Comedian Jo Koy on Anti-Asian attacks in the internet era: 'Ignorance can only go so far'

Koy on the changes since he was a kid, his new book, and more
Comedian Jo Koy
Photo credit Getty Images
By , Audacy

Back in the day, comedian Jo Koy used to call up radio stations all on his own. Now an author and able to sell out any arena he chooses, he likely had one of his "people" call in before getting on the line to talk this week with RADIO.COM's Stryker & Klein. My, how success changes us.

Jo's new book Mixed Plate: Chronicles of an All-American Combo is out now, featuring stories -- sometimes dark, always hilarious -- from his decades-long comedy career and life growing up on the west coast and Vegas as the son of a Filipino immigrant mom and American military dad.

Listen to your favorite music now on RADIO.COM.

Jo's currently in the business of losing Rolex watches, and by "losing" we mean possibly pursuing legal action against thieves who may be named Klein, and promising-but-not-delivering on breakfast bagels. That's not to say he's cheap, quite the opposite; he's repeatedly offered free meals to Klein at the Las Vegas shabu-shabu restaurant Yojié that he's a partner in. Klein has never taken him up on the invites -- he's been and paid -- but co-host Ally's got a different story.

In her defense, Ally says that after Jo repeatedly offered her the same hospitality, she simply let him know that she would be going to the restaurant while in town for her birthday. "You said, 'great, I'll take care of you.' It wasn't like I was harassing you... I'm not the first person to actually take you up on the offer."

Jo agreed, he was happy to oblige. "I think what we're trying to say is that you invited nine of your girlfriends, and that's not what I wanted to pay for. I didn't want to pay for nine strangers," he explained. In the end, Jo was honestly happy that everyone had a great experience, but this should serve as a warning the next time you invite Ally anywhere.

Jo Koy's success may look to the untrained eye as if it happened overnight, but to get to the place he's at now in his career has taken decades of hard work. "I think the hardest struggle, and Netflix knows so I don't feel bad saying it, but getting on Netflix was the hardest thing in the world," he says. "Here I am selling out all these shows, I felt like my hour was strong, but for some reason -- and they're business-people so I get it -- but they said 'no.' And I didn't want to take 'no' for an answer, so I paid for that special myself. I literally paid for everything; the lights, the director, the production, the sound. Everything came out of my pocket, and I cut it up myself and brought it back to them."

"They ended up buying it from me," he continues. "So to me, that was the absolute hardest decision I've ever made financially and mentally, but I'm glad I did it. When people see how my life is now and they just go, 'oh because you got a Netflix special, that's why everything took off.' It's like, no I didn't have a Netflix special. I had to go get a Netflix special. That's some of the stories I talk about in the book. If you truly believe in yourself, then invest and show people why they should have said 'yes.'"

Speaking about progress as an Asian-American in today's climate of biased attacks and hashtag advocacy, the prejudice that Jo has witnessed since he was a child has not abated, but taken on a new shape and style in the age of social media. "What I love the most though, because it is happening but now it's on a different level because of these platforms like Instagram and Facebook and TikTok," he says. "Thank God for these, because when I was a kid you had to pray to God that the national news picked up on a story as evil as what happened in Atlanta. You had to pray to God that that story gets heard and the world can hear about it and they can react. Where now, something as awful as that happening, it was immediate. The response was immediate and if we can say one good thing that came out of this, it was the community of people banding together to catch that person or those persons that did it. The minute that it happened it was all over the Internet -- I was even posting about it, and then the next day he was caught."

"Ignorance can only go so far," says Jo. "If you want to be ignorant and stay there and not learn about other people's cultures or respect other people then that's you, and you will be heard... we will make sure that you're gonna be called out on that. But come on, man. We live in a time when you can Google anything and learn about anything. To me it's just lazy when people go, 'oh that has nothing to do with me, I don't get it. Whatever, I don't understand it.' Well, then you're choosing to be ignorant and we don't have time for that anymore. Let's move forward now."

Listen to Stryker & Klein's full interview with Jo Koy above and pick up his new book Mixed Plate: Chronicles of an All-American Combo out now!

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images