Danny Cho: California to Korea (NEH Magazine)

Established Los Angeles comedian Danny Cho did a two week Korean tour in June. Thanks to my man, Seoul comic Albert Escobedo, I was graciously given the opportunity to interview Danny after his performance at Albert’s event, Roofer’s Comedy Night. Keep up to date with Seoul’s only comedy showcase by searching Roofer’s Comedy Night on Facebook.

The following piece was published in the July Issue of NEH Magazine.

California to Korea: A Funny Man’s Journey to his Homeland.

“Honestly, I came here thinking it was going to be a vacation. Then I realized, it would be cool to just pay for my trip. You know what I mean? Plane ticket and food and stuff. That’s why I’m not working harder, working more gigs. Instead, I just want to know where my parents came from.”

This was the rationale behind American comedian Danny Cho’s first visit to Korea in June. I met with him after the first show of his twenty day Korea tour at Roofer’s in Itaewon as part of the Roofer’s Comedy Night.

As we lounged on the rooftop of the bar, surrounded by comedy fans and more English-speaking Koreans than I ever recall seeing at an event at Roofer’s (let alone a comedy event in Seoul) I was able to throw some questions Danny’s way.

“What did you think of the event?”

“I’m really grateful. I didn’t know what to expect. Would this many people show up? I’m floored by the support. They were telling me that this is the most gyopos they’ve ever seen here. I’m assuming that they came for me, and that’s so flattering because when I started out I never thought I’d leave L.A. to do stand up.”

JL and Manifest are two Korean American rappers from Virginia that have been playing in and around Seoul for several months now. Albert Escobedo, the event’s organizer, was introduced to them by Janet Kim: hip hop fan and frequent contributor to the comedy open mic circuit in Seoul. Being a big fan of hip hop, it was Albert’s goal to pair this form of music alongside comedy for his monthly showcase.

Meeting these two successful gyopos shortly after Danny contacted representatives from Seoul’s comedy scene about performing, the idea was born to showcase a powerhouse lineup of Korean Americans. It didn’t take too much convincing to get JL and Manifest on board as they already knew Danny – having performed with him once before back in the States. Frustrated with the lack of English-speaking Koreans involved in Seoul’s comedy scene, Albert found the perfect formula to attract the exact audience he was striving for.

Back on the rooftop, Guinness exchanged hands among friends in the distance, plastic cups of Cass were spilled on the table next to us, and I learned more about Danny’s first impressions of Korea.

“It’s crazy, the vibe is different. The smells are different. The bathrooms smell like an immigrant’s bag. Dudes are wearing capris and tight pants. But I guess that’s the fashion sense,” he continues, “I’ve never seen a Korean hooker in my life, until I came here. And I’m like ‘Yo, you’re like 50, at least. You’re close to my mother’s age, what the fuck are you doing out here?’” Concluding the rim shot-inducing observations he ends with, “It’s a culture shock to see people passed the fuck out in the middle of the day, on the street. They don’t do that… you’ll get locked up in a heartbeat in the States.”

Our conversation wasn’t all shits, giggles and knee slaps, though. I asked Danny about his motivation for doing comedy, Danny responds, “It’s therapy. People pay money to talk about their problems and I am basically open on stage. It comes from a lot of things you know? It’s catharsis really.”

“I said that I did tae kwon do, and judo and jujitsu for many years. One of my masters said, ‘People are born to do something.’”, he says, drawing the connection between him and the predisposition to perform, “You could be smart as fuck, but if you’re born to be a garbage man, that’s the only thing that’s going to make you happy. And I feel like comedy is that. I have a degree in finance. I was a business consultant, and I was making great money, but this is what I feel like I’m built to do.”

Danny has come a long way since his first comedy appearance at an open mic in Los Angeles.

“My friends are assholes,” he says, “they put me in this open mic night that was in this all black room in South Central L.A.” If you didn’t grow up listening to N.W.A., that means this is a really bad part of town. It’s a rough crowd, especially for an Asian dude to go out there and I got heckled as soon as I got on stage. So I made fun of the heckler for 20 minutes. I got bit by the comedy bug, and ever since I’ve been doing stand up.”

Currently in his fourth year of full time stand up (following seven years learning the craft part time) Danny shared with me his ultimate goals, “I would love to have the HBO special, but it’s not about the fame and all that. I just want to have the respect of my peers. I don’t mean my Asian American comics. I just want to be known as Danny Cho the comedian, not the Asian comedian or the Korean comedian. So that’s what I’m striving to be.”

Hit the Google or consult his website for a full list of accomplishments, including the many top-notch comedians Danny has shared the stage with (names like Tim Allen, Dane Cook and Russell Peters). More interesting to me was finding out who has made a lasting impact on him as a person, “My two idols are Bernie Mac and Dave Chappelle, and I’m fortunate enough to have performed with both of them,” he tells me.

“Both had great advice, but Dave Chappelle’s advice resonated [with me] the most. He said, ‘Be fearless, and be you.’ A lot of times I get caught up in what’s funny and what’s not, but Dave Chappelle is the one that said you’re not performing for the crowd, you’re performing for yourself. If you find it funny and they don’t… fuck them.”

As we round out our evening, me eyeing a pint of mekju and he reaching for another cigarette, Danny offers one last take on the evening, “Every time I’m at a venue like this, out of town, and they show so much support, I’m very, very humbled. In my mind I’m just telling stupid dick jokes. Stupid sex jokes. When people find it funny I feel like a con man. But hey man, they love it, and I love them for it.”


~ by ripcitytoseoul on July 27, 2011.

4 Responses to “Danny Cho: California to Korea (NEH Magazine)”

  1. […] http://ripcitytoseoul.com/2011/07/27/danny-cho-california-to-korea-neh-magazine/ […]

  2. Its a great blog man, love the post and love the piece. Keep hustling Dustin.

  3. Cracking piece…

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