Review: Jo Koy does it all at The Republik
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Jo Koy did it all Saturday night — ethnic jokes, mainstream comedy, broad physical impressions and improv — as he entertained a sold-out house with a solid 90-minute show at The Republik. After performing on Maui, it was the first of three shows for Koy at The Republik this weekend. He closes the engagement with a final performance at 7 p.m. Sunday.
Presented by BAMP Project
» Where: The Republik, 1349 Kapiolani Blvd.
Koy has come here on a regular basis for almost a decade and opened the show with accurate Hawaii-specific material.
Slippers. Samoans. Spam (“I only eat Spam in Hawaii”). Zippy’s. Trading “good meat” (chicken) for “bad meat” (Spam). Mac salad. The phenomenon of “Hawaiian time.” Looking for people who are actually Hawaiian. The hazards involved in eating Portuguese sausage.
Koy talked about his son, his strict Filipina mother, the responsibilities of being a parent and some of the ways having children changes a couple’s relationship. A sketch about parents having to copulate quietly so as not to wake the kids — delivered with convincing physical representations of both sexes — was a hit with the crowd. There were evidently many parents in the audience.
Koy’s skill as a physical comedian was also the key to a sketch about a confrontation with an obnoxious administrative clerk at the private school his son attends. Yes, the smug office drone was twerking! Koy is clearly not a fan of private schools — especially the endless fundraising and nickle-and-dime fees for such basic items as milk — but says he sends his son to one anyway.
“Filipinos put their children in private school,” he explained.
That was one of the few jokes last night that was specifically ethnic. Another came when Koy got a loud response when he asked if there were any Filipinos in the audience.
“The hotels are not going to get cleaned tonight,” he quipped.
Koy’s son is going to be 11 in April, and Koy says he’s getting apprehensive. In two years, his son will be 13 and doing what 13 year old boys do (If you don’t know what Koy is talking about go to the show tonight). Koy’s concerns were among a larger chunk of material on his evolving love/sometimes-almost-hate relationship with his son.
“I live vicariously through my son,” he said at one point, launching into several entertaining stories about his experiences as a part-time single parent and his experiences years ago as a child in a single parent family. Koy’s parents divorced when he was nine and from that point on there was barely enough money for essentials. Therefore, Koy said, he pays child support to his ex-wife and spoils his son because he can afford to do so.
Koy’s talent as a comic actor brought to life an assortment of characters — his son, his mother, himself as a child, his sisters, and various third parties including the insufferable private school clerk.
The show wasn’t all laugh-at-it-and-forget-it comedy. Koy’s observations about various aspects of male and female sexuality, and the differences between the sexes, gave everyone in the audience things to think about even as they were laughing. His comments about female sexuality were evidently much appreciated by the women in the audience; feminine laughter was noticeably louder at those points.
Comedians can educate as a well as entertain. The segment on sexuality gave the couples in the audience a lot to talk about — or, perhaps, avoid talking about — on the way home!
Koy’s skill at improv was the key later when he addressed comments to individuals in the audience. In each of those exchanges he always stayed on right side of the thin line that separates comedy from exploitation. Everything Koy came up with was funny yet respectful. When one of the men he spoke to down front told Koy he was Native American, Koy seemed sincerely delighted to “meet a real Indian.”
“And, on behalf of all the white people — Sorry!”
Koy engaged in tasteful yet very funny conversation with a black woman who said her husband was Filipino, and with a large and very muscular Caucasian serviceman from the South.
“I’m half white and half-Asian,” Koy said. “So, obviously, my father was in the military!”
I’d count on Koy to be just as funny and just as on it with whomever catches his eye tonight.
Anyone familiar with some of the fundamentals of stand-up also appreciated his finesse as using developing certain words as laugh triggers — a word or phrase that is funny because it refers back to a previous joke. A Rubik’s Cube is not inherently funny. Koy made it so last night.
And, although there were no outright hecklers in the crowd, Koy quickly shushed a couple of oblivious people who were on the verge of being disruptive.
After entertaining for more than an hour, Koy went in a different direction with impressions, part vocal and part visual, of various R&B acts from the 1990s — JoDeCi, K-Ci & JoJo, Brian McKnight and TLC. He followed that by demonstrating all the stereotypical moves used by white hip-hop/pop acts of the era.
Koy took a few moments to share several serious life messages in compelling style: Be there for your kids even if you are no longer married to the other parent. Be responsible about paying child support; don’t let your kids grow up with less than you’re able to give them. Stay on good terms with your ex if at all possible; do it for your kids.
And, if you don’t want the responsibility of being a parent, don’t have children in the first place.
Koy capped his energetic 90-minute performance by coming out afterward to pose for photos with every member of the audience while the audience for the second show waited to come in.
Comedy doesn’t come any better than that!
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.