Just doing his job
Comedian Henry Cho hopes steady gigs will lead to a coveted TV deal
Longtime stand-up comic Henry Cho basically considers himself a storyteller.
With opener Jose "Dynamite" Figureras
Place: Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St.
Time: 6 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday
Tickets: $20, $45 and $60
Call: 226-2776 or visit www.ticketmaster.com
The easygoing style of patter that he's used to entertain audiences for 22 years now is all part of the Southern lifestyle -- he was born in Knoxville, Tenn. -- he's part and parcel of.
"It's pretty conducive to the South," he said by phone from his Nashville home Monday. "My way of telling stories is kind of what I do naturally. It's no different from how I would talk to you if you were in my living room."
Married with three young children, Cho has carved out a comfortable career, occasionally leaving his Tennessee base to do gigs around the country. Next week, he'll be doing two shows as part of the ongoing Comedy Wednesdays series at Pipeline Cafe.
This will be Cho's first time performing in Honolulu, even though he's worked on the neighbor islands before, recently doing a private corporate show in Kona.
Besides the initial novelty of seeing a Korean-American tell jokes with a Southern accent, Cho's longevity also is due to his confident demeanor on stage and his decision to keep his show clean, free from cussing and "blue material."
Because of that, "I was lucky enough to work with the top stand-ups in the first year-and-a-half in comedy," he said. Starting in 1987, he opened for Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Garry Shandling.
His well-paced and deliberate manner on stage was developed to help smooth out an accent "that used to be really thick. I remember, back in '94, when I was living in Los Angeles to try to further my career, and I got a hosting gig on NBC's 'Friday Night Videos.' The first band I was going to introduce was Aerosmith, but I said 'Air-smith,' and the producer came out of the control room to tell me he couldn't understand a word I said."
The trip to L.A. back then also included, not surprisingly enough, pitches to the networks to get his own television show -- something he's still attempting.
"I'm working on my fifth TV deal in the last 12 years," Cho said. "It started right before the writers' strike happened. In fact, I have meetings out there next week. It's obviously been a long process. I want to do something along the lines of what Andy Griffith and Bill Cosby did with their own shows. It'll be adult comedy, but nothing like what's popular on TV nowadays. With some of these reality shows, I can't even have my 8-year-old in the living room with me."
He has not made being Asian-American a big part in his comedy career, and he's hoping his colorblind approach will ultimately get him what he calls "an old-school half-hour sitcom" that follows in the footsteps of the shows of Seinfeld, Tim Allen, Ray Romano and Kevin James.
"I could've had a show on TV a long time ago," he said, "but it's never been the right show for me. I want to do it my way, and the network folks know that."
In the meantime, he's content with his present life, "doing my stand-up 'day job,' working on my material and keeping it sharp, and still have enough time to be at home and play dad."
As for the constant beckoning of Hollywood, Cho recalls being on a comedy panel at UCLA many years ago with fellow comic Larry Miller, and how Miller had gotten needed exposure by appearing in the movie "Pretty Woman."
"When he was asked how he got the role, he said 'I was just doing my job, performing on stage, and the movie's casting people saw me, and they did their job by casting me.' So it's that same attitude that I keep. Do your job right, do enough TV, take meetings, and if you're around long enough, something will come around."