Jo Koy returns to Oahu for more Blaisdell Arena laughs
Jo Koy used a standard backdrop when he played Blaisdell Arena last November. This year he’ll be on a stage in the center of the arena.
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Tell people that Jo Koy is performing “in the round” this weekend and you’re likely to get some puzzled looks.
“I never heard of In The Round,” they may say in honest bewilderment. “Where’s it located at?”
The confusion is understandable. When most big acts do a show in an arena they stage it like they’re playing in a theater: There’s a backdrop of some kind behind the stage, and the audience all sits in front of it. The downside is that the backdrop also “kills” all the seats in the sections behind it — subtract 960 seats from the total capacity of slightly more than 8,000 at the Blaisdell Arena.
Koy used a standard backdrop when he played the Arena last November. This year he’ll be on a stage in the center of the arena, performing with the audience all around him — “in the round” — and playing for 960 more people per show than he did a year ago. (Scattered single tickets for shows were still available on Wednesday.)
“I can’t wait,” Koy said, calling from California during a break in his “Just Kidding World Tour.”
“It’s going to be completely different (from last year). It’s just a much bigger venue. It changes everything. It’s going to be a concert, man!”
KOY HAS had a special relationship with Hawaii ever since he made his debut here as the opening act/emcee of a hip hop concert in the Arena in 2001. Featured artists Ludicris and Snoop Dogg took the stage hours late, leaving Koy to take the stage time after time, bantering with an increasingly unruly crowd. Somehow he managed to get people laughing every time.
Koy returned to earn a loyal local following as the headliner of comedy shows at the Wave Waikiki, Pipeline Cafe and The Republik. After headlining his own Netfli special, in 2017 he made entertainment history by selling out 11 shows — more than 23,000 seats — in the Blaisdell Concert Hall.
Koy’s fans here also helped propel his first comedy album, “Live From Seattle,” to the top of the Billboard Album charts, and follow his weekly podcast, “The Koy Pond with Jo Koy.”
This time around, he’s stopping off in Hawaii on the way Australia and New Zealand. Upcoming projects include a book scheduled for publication next June and a second Netflix comedy special.
“It’s crazy, and I love it” he said, summing up his career, the enthusiasm in his voice leaving no doubt that “crazy” is a good thing. “I’m exactly where I want to be.”
“I catch myself a lot, sighing and groaning and complaining — and that’s natural — but immediately after I say something negative I say somethin’ positive, because I never want this to go away. I have to travel (a lot) — but I’m sitting in First Class! What do I have to complain about?”
”I always remember where I was — like that night with Snoop Dogg in the Arena. I remember that night, and I never want it to happen again. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep it going.”
KEEPING IT going includes keeping in touch with his mother’s family in the Philippines, and doing shows there with other Filipino-American entertainers who grew up in the United States. Koy is doing a one-nighter Jan. 14 in the Pacific Grand Ballroom at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino.
“I think it’s cool to showcase the Philippines in that light, and then show the struggle that immigrant parents — Filipino-American parents — came from,” he said. “Show the world what they left (in the Philippines), and then for us to go back and appreciate (the Philippines). Then on top of that I’m going to find a kid there who’s doing stand up and bring him on stage, just to show the world that comedy is universal.”
On a personal level Koy has already proved that his comedy is universal. His jokes about his mother and her Filipina friends transcend ethnicity. His stories about being a single parent, and his observations on male/female relationships, ring true nationwide. Filipino-Americans may or may not be his “base,” but Koy connects with everyone.
“When I go to Nashville it’s sold out, and there’s maybe four or five Filipinos in the audience,” he said, adding that he has had fans on the streets of New York recite character sketches he recorded in Hawaii.
And this time, Koy said emphatically, since he’s doing two shows in a week instead of four — let alone 11 — he’ll be able to relax and enjoy his time here.
“Every time I’m there, I have my days off, but when I have those days off I’m worried and stressed about technical things that most people who go to Hawaii don’t worry about. This time it’s (only) two shows. The first one blew out. The second is almost (sold out) so I’ll really get to go and enjoy Hawaii, have a lot of time to appreciate Hawaii, and then go up on stage and entertain.”
“Just Kidding World Tour”
>> Where: Blaisdell Arena
>> When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
>> Cost: $44-$139 (VIP)
>> Info: 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
>> Note: Mature content; children ages 11 and younger will not be admitted