not making them up. I talk about how I got fired from McDonald’s — and how my mother got my job back … about her playing the Wii.
"It’s great because people come up to me — they’re not Filipino — and they’ll say, ‘My mom did the same d– thing to me.’"
KOY said his mother essentially launched his show biz career, putting him and his sister in shows that she organized for the Filipino-American community in Tacoma, Wash., which he calls "the armpit of Seattle" because of the smell of the lumber mills there.
Koy’s mother now hosts a radio show in Las Vegas, providing him with even more comic material.
"She started it about two years ago, and it’s taken off for her," he said. "Of course, she’s using a bit of her son’s celebrity to promote this thing. … She’s running with it pretty big, and it’s cool."
Growing up in a military family, Koy honed his flair for comedy early.
"Every few years, I was in a new school, and I had to make new friends and be the new guy in class. I had to joke around. I always knew I was going to be the funny one no matter what school I went to."
He is grateful that it has all come together for him now. Koy climbed the ladder of success slowly. As recently as four years ago, he was working three jobs — at a bank and a shoe store and catering on board a yacht — to make ends meet.
Those experiences are keeping him humble, despite the "stressful" life he has now.
"Sometimes I go, ‘I don’t want to get on that plane, I just want to stay home for one day,’" he said. "And then I realize, ‘Dude, do you want to go back to that shoe store? Do you want to be taking out the trash on that yacht?’"
This time around, he has no intention of being stranded.