In an effort to make the most use out of my library card, even when I don’t really have time to go to the library, I’ve been using the Libby app to check out e-books and read them on my Kindle. Or at least I’ve been trying to. Work has been difficult lately. 5 coworkers out on leave at basically the same time meant that I’ve been doing 6 day work weeks for the past month or so. The extra money on every paycheck is kind of nice but the tiredness I’ve felt is astronomical. Anyway, my brain is gravitating back towards a mindset of “well you’re not enjoying a lot of the other things that usually make you happy so why not read more?”. And at least with reading I can sit down and read a chapter in about 10 or 15 minutes (according to my Kindle reading rate anyway) and I can budget my time very easily. My first dive into borrowing an e-book is Jo Koy’s memoir, Mixed Plate.
I think, as a first gen Filipino-American, I’m predisposed to like Jo Koy. It’s in our cultural DNA to celebrate any Filipino who becomes successful. I first heard of Jo Koy when he said how much he loved Zippy’s when he was on tour and doing a gig in Hawai’i. Ahaha, I thought, a plate lunch expert. I like it. The more I looked into his career, the more I responded. Here was a man, half-Filipino, who took the cultural specificity of growing up Filipino in America and turned it into relatable comedy.
also this video where he jokes about the ubiquity of Toyota Tacomas in Hawai’i.
What I didn’t realize was how much of a hustle trying to become a POC comedian became. Begging his mom to get HBO so he could study the greats. Making his own way in the comedy world because no one could figure out how to market him so he had to do it all himself. Doing open mics and gaining a reputation in Vegas. His Comedy Central breakout special and all that came afterward. It’s a Filipino story. It’s an American story. And I sort of love him for recording his own life in such a frank, candid, and laugh-out-loud funny way. For, as much as his mom and the rest of his family are a part of his act, he’s kept a large part of his personal life hidden from public scrutiny. His brother Robert, diagnosed with schizophrenia and always drifting in and out of the family view. Jo Koy idolized his cool older brother until mental illness took everything he ever loved about him and replaced it with a violent stranger. The nightly fights to try to calm Robert down took a toll on the family. Jo Koy’s biological father left the house one night after a particularly bad fight and never came back. It’s harrowing to read the passages about Robert, and it got me to thinking about the stuff all families try to hide from the world. It was relatable, everything was relatable. His relationship with his hard-working Filipino mom, who had to raise 3 kids (plus the one who bumped in and out of mental institutions and jail for decades) on her own and the toll it took. Resiliency is an immigrant trait, and I see shades of my own mom in Jo Koy’s mom, which, I guess goes for all Filipino moms.
And to imagine that if this one person could make it, achieve his dream, and try to make his family’s life better as a result, we then, I think there’s a lot of hope for the rest of us.