Jo Koy grades himself on the Golden Globes, prepares for Kia Forum shows

A mean in a beanie sits on a blue couch for a portrait.

On the heels of his Golden Globes performance and as he warms up for two shows at the Kia Forum, Jo Koy poses for a portrait at his office on Jan. 10, 2024.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

There’s still a look of hope in Jo Koy’s eyes.

Just days after being roasted in the media for his performance as the host of the 81st Golden Globes, Koy admits he’s a little emotionally raw from the experience. He is still his usual self: ready with a joke and a hearty laugh. He smiles broadly during an interview with The Times at his office in Studio City, looking around the space that includes a top-of-the-line recording studio and mini stage set with his logo emblazoned on one of the nearby walls. It’s a space designed for him to prep his material as well to help develop new comics. He hopes to make it a space where he can give back to the community.

“I want people that are coming up struggling right now to be able to go to a venue that’s sick,” Koy said. “I used to do coffeehouses and I just remember how much I would hate going there. Because it’s like I’m trying to tell the punchline and this motherf— is grinding coffee grounds during my punch line or washing dishes.”

Though the experiences from his early days as a stand-up were humbling, he’s been reflecting on how to keep moving forward in the wake of the awards show.

Instead of having months to prepare to host the Golden Globes, he had just 10 days to get caught up with last year’s films and shows while also writing fresh material. His writers weren’t picked until eight days before the show; they didn’t get into a writers’ room until two days before, and the monologue was done the day before.

A smiling man in a dark suit onstage holds a mic to his mouth and gestures with one hand

Jo Koy hosted the 81st Golden Globe Awards, which were broadcast by CBS and streamed on Paramount+ on Jan. 7, 2024.

(Sonja Flemming / CBS via AP)

“We were still writing up until they said we’re live,” Koy said. “Absolute cold reads, never got a chance to work out anything. And this is not an excuse, I’m just trying to paint the picture because I don’t think people understand, in any situation, how is that geared towards winning? If you were to write that situation down on a piece of paper and go, ‘Do you want to do this?’ I guarantee everyone would be like ‘No.’ I’m happy I did it because I did accept that challenge.”

Koy has spent the last few days reflecting on his 35 years in comedy and putting more Filipino culture in the mainstream with multiple tours and Netflix specials, particularly with his jokes about his mother and family members.

He’ll be bringing plenty of his true-life material to his fans next month during back-to-back shows at the Kia Forum on Feb. 16 and 17 to kick off a five-month world tour. The shows at the Forum will make him the stand-up who has most often headlined the Inglewood venue.

The Times caught up with Koy, who addressed the Globes drama and talked about his new tour, the process of crafting his stand-up show and what’s next for him.

What did your mom say about the Golden Globes?

It’s so beautiful to be getting a text from my mom. It’s just the true definition of a parent, you know, and that’s who I need to always make my first role model. I feel like being the dad that I am, the ex-husband that I am, was all from her indirectly and directly, so I talk about it onstage for a reason.

I always felt like you know, when I do talk about her or say something, it’s to make sure that she gets her flowers in the same way, indirectly or directly. [She sent] just a beautiful text, “so proud of you.” As a mom, she’s protective and she understands because she knows who her son is, and that’s a beautiful thing.

A man wearing a beanie and glasses smiles.

“I think I did well given the circumstances,” comedian Jo Koy says of his gig hosting the Golden Globes.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

What grade would you give your performance that evening?

I think I did well given the circumstances. I don’t want to give myself a rating because that’s subjective, you can give me whatever rating you want. I’m gonna give myself an A-plus just based on the courage [to do it]. I’m going to hit it over the head a million times, whoever you can think of in your head that could have done it, I’m telling you right now they said no and I didn’t. I looked at it in a different light. The history of the show is 81 years. That’s 81 hosts and some repeated. I’m the first Asian to ever solo host. It’s 2024, I’m the first out of 81 years. Sandra Oh was the first co-host, but I was the first solo host. Imagine if someone said yes before me, we’d still be at the 82nd Golden Globes and still no Asian as a solo host, so if I didn’t say yes, there still would never have been.

There was a sense that you threw the writers under the bus during your monologue. I wanted to give you a chance to respond to that.

I love my writers. I love all three of them and I shouted them out. And I told them like that was a moment right there where I’m just grasping. I love them and I can’t stop talking about them in every interview. They busted their ass, man. There’s a lot of greats that make rookie moves. That was a rookie move. Those writers are dope and that was not my intention at all. They were amazing, they had my back and I need to make sure I fix that and I will, I always will.

It’s so crazy because the day before, we were all sitting right here, it was the first time we all met in person, the day before we had to turn in that monologue. One time, that’s all we had. It was the most insane thing. And all we did was just sit and just go over it. And then you know there’s the suggestions. I went up on my stage [here at my office] and just verbally ran through it. But I was running it through [our group], of course we’re gonna laugh at it. It’s honest feedback for us but I didn’t get to run it onstage anywhere. I didn’t get to go anywhere where I could just sneak these things in and that’s what this is all about, it’s working things out. So given the circumstances, that’s what I had to go through and that’s fine.

