in focus

Jo Koy, the last-minute Golden Globes host who got the job two weeks ago

The Filipino-American comedian and actor was asked to host the glitzy awards ceremony with only two weeks’ notice – but who is the man behind the microphone, asks Annabel Nugent

Sunday 07 January 2024 13:32 GMT
Globes host Jo Koy cut his teeth on the Nineties stand-up circuit in Las Vegas
Globes host Jo Koy cut his teeth on the Nineties stand-up circuit in Las Vegas (Getty)

Awards season is under way with the 81st Golden Globes – Oscar’s boozier sibling – taking place this weekend. On Sunday, Hollywood’s finest will descend upon the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles to toast the greatest contributions to screens both big and small. It’ll be a veritable who’s who of A-listers, with Robert DeNiro, Margot Robbie and Jeffrey Wright among the nominees up for one of the many shiny celestial trophies. One face that’ll be less familiar, though, is that of Jo Koy, the comedian asked to host at the last minute.

Arguably, the Globes host hasn’t been relevant for a long time. The ceremonies in recent memory have passed by forgettably, not least because 2022’s awards show was devoid of both stars and cameras due to the controversy surrounding the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – the organisation behind the Globes – over accusations of corruption and a lack of diversity. Koy, in his first major hosting gig, has quite the task ahead of him.

The 52-year-old Filipino-American comedian – born Joseph Glenn Herbert Sr – was asked to host only two weeks ago. “When they asked me, it was an immediate yes. I couldn’t believe this was happening – and then I woke up and went, ‘Wait a minute, I have two weeks to write jokes!’” he told Variety. “Actually, I think I had less than two weeks because I didn’t get my writers until five days later.” To put it into perspective, previous hosts – like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and, most infamously, Ricky Gervais – got months to prepare. “It’s been a crash course in hosting,” Koy said.

All the times host Jo Koy bombed in 2024 Golden Globes

He’s no new kid on the block, though. Over the years, Koy’s brand of comedy – which is conversational, story-based and takes its cues from Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg – has won over throngs of fans, two million of whom follow him on Instagram. He cut his teeth on the Nineties stand-up circuit in Las Vegas and has since had several well-received comedy specials air on Comedy Central and Netflix, most recently 2020’s Jo Koy: In His Elements, which shone a light on the local talent in Manila, Philippines. He’s recently inked a deal with the streaming giant for two more specials. On screen, Koy led the 2022 comedy film Easter Sunday and appeared in this year’s Haunted Mansion reboot, which also starred LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish and Danny DeVito.

Late-night fans will also recognise Koy as a guest on shows like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and Last Call with Carson Daly. Most frequently, though, Koy appeared as a season regular on Chelsea Handler’s talk show Chelsea Lately before it was cancelled in 2014. He and Handler later dated for a year in 2021 before announcing their “beautiful” split in 2022.

As Kevin Hart once put it, Koy is “a guy who has earned his f***ing stripes”. He was selling shoes at Nordstrom Rack, a discount department store, when he got his first big break in 2005: a stand-up gig on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Koy was a hit. Still today, he is one of only a few comedians to have received a standing ovation on the show. Speaking to Hart in 2021 on the podcast Gold Minds with Kevin Hart, Koy recalled how he went into work the next day to find customers applauding his hilarious set – “and then they’d ask, ‘Can I have this in a size eight?’” From The Tonight Show came a lucrative commercial deal with the cell phone service company Amp’d Mobile and things “snowballed” from there.

“That was the last time I had a part-time job,” said Koy, who worked 17 years in stand-up before feeling financially secure enough to leave his day job. “I always wanted to make sure I had some type of money, some type of income.”

Koy had just two weeks’ notice before the ceremony
Koy had just two weeks’ notice before the ceremony (AP)

Born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1971, Koy, together with his parents and three siblings, moved to Las Vegas after high school to care for his sick grandmother. While he had enrolled at university in Vegas, Koy eventually dropped out to pursue stand-up comedy – a decision made to the initial despair of his mother Josie Harrison, who has since become a beloved mainstay in Koy’s comedy sets. A YouTube video of Harrison reacting to her son’s jokes about her has been viewed more than 2.5 million times.

Koy’s father, who served in the US Air Force, met his mother when stationed in the Philippines. Throughout his career, Koy has spoken about the struggles his family faced growing up in America. During an event to promote his 2022 film Easter Sunday, Koy recounted one time in his childhood when his family filled out “a thousand” raffle tickets at the department store Sears in the hopes of winning a TV because they couldn’t afford to buy one themselves. “We won. We won the f***ing TV! And then we went up the escalator, it’s like 1985, and my mom loves little kids,” he said. “My mum sees this little kid and she’s like, ‘Hi, what’s your name?’ The kid turns around and pulls his eyes back and [giggles]. I [didn’t] understand that type of normalisation. Why would that be funny?”

Koy with ex-girlfriend Chelsea Handler
Koy with ex-girlfriend Chelsea Handler (Getty)

While there’s no doubt that the Globes is another huge opportunity for Koy, he sees it also as an important responsibility. “This is everything,” Koy told Variety. “You hear that a lot right now, but it means a lot for someone that looks like me. There’s a kid that’s Asian out there, or that’s half white/half Asian, any ethnicity. Being able to see this, it will indirectly inspire them. This is one of those ‘finally’ moments. I don’t want to address that when I’m on stage, but I think me just being on stage is enough.”

As for whether he will go down the much-loved Gervais route of roasting his audience, Koy pointed to the recent strikes that halted Hollywood for months. “I’m going to poke fun, but I want to do it in a way where we’re still celebrating. The industry got hit hard. Hollywood got shook. Everyone got shook. It wasn’t just the writers. It wasn’t just the actors… So, let’s celebrate,” he said. “Let’s enjoy this. We have a great gig. That’s the approach I want to have on this one. This is a great moment for all of us.” Whether it’s an entertaining one for us at home is still to be seen.

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