I chanced upon the latest episode this morning (Oct. 17-Friday episode) of “Chelsea Lately” on etc.  One of Chelsea Handler’s usual panel guests was this head-shaven guy (don’t want to use the word ‘bald’) who had appeared in the show several times.   Their round-table conversation was about to end when I finally noticed something…

jokoy philippine jacketThe guy was sporting a jacket with design elements from the Philippine flag (left): the eight-rayed sun; the three stars; blue, red, yellow vertical lines across the chest with Baybayin script (ancient Filipino script) .  Hey! That’s a Pinoy jacket… i exclaimed… and it looks cool!  Who IS this guy?

But the guests left before i could catch his name.  So i consulted the all knowing Internet and finally found out that his name is Jo Koy.jokoy jay leno tonight show

Jo Koy is an American comic with Filipino blood.  He has appeared and performed in several shows (Apollo, Laugh Factory) and is one of the hard-working stars in the comedy world today.  He does make it a point to wear the Philippine flag on his shirt or jacket during some of his shows to announce his Filipino heritage.  He did just that when he guested on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in 2006 (right) wherein he received a standing ovation after his stand-up routine.

Jo Koy (in Visayan means ‘joker’ or ‘joking’) with Jay Leno in 2006.

His decision to proudly wear the flag had to do with his upbringing, his Filipina mom and his beliefs and personal experiences (he doesn’t get it why a lot of Fil-ams in the US he encountered didn’t want to be known as Filipinos). I am posting some of his quotes here (first published in Discovering Pinoys magazine and posted in www.jokoy.com):

On why he wears the flag:

Because my mom’s. She’s so proud. Her name is Josie. She’s always active in the Filipino community and Filipino Chamber of Commerce. She always wanted to be around her fellow Pinoys. When my parents divorced, I took on more of my mom’s culture. I even told my dad when they got divorced; all I knew was my mom’s side of the family. When I first started doing stand-up 12 years ago, Filipinos weren’t so proud of being Pinoy, especially the young generation. So, that challenged me. I told myself, “If I ever have a chance to show it, I’m going to show it.” I hate it when people make fun of Filipinos in a derogatory way. I hate it even more when Filipinos do it themselves. When they dishonor Filipinos, they dishonor my mom, all my relatives and me.  Before my “Tonight Show” appearance, I shopped around looking for a Filipino flag patch to place on my jacket. My friend drove me around to numerous Filipino stores in search of one. Even though it took us a while, we didn’t give up.

On how Filipino/Asian culture influence his career:

Back in 1994, I was so sick of seeing people insult Asians. Even worse were Asians who insulted Asians. I wanted to say, “You know what, I am Asian, but I am funnier than you. I will make you laugh with whatever I will talk about. I do the stereotype stuff, but I do it in a way where it’s funny to everybody. I’m not insulting. I’m making awareness of it, but it’s funny. My main goal is not to bash. I want people to notice my talent and appreciate what I have to say.
Back when I was starting, the entertainment industry was not recognizing Asians, even in Hip Hop music. Look at Hip Hop now; we have Apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas, Chad Hugo of the Neptunes. Filipinos are involved and active in the Hip Hop culture and not only are we active, we are doing it big! Look at the Black Eyed Peas; they are amazing. Filipinos need to be aware. I’ve always been aware. Even back in the day, I always knew Lou Diamond Philips, Rob Schneider, and Tia Carrere were Filipinos. No one was making awareness of it. I never understood why. I did not get it. Kids now are more active and involved. I’m happy and proud of it. It’s great because everything I wasted in ’94 is happening now in 2006, which is 12 years later. I feel great about it. I wore the Filipino flag on my jacket when I appeared on the ”Tonight Show,” and I would have worn it well 12 years ago. Hopefully Filipinos will be proud to say they are Filipino rather than say they are “Hawaiian.” I don’t want anyone to be ashamed of his or her roots. Why do they say they’re “Hawaiian” anyway? I don’t tell people I’m “Californian” or “Navadian.” I am only half Filipino and I am proud to say I am Pinoy. Filipinos around me are just as proud as I am.

He does have a point.  Thankfully, a lot of Fil-ams in the States are now realizing it–that they are slowly becoming a growing force to be reckoned with in Hollywood: many of them are intelligent, and talented and could play a big role in the US entertainment industry soon.  They need to band together and go full blast.  I’m actually excited for them.

I also learned that Jo Koy’s coming to Manila to do a show with fellow Asian American comic Russel Peters on October 21 (that’s this Tuesday) at the NBC Fort. Good luck, Jo Koy and keep wearing that flag!

Here’s A Day in the Life of Jo Koy and his brand of comedy: