In 10 Words or Less
Surprisingly hilarious comedy veteran
Loves: Stand-Up, my kid
Likes: Silly comedians
Dislikes: Racial comedy
As I noted in my review of long-time stand-up comic Bobby Collins' recent DVD, I live close to New York City, and as a result our local comedy clubs have played host to pretty much every comic on the touring circuit. So I've seen (or am at least aware of) the vast majority of stand-ups working in recent history. And thus, I've heard of Jo Koy (and frequently confused him with Martha Stewart sidekick Joey Kola) but I'd never actually seen him perform. Thanks to this new stand-up special, that's been fixed, and I can say I was pleasantly surprised by him, and also surprised that he's not a bigger star in stand-up.
Taking the stage at the Alex Theater in his home state of California, Koy launches into his bread and butter, talking about his Filipino background. It's a long tradition of comics from minority backgrounds to draw on and imitate their family, and Koy is no different in that way, talking about his heavily-accented mother and grandmother and how he's struggled with their cultural differences. It's may not be unique to him, but it's still funny, and since he's coming from a lesser-heard group, it's a bit fresher than usual, especially the story of his mom's warnings about what happens at bars. Part of the focus on his ethnicity is the opportunity to get the crowd on his side, as the audience is heavily Filipino, but he doesn't stay there too long, moving on to more universal topics.
After an early, amusing transition from racial identity to natural disasters (which works far better than it sounds in print thanks to bits about alarms and gay tornados) Koy hits an big high point with a story about him and his son during an L.A. earthquake. It's completely silly and over the top, but it shows his excellent use of physicality and willingness to go all-out for a gag, to the point where I actually couldn't stop laughing. I'm not one who usually goes for a goofy bit of comedy, preferring cerebral comedians, but this was just funny, and sets up the bulk of the set, focusing on Koy's relationship with his son, which alternates between affectionate and adversarial, and lets him muse about being prepared to be a parent, teaching a child to not transfer your hand from your butt to your eye, and men's tendency to masturbate. Wholesome fun.
While Filipino family dynamics aren't a common theme in stand-up, sleep apnea may be an even less-covered topic, but that doesn't stop Koy from tackling it, again bringing his strengths in a big way. I didn't think someone choking due to a problem with their breathing could make me laugh, but somehow, when a bald Filipino man does it, I crack up. Just thinking back to him imitating his son's pain, I'm laughing. If there's anything I could say that best shows what I thought about his performance was the fact that I went right to my Amazon Prime account to find his other specials to watch. I can't imagine there's a comedy fan who wouldn't find something to like here, especially if you're a parent.
The 60-minute special arrives on one DVD, in a standard-width keepcase. The disc has a mildly animated, anamorphic widescreen menu with options to play the film, select scenes, adjust the set-up and check out the extras. Audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks , while English SDH subtitles are available, but there's no closed captioning.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks good, delivering the cool-colored (sans the oddly-oriented red name sign) set crisply, with a nice level of fine detail. The black levels come across nice and deep, and there are no problems with compression artifacts interfering with the image.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track puts Koy in the center channel, clean and clear, recreating the theater experience with some bounce from his voice and the audience's reaction in the surround speakers. There's not a lot to the audio (since it's basically him talking for an hour) but it's presented without any disruption, so that's all you can really ask for.
Before getting into the content of the extras, it has to be said that these featurettes, produced by Angela Calero and Alain Uy, are really well-made, with a high level of polish and style. If you're looking to put together a featurette, find this crew and hire them. Up first is "Jo Koy: All Access" (6:55) which is a peek behind the scenes of the special, focused mainly on the people who work and hang with Koy, including Tia Carrere, Anjelah Johnson and Apl De Ap of The Black Eyed Peas. The feel is very light and jokey and is a fine addition to the DVD.
The other featurette "DJ Josephine" (4:31) follows Koy on a visit to his mother's radio show, giving you a better look at the relationship with her he discussed in the special. There's not a lot to it, but it's interesting to see the inspiration for his jokes.
The Bottom Line
As a fan of stand-up imbued with clever wordplay, surrealism and social commentary, Jo Koy and his energetic, family-based observational comedy didn't seem likely to be my cup of tea. However the enthusiasm he brings to his material and the irreverent way he performs are hard to resist, and I found this set to be just plain enjoyable. The DVD offers the special in nice quality and includes a pair of well-made extras to check out as well, making this disc worth checking out for fans of silly comedy.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.