When reports circulated over the summer that Eddie Murphy was returning to stand-up comedy with Netflix specials, Jo Koy couldn’t have been more excited.
The clever comic, who will perform a sold-out show Saturday (10/26) at the Riverside Casino Event Center, was inspired to hit the stage courtesy of Murphy’s work a generation ago.
“I was 15 and I remember seeing Eddie Murphy play the Seattle Coliseum,” Koy said by phone from Bakersfield, Calif. “He just killed it telling jokes in front of 15,000 people. After I saw that, I knew what I had to do with my life.”
Koy’s mother had other ideas.
“She wanted me to have security,” Koy said. “My mom wanted me to have a job with benefits. But it turned out all right for me and my family.”
The laid-back humorist’s family, particularly his 16-year-old son, are grist for his material.
“I keep it in the family,” Koy said. “I go heavy on my son in this hour of comedy. A lot of people can relate to what I’m talking about.”
Unlike some comics, such as Louis C.K., Koy doesn’t demonize his son or mother.
“That’s not my style,” Koy said. “There’s enough funny stuff that goes on with him and those close to me that I don’t have to get dark about it.”
Koy, 48, has been joking about his son for as long as the kid could speak.
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“He was 3 years old when I had my first special,” Koy said. “The crazy thing is that if I watch all of my specials, it’s like I’m watching him grow up all over again. My son inspired so much fun material. I like to embellish, but much of what I talk about is based on the truth — and sometimes the truth hurts and sometimes the truth is hilarious. When I look back at my career, the funniest thing is that my mom wanted me to go to nursing school. I could have never done it. I was not a student.”
Koy tried to please his mother and enrolled at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in 1994.
“But the problem was that I got my education across the street from school in the comedy club,” he said. “The good thing is that I knew what I wanted to do, and I didn’t waste money going to school studying something I really didn’t want to do.”
Chelsea Handler gave Koy a huge boost when she tabbed him as a regular guest on her round table during the run of the popular chat fest, “Chelsea Lately.”
“I can’t tell you how much of an impact Chelsea had on my career,” said Koy, who made more than 100 appearances on the E! network talk show from 2007 to 2014. “She changed everything when I was on her show. She was the modern day Johnny Carson. When you killed it on Carson, you went to another level. The same for Chelsea’s show. She attracted a lot of viewers every night (960,000). She’s a big reason I’m performing in these big halls.”
Koy can’t believe he’s selling out arenas, which are the size of the venues Murphy once packed.
“That’s difficult to comprehend,” Koy said. “I’ve sold out the Forum in Los Angeles. It’s hard to believe I’ve accomplished that, but it happened and it was surreal. It reminds me of when I saw Eddie as a kid.”
Murphy embraced Koy after the comics met in Los Angeles five years ago.
“I thanked him for everything he has done to inspire me,” Koy said. “I told him that he’s the reason I do stand-up. He showed me that it was possible to tell these stories filled with interesting characters. It was so cool that he shook my hand and hugged me. I’ll have that experience with me forever.”
Koy isn’t concerned with scoring a sitcom or landing movie roles.
“What I focus on is stand-up,” Koy said. “If something else happens in my career, that’s fine, but I’m content going out and making people laugh. I was crazy about comedy ever since I saw Eddie’s film ‘Delirious.’ I wanted to get myself a red leather jumpsuit just like Eddie wore, but I don’t need the jump suit. I can just go out there and be me.”
• What: Comedian Jo Koy: Just Kidding World Tour
• Where: Riverside Casino Event Center, 3184 Highway 22, Riverside
• When: 8 p.m. Saturday (10/26)
• Tickets: Sold out
• Details: Riversidecasino andresort.com
• Artist’s website: Jokoy.com