During your monologue, what was the joke where you thought it would land and it didn’t?

I didn’t understand the Taylor [Swift] tiff. Mind you, that one was just getting rewritten 50 million times, never ran it through, all the way up until we had to walk out. It’s just weird, where do you place it, and and we kept hammering it and cutting it down. But the whole intention of that joke was to make fun of the NFL. It’s like, the cool thing about the [Golden] Globes is we don’t need to do cutaways for ratings. What hurts the most is me just supporting Taylor, I support her, I love her work. I got nieces that I bought tickets for. There’s no ill intent in that joke. The joke is about the NFL and how they keep using cutaways to [her]. And it’s an obvious reason why. I’m not saying anything that no one’s saying,and it’s obvious what that joke was. It’s about the NFL. It’s like out of everything that has happened this is the one you choose to go after. I didn’t understand why because it was fun when I walked out. Robert De Niro was dying, like, and I’m looking at him and his wife was smacking his back and smiling and laughing and he was laughing. And when I did the whole thing about him being 80 he loved it. And that was fun. I was like, man, this guy’s so much fun. And then I did that [Swift] joke and I’m like, what just happened?

Then just the reaction to the Barbie joke. The things that are being said, it’s just like, man, I don’t think you understand who I am as a person, you know what I mean? Because if you’ve ever seen me, you’ll see just how much I praise and shine light on women, from my ex-wife to my mom. My whole goal is to try and change that type of narrative and just that look of being part of a divorced family. I’m telling a joke — what happened to society where we can’t even joke with each other anymore. I bought the movie. I supported the movie. Yes, that’s the story that that doll needed. And I’m glad because now there’s people that look like my mom that can support that.

How do you feel your comedy has changed the way we talk about race?

I want to be able to make my mom feel beautifully badass because that’s exactly who she is. And I want her to be appreciated and I want her to shine. She had to raise these kids during a horrible time and I’m not saying that it’s not horrible now, we’re always gonna go through this, but let’s not forget the past and what our parents and our grandparents had to go through. It was f— horrible. And I’m just happy that I have a platform where I can make her shine and be appreciated.

A man in a beanie, glasses and long coat looks into the camera.

Comedian Jo Koy says his about-to-launch tour “is this is me now.”

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

What’s your vision going into your upcoming tour?

This tour is this is me now. It’s a different stage in my life. It’s a different chapter in my book and I need to shine light on it. I’m older now. I’m not the young guy anymore. I don’t drink anymore. I have a sip but I ain’t going hard like I used to. I stopped eating meat. I can’t process red meat like I used to. I can’t eat chicken. I just can’t. I’m more health-conscious now. With my son, I’m on the verge of having an empty nest and it’s killing me that my best friend is about to move on and become his own person. Talk about a depression that I’ve been dealing with. It’s been crazy. I went the whole month of December just going through it. I’ve never talked to so many people about it before in my life. I don’t know what’s going on with me right now but a glimpse of reality is biting me in the ass and I can’t handle it. I find myself hugging and kissing my dog more now. It’s been a whirlwind of emotion and mental strength, I guess trying to strengthen my brain without going crazy.

What is your typical writing process when you are working on your specials or tour?

It’ll take me about a year to write an hour. But in that year, we’re talking about maybe 100-something shows, maybe more, 125 shows, and nonstop working out and crafting it and crafting it and just yelling at myself. Like, why is this not coming together? I’ll have jokes I’ve been working on for like 30 shows, and I’m just like, f— it, bury it. And you give all your emotion and all your thought into a two-minute joke and then to just be like, just bury it, it’s not working. And then there’s those nights where you stumble onto something, and you’re just like, “Oh, there it is.” Then you keep it and then you work it and work it and tighten it. Then there’s these ideas where you say, like, “God no, don’t do that again.” That’s the process, and I love the process.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception people have about stand-up comics?

It’s so crazy to me that [people] think that this is easy. We all know that the No.1 fear is public speaking. And that’s over skydiving. Like there’s lot of people out there that would rather jump out of a plane with a nylon bag on their back than to get in front of 25 people in a coffeehouse and tell a joke. Their heart would pound and I know what that feels like because I still, to this day, remember the first time I went onstage. How I thought I was going to die. Like I could literally hear and feel my heart pounding. I’m 52 now and I remember it like it was yesterday. Just hearing my heart in my ear, just hearing and feeling it. I remember where I was on the list. And I remember counting down each performer and hating the fact that that person was done. Because I knew it was just getting closer and closer to me. So that misconception of it being easy, it’s just so nuts. It’s not that it’s easy. It’s the people you’re witnessing make it look easy.

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