by Rose Churma
On the flap of the book’s cover, Jo Koy notes:
“Here is the path to my American Dream…And I want to make you laugh while I do it. I’m like Hawaii’s favorite lunch – the mixed plate. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Mixed Plate is too.”
Jo Koy, born Joseph Glen Herbert to a Filipina immigrant mom and white American dad, is one of Hawaii’s favorite stand-up comics, and perhaps, the rest of the world where Filipinos live – or where folks believe in reaching out for their dreams.
His stand-up comic monologues gained traction with Filipinos when he poked fun at his immigrant experience – especially when he describes incidents with his Filipina mom.
It resonated with folks who were brought up with a mother I’d call an immigrant “Everymom” trying to acculturate in their new adopted home, and in pursuit of the American dream for themselves and their children.
He has a keen sense of observation and in the retelling of his family’s journey, this book is also a social commentary on what it is to be a Filipino-American during the past 50 years or so, particularly for one who is of mixed parentage.
But this book also chronicles his personal story, of a biracial kid growing up around military bases in white America, a college drop-out who could not fulfill his mother’s dreams of acquiring a salaried, stable and dependable job – as a nurse, for example.
Although the context of his acts revolves around his Filipino-American upbringing, the story he shares is universal. This is why, in his concerts, the audience is diverse: his stories are relatable, no matter your ethnicity.
His concerts here in Hawaii were mostly sold-out, so that this year’s events were moved from the Blaisdell’s concert hall to the arena – a larger venue. And even then, they had to add another show. It was this added show, on a Sunday evening, that I was finally able to watch Jo Koy in the flesh! I was the third wheel to my daughter’s night out with her beau.
Parts of the concert were very uncomfortable for me – those jokes that I thought verged on the vulgar, or the constant use of the “F’ word (after all I am a baby-boomer brought up devoutly Catholic).
Although the book is liberally laced with the same words and sounds like him on stage – but in the printed form, it is a better format for me. It’s like having Jo Koy in your living room, seated at your sofa, sharing his life story and better than watching his Netflix special!
Interestingly, the book also contains several recipes of – I assume – Jo Koy’s favorite Filipino dishes: lumpia, shirmp sinigang, pancit, chicken wings adobo and halo-halo.
I will try his chicken wings adobo and its boiled egg garnish; the wings are fried first and then baked with the adobo sauce and eaten with freshly steamed rice. Prepare this dish one rainy day, get a copy of this book and enjoy!
The book is available via Amazon.com and other online outlets, new or used (at eBay). Also available at Target or in audio format via Audible.com.
ROSE CRUZ CHURMA is a retired architect who now has the time to do the things she always wanted to do: read books, write about them and encourage others to write. Her online bookstore, Kalamansi Books and Things (facebook.com/kalamansibooks), promotes Filipiniana books and publications by Filipino-Americans. Email her at email@example.com.
by Rose Churma