Jo Koy

10 Comics to Watch

For a decade, the half-Filipino Koy made a quiet living, primarily working L.A. and Las Vegas, his hometown, with energetic bits like “Orange Chicken” and other references to his Asian upbringing.

The birth of a son, now 3½, helped him broaden the material — “I owe this kid so much money; he’s now 90% of my act,” says Koy, who introduces the boy to auds by noting, “It’s like living with a crazy midget.”

The youngster also provided the 35-year-old father with the proverbial kick in the ass. “It’s one thing to be a starving comedian,” Koy says, “but it’s another thing when your kid’s starving and you’re a comedian. I have to make sure this kid has food and clothes.”

Things got rolling in the summer of 2005, when a “Tonight Show” producer caught Koy’s “New Faces” performance at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal. That led to a “Leno” appearance in January ’06 that was knocked out of the park — in fact, the comedian received a rare standing O. “I can’t even explain how much I worked on that routine,” Koy says.

Soon after, he was invited by Carlos Mencia to join his national tour, and he found himself spending last year doing 10,000-seat arenas. “I had a killer spot — I was right in the middle,” Koy adds.

His racial-stuff-heavy routines are always more performance-based than dryly observational. (Koy has zero formal acting training, but he says that he and his sister spent their youths being pushed into Filipino talent shows by their mother — another comedic vein — and that veteran comic Jon Lovitz is working with him to help perfect his chops.)

He has a keen knack for adapting material to aud. Take a recent appearance at the Apollo, where he riffed on Michael Jackson’s vocal eccentricities. After a short MJ impression, the comic erupted the crowd, noting Jackson “is the only guy who can hiccup in the middle of a song; Dru Hill don’t do that.”

Buzz: He just got invited back to play the Montreal fest this summer, and he has a 50-minute DVD, produced by sports marketing agency IMG, due out soon. He hopes to have his own HBO or Comedy Central standup special inked soon. “That would be my dream,” Koy says.

References: “Like Dane Cook and Jim Carrey, he has something special about him — he’s huggable. He’s a guy with a lot of energy and likability,” says Laugh Factory topper Jamie Masada.

Fallback plan: “I’d probably be editing videos if I wasn’t doing this,” Koy says. “I’m really into editing and shooting films.”

Click here to see the other comics on the 10 to watch list.

Click here for the Top Ten Comics to Watch photo gallery

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