Right at the beginning of this Netflix special Jo Koy promises us an all expenses paid trip to the Philippines, as he’s going to explore the culture of the country in depth. It’s a high energy start to the show which promises a hell of a lot, and over the course of the next fifty five minutes we’re presented with a mixture of stand up from Koy and others along with some videos, music and dancing, all featuring his friends from the Philippines, but at least when it comes to Koy’s stand up it doesn’t deliver at all.
Koy begins with a long routine at the beginning about how he can impersonate Michael Jackson, with his mother often demanding he do it until one day but he refuses, and eventually we get to the punchline where he won’t do it “Because I’m 33”, which is basically a riff on Lee and Herring’s “28 Years old I was” but delivered in a straight manner, and not drenched with the awareness that it’s a trite pay off in the way that they performed it.
Then he shows us a video of someone who’s reportedly one of the best breakdancers in the world, a guy called Ronnie who rambles on about how great breakdancing is and we get to see a bit of it and it’s, well, it’s breakdancing. So if you like that, you’ll like this, but either way there’s little of the amazing originality Koy promised, and keeps on suggesting is amazing throughout the clip, and when we’re back in the theatre a dance with ten of them it’s fine, but still the kind of thing you’d see in an average episode of America’s Got Talent.
When Koy is back on stage he talks about the difficulties of finding another Filipino back in 1989 without the internet, before discussing how he wanted to inspire people when he went on the Tonight Show, which bleeds in to an anecdote about a Filipino boxer called Manny Pacquiao who won when he wasn’t expected too, and the joke is that Koy impersonates him and he speaks in a very thick accent. It’s hardly the comedic equivalent of rocket science, Koy might dress it in a speech about Filipino pride but it’s still pretty lazy stuff with the gag being “Hey, listen to this funny voice”.
Another video follows, with Koy interviewing other comedians, before he introduces one to the stage, Andrew Lopez. Lopez’s material revolves around the fact that he grew up in a US town where he was from the only Asian family, and he has some decent jokes about his childhood, though material on Twitter is blander. It’s still mostly fun though, indeed he’s far better than Koy and it made me wish he’d been presenting the special rather than Koy. Another comedian, Joey Guila, is up next, but he’s much weaker unfortunately, joking about how he wanted to go to his high school reunion despite not graduating and the nature of Filipino parties, while he has material on nurses which is also lacking in anything amusing, so it’s no tragedy that his set is a short one.
Koy then comes back on and talks about how his real name is Joseph Glenn Herbert and how he needed to change it, and a long story about him trying to come up with an alternative is weak, and as with the rest of his material it drags on for an age. The whole time I was hoping for a strong punchline but it doesn’t come, the end of the story might be vaguely sweet but it definitely isn’t funny.
His next guest has worked with Drake, Jay-Z and Beyonce, the grammy award winning producer !llmind, and cue a video of him creating a track to introduce Jo. If you find two men making a very nothing-y song exciting you’ll be orgasmic, but the rest of the audience probably won’t be thrilled, and just when I thought I couldn’t dislike the special any further it becomes boring in the extreme.
Forty minutes in and there’s another video, where Koy is with his friend and fellow stand up comedian Andrew Orolfo plus Koy’s sister and aunt at a farmer’s market, and Jo wants the best food made for Andrew for his homecoming, so discussion of food ensues. It’s almost insultingly boring, we know Koy loves the Philippines, and everything about his native country “is the best”, but hearing this over and over again is tedious in the extreme and there’s no reason for this segment at all
Andrew Orolfo then takes to the stage for a bit of stand up, to talk about his father having “transition glasses” and how his dad’s goofy as he voted for Trump, which isn’t quite the word I’d use. His material about his family life growing up and not knowing his parents had split up is funny at least, there’s some amusing bitterness that mixes the set up and his routine about earthquakes in California ends with some darkness that makes it the most fun of the evening.
Just when I thought the special might be picking up as it comes to a close there’s a musical number as autotuned singer Iñigo Pascual chucks out the kind of average pop nonsense that millions if not billions before him have produced. Koy gives a final speech about how amazing the night has been, everyone joins him on stage, there’s some more dancing, and I finally lost the will to live and shot myself in the head.
Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but it feels like having watched a local talent show where only a couple of the acts were any good. I feel guilty for being so dismissive because Koy is a charming individual who’s full of pride for the country he’s from, and who clearly only wants to celebrate it, but his own material is poor, and the fact that he didn’t have a single female come on stage to perform during the hour is rather depressing as well.
Those clips where we’re shown around the country are sometimes interesting, as are some of the guests, but this is a disappointment overall and Koy’s stand up is of the extremely average variety. It’s of the kind you might expect to see at the beginning of a mixed bill night where you only paid five pounds to get in, and I have to express surprise that he’s considered good enough to have his own special.
You can watch Jo Koy – In His Elements on Netflix here.