Amidst all the big-name talent in town for the Aspen Laugh Festival, it was Jo Koy who landed the coveted closing spot with one show tonight at the Wheeler Opera House (7:30).
It’s a prestigious honor that was already on Koy’s Wikipedia page days before the shows, and he wants everyone to know that he’s been working hard to prepare.
“I just started skiing for the first time in probably eight years,” said the Los Angeles-based comedian, “and I went and bought everything, man. I got the skis. I got the goggles now. I got everything, and I’ve been going to Lee Canyon in Las Vegas, Nevada. I’m going this weekend, so by the time I get to Aspen I’m going to be a certified pro, bro.”
One has to admire Koy’s enthusiasm, but it’s fair to wonder what kind of skiing he’s doing at the tiny resort about 20 miles from downtown Las Vegas that has just three chairlifts, 27 runs and a lift-served vertical rise of 860 feet.
“Lee Canyon is like two slopes coming down the side of the hill,” said Koy. “It’s pretty cool for people who are beginning, but by the time I get up to Aspen I will be an Olympic-certified, master-class skier, for sure. Hands down. I’m ready.”
He’s kidding, maybe, but it’s a measure of what a confident performer Koy is that he’s more concerned with how he looks on the slopes than he is with his two big shows.
“I went to prada.com and got Prada goggles. How stupid is that?” he quipped. “People are going to see my goggles and be like, ‘I hope he crashes.’”
It’s hard to fault Koy for having faith in his comedic abilities after a 25-year stand-up career that has included hundreds of TV appearances, two DVDs and a successful weekly podcast called “The Koy Po(n)d.” In the past couple of years he’s had a Netflix special, with another coming later this spring. He was named “Stand-up Comedian of the Year” at last year’s Just For Laughs festival in Montreal; and he sold out 11 shows in a row in Honolulu in 2017, prompting the mayor’s office to proclaim Nov. 24, 2017, “Jo Koy Day.”
Yeah. He had a day named after him in Hawaii. Of course he’s going to be a little cocky.
The funny thing, though, is that he isn’t, or at least he doesn’t come across that way over the phone. He’s friendly and animated, and it quickly becomes clear that Koy’s seeming prioritization of skiing over his shows stems from his excitement to be coming to Aspen for the first time.
“This is like a dream come true for me,” he said. “When I started comedy all we ever heard about was the Aspen Comedy Festival. It was always a thing for stand-up comics to try to get in that festival. It just sounds like a good time. And here I am, finally, full circle. It’s literally been years in the making, and I’m finally going to be there. And I cannot wait for it.”
It’s that unbridled enthusiasm for visiting new places and experiencing new things that is at the heart of Koy’s ethos as a comedian. Despite massive stand-up success, he’s resisted the easy-money temptations of film and sitcoms because he still enjoys getting out on the road and playing clubs and venues all over the country.
“I love being on tour; that’s my bread and butter,” said Koy. “I live and breathe that road. I can’t get enough of it. I love venturing out and seeing new cities. I love going to markets that people didn’t think I could go to. I love the adventure and the new things you encounter when you go on the road.”
It’s a lifestyle that would seem to lend itself to a solitary state of mind, but despite his affinity for touring, Koy is very family-oriented and mines both his Filipino mother and his 16-year-old son for much of his comedy.
“My genre of comedy is storytelling,” he said. “I love to tell stories about my past. I love to tell stories about my family. That’s always going to be my style. I enjoy talking about them. I enjoy getting into those characters.”
Fans of those characters from Koy’s older routines will love catching up with their latest antics, and those who’ve never heard them before will undoubtedly find them as funny as countless audiences in the past have.
The difference is that tonight’s audiences will get to hear them from an Olympic-certified, master-class skier.