Koy is ready to bring Filipino comedy, and food, to our iPhone screens

By Omar Sanchez
June 11, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT
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The Philippines is head over heels for American comedy, comedian Jo Koy tells EW. So he figured it was time to show the country he once called home some love back by filming his jam-packed variety special In His Elements there.

Watch an exclusive clip from the special — dropping on Netflix tomorrow — above. In the teaser, Koy takes the audience on a trip on his Jeepney — a taxi jeep with vibrant colors and logos that looks straight out of The Magic School Bus — to his third Netflix special since 2017, shot right in the country he lived in for five years as a child.

While you may not be able to leave home, In His Elements finds Koy giving fans the best tour you can take this side of the pandemic, bringing Filipino comics, musicians, and dancers to your screen. The lineup includes breakdancer Ronnie, Grammy-winning producer !llmind, singer/songwriter Inigo Pascual, and comedians Andrew Lopez, Joey Guila, and Andrew Orolfo.

"That's what I was really trying to drive home with this particular special," Koy tells EW. "Yes, you can go there and work. Yes, you can go there vacation, or perform."

In the special, the former Chelsea Lately staple also gives fans a personal tour of the country that's made up of roughly 7,641 islands. Koy reveals the meaning of his name, why you should eat chicken adobo, and why he was paraded around by family as someone who could dance like Michael Jackson for the longest time (it's a long story).

Koy shared with EW his favorite memories of shooting the special and his thoughts on the stand-up comedy scene surviving the pandemic.

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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First, I have to ask you what the stand-up comedy scene has been like since the quarantine started. The comedy clubs were the best place for people to really get to know to stand up comedy from the ins and outs.

JO KOY: I'm really, really sad. You know, it's my life. It was my dream to become a stand up comic. I'm old school, by the way. I just turned 49. Comics are adapting on social media, but I'm an old guy. I'm finding myself asking my son to help. Now, during this quarantine, I'm finding myself asking my son nonstop, "teach me this world that you guys live in." But yes, I just want to get back on stage. There's nothing better than a real crowd. There's nothing better than the energy and the electricity that forms inside of the theater.

How concerned are you that these establishments that have helped stand up comedians, like the Comedy Store in Los Angeles or the Comedy Cellar in New York, won't stay standing after this blows over? 

One hundred percent I'm concerned. I've spoken to a lot of my comedy friends. One of the things I'm gonna do is do whatever it takes to help them get back up. They gave me a career. I can only thank them by helping. I will never let them close. Especially the [Hollywood] Improv. I started at the Laugh Factory. I have to shout out [owner] Jamie Masada. If it wasn't for Jamie, I would have never talked about my mom on stage.

You touched on this a little bit in the special but why did you want the special to be in the Phillippines?

My whole point with this is to try and showcase my mom's culture, my culture.  To let it shine and give it to to the world! Because not too many people know that, you know, you go to the Philippines people speak English. There are Filipinos out here that don't know that Filipinos understand English. They get American comedy, like it's scary! I remember the first time I went "oh, like, are they gonna get it?"

Bring us back to the pitch you had to Netflix for this special. You have an all Filipino crew and its shot in the Phillippines. That's an incredible feat. 

It's something I always wanted to do, even when I wasn't a professional comic. I always dreamt of going back and performing when I used to live in the Phillippines, from age six to 11. We were military, and when you're military you don't get American television. It's very, it's very censored. Then you would find yourself watching Filipino television. You know, I didn't really speak the language. But I understood comedy because they had so many variety shows. Their comedy was slapstick. So, I loved the whole variety-type special idea when I came to Netflix with it.

Between the various bits, we see you and other comics, like Andrew Lopez, drive around the Phillippines, ordering food and enjoying some breakdancing. What was your favorite thing you were surprised made it on the special?

I remember when I was just a little kid and just begging my mom to get me on the Jeepney. You were always trying and pick the coolest Jeepney to get on. So just driving the Jeepney was amazing.

How was the experience of being back overall? When did you shoot? 

I know the exact date. It's when the volcano went off. Two days before [the eruption].

Wait, were you there to feel the effects of that? 

Oh yeah. I flew my son out. We were going to travel but we had to get locked in because of all the volcanic ash. It was so bad. It was very grainy. It was all over the place. The first two shows I taped for my special, and the third show was after [the erupton], when I performed in that arena.

Jo Koy: In His Elements hits Netflix this Friday.

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