How Jo Koy's Newest Netflix Original Special Goes Beyond Irreverent Jokes About Loving One's Culture
"Jo Koy: In His Elements" is also a heartwarming, nostalgic trip of a Pinoy immigrant; it tackles the importance of uplifting your fellow Filipino and why it's a joy to introduce what it really means to be a Filipino to the world
So how do you know you're Filipino?
Maybe it's because you were born in the Philippines, or because the skin you're in is one-hundred-percent kayumanggi. Or, more likely, you've got a mom who doesn't tire of making you some good old adobo (and forced you to dance for her guests at every family gathering until you were well into adulthood) and that tita who believes that the comments she makes on your weight gain every time you see each other in lieu of hi, hellos are totally non-offensive (she might ask why you're still single, too).
There's also the part where you're proud of your country—all seven thousand-plus islands that comprise it—and its vibrant, colorful, never-too-happy culture that you wish more of the world knew about and appreciated.
There could also be you, forever dreaming of turo-turo dining, jeepney-riding, the overflow of dance and music talent in every town, or the potential of greatness that is everywhere in the Philippines.
Well, guess what.
If any of these ring true for you, you and award-winning, internationally famous, and proudly Pinoy comic Jo Koy (or Josep) are exactly on the same page about loving your Filipino identity and heritage, and he has his own Netflix special available in 180 countries where he talks about it.
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This is why I love my filipino people so much. This is why I wanted my 3rd special to be shot in the Philippines so I can show the world how beautiful my country is and how beautiful my people are. It was my way of giving back to a culture that gave me so much. Thank you @iammikeswift for this mural. I got you bro. That’s my word.
You can watch the said special titled Jo Koy: In His Elements now streaming on Netflix Philippines and go on a real special made-for-Pinoys, by Pinoys trip of jokes (some NSFW, so don't say you weren't warned), heartwarming anecdotes, and other kwento that's as relatable as having a Filipino dad sneezing louder than the arrival of the apocalypse in the middle of a homily.
The 55-minute Netflix original features Jo Koy returning to the Philippines (and with his 17-year-old son, Joseph Jr., for the very first time) and rediscovering all things quintessentially Filipino. He takes us to familiar places around the metro (a welcome treat for everyone that's been hunkered down for weeks at home, thanks to quarantine rules) including Taguig's The Tenement, Cubao's Farmers Market, and Manila's Luneta Park, and shows off ubiquitous sights and sounds of street food stands and their giant rainbow umbrella stands, banderita-clad historical churches, and curious passers-by.
The story behind the project is just as awesome, albeit a lot more heartfelt and devoid of expletives that your lola would make—nay, demand—you go to confession for.
In an exclusive interview with the legendary stand-up comedian himself on Adobo Nation, ABS-CBN's Ginger Conejero uncovers the real deal behind the Netflix special while enjoying a laugh or two herself.
On the joys of going back to the Philippines every so often while living life in America:
There's nothing quite like it in the world. After all, it was living in the Philippines for six years when Jo Koy experienced anything and everything for the first time like drinking soda from a sandwich bag (i.e. P10 soft drink in plastic), hearing Tagalog in conversation, tasting sinigang and langka, or learning how to pop a firecracker via hand courtesy of a cousin and seeing a cockfight.
Getting educated, coming of age, and even starting a family abroad couldn't dull the luster of these memories of some of the most formative moments of Jo Koy's life, and going back to the place where they were formed has always definitely been a big reason for repeated visits to home.
It only made sense for him to make a Netflix special to celebrate times like these and shine the spotlight on the Filipino aspects of his multi-cultural life.
On introducing more of the Philippines and Filipino culture to the world with his Netflix special:
To the inquisitive mind, there's very limited information available to show them what the real Philippines is like aside from old facts they might find in a textbook or Google search. The only way to really dig deep into a country's culture is by hanging out with locals and listening to their stories—or in this case, laughing along with their jokes.
In Jo Koy's own words, "When I was a kid, I always felt like I was the ambassador of the Philippines. There was no Instagram, there was no Twitter, there was no Facebook. We're talking about 1981; it was word of mouth! If my mom heard an accent, she would go, 'O! Pilipino ka?'"
These childhood experiences of having to explain what a "Filipino" was (and assuring some narrow-minded playground buddies that it wasn't a made up thing) made it extra important for Jo Koy to take full advantage of the position he's in now.
Sure he's popular enough to sell out stadium and arena tours these days, but what he wants to with that fame this time around was to promote Filipino everything. Because there's just a hundred and one things to learn about Filipino culture and love about it.
He's definitely banking on his special introducing yet another soul to the gastronomic treasure that is Pinoy adobo.
On getting Filipinos in the mainstream:
Little to no explanation is needed for the world-class talent possessed by many a Filipino singer, dancer, songwriter, producer, writer, artist, and whatever else, but what Jo Koy wanted to accomplish with this project was to inspire more of these talented Filipinos to believe that they were made for bigger things, and not only street side performances.
He wanted more comics like himself to aim for bigger goals with himself as an example that it is very, very much possible to make a name for themselves on an international stage. It's also why he brought on budding Filipino comedians, a B-boy dance troop, and other local entertainers to show just how much entertainment potential there is in his home country.
"My theme song for Netflix is in Tagalog. That's it! I won!" he says.
"You got people in Kansas, you got people in Chicago, you got people in North Carolina that are going to watch this. They're finally going to hear Tagalog for the first time. They're finally going to see adobo. They're going to see what a jeepney looks like. They're going to see that Filipinos can speak English, fluently!" he exclaims.
On immigrant nostalgia:
Filipinos who moved overseas and haven't been back in ages are in for something extra special.
There's a reason for why he made his variety-show like; it mimics the shows we have in the Philippines to give Filipino migrants like his mom a taste of home, and it was because of local shows where he picked up enough broken Tagalog to get by.
On his message to Filipino frontliners:
Jo Koy also paid tribute to all Filipino frontliners (not only doctors and nurses) who have worked grueling hours and jobs in this pandemic just to make sure that as many people as possible stay safe and healthy.
He says, "What a hard job to wake up to and do it without even questioning it. That's a beautiful thing. Not even doubting it, and just doing your job. That makes me so proud."
To get the full Jo Koy Pinoy pride experience, watch Jo Koy: In His Elements available on Netflix Philippines.
Photos from @jokoy and Netflix