August, 2012 Issue

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Michael Yo, Y'all!


There's doubtless a major crossover between the readers of Campus Activities Magazine and the viewers of "Chelsea Lately" on the E! Television Network.

While most of the "Roundtable" panelists make it on to the commentary section of the show because they were great standup comics before they were celebrities, one of the more memorable people you will recognize from the roundtable worked that equation the other way around.

Michael Yo, who has been in the public eye as an interviewer and commentator in radio for more than 10 years, is technically a fresh new act available for booking on your live stage. "Believe it or not, I have only been performing standup comedy for about a year and a half now," he says excitedly, (pretty much his main gear). "It's funny, because I have been on "Chelsea" since her second or third episode, but essentially as a reporter. They would have comics on, and I was just there for the facts. I have always liked celebrities so I interviewed them and reported on it. About a year and a half ago, Jo Koy and Josh Wolf told me I really needed to try standup. I had never even thought about it before that point."

Jo made Michael look at his life in a way he'd never thought of before. "Jo told me I have a story to tell. Being biracial as half Black half Asian, I've had a uniquely relatable and American experience in life. He told me straight up 'Comedy is not about one-liners and punchlines, it's about story telling and a real connection with the audience.' He told me I had an advantage in comedy over most people that start out, in that I had a lot to pull from. I really took that to heart. Backstage I would always talk to people about my family and they would laugh. One day I decided to take it on a stage."

The mistake he made was deciding to tell anyone about it. And not just anyone, more specifically everyone (via Twitter) and Chelsea Handler was one of that everyone. "Just before an appearance on 'Chelsea Lately' I tweeted 'Hey, I think I'm going to try working on some jokes.' Chelsea called me out that same night on the show saying 'So, you think standup is easy? You're just going to 'try' some jokes?' It just slipped out of my mouth, 'Well, it doesn't look too hard (laughs).' None of the Roundtable liked that, and Chelsea challenged me to try it within a week."

In his adopted hometown of Miami, he gave it a shot. "I didn't know anything about standup. I just went up there and told stories about my life. I guess when you're new you're supposed to do five minutes. I did 15, not even knowing about the countdown light, which I ran right through (laughs)."

The club owner pulled him to the side to congratulate him. "At first he didn't really believe it was my first time. He gave me an opportunity for another show and the second time I got on stage to perform it was opening up for The Wayans Brothers."

All of a sudden Michael had the bug. "I got a great response from those guys and the audience and I realized I absolutely loved performing since that first time in Miami. The minute I left the stage I picked up the phone and called my mom and said 'This is what I was born to do.' I love it that much. It's the first thing I have ever done that I feel a 100% true passion for."

Cynical industry that it is, one might suspect Michael encounters the occasional harbored resentment, as someone who practically Forrest Gumped their way into an art form that it takes many performers years to earn any recognition in. "That hasn't really been the case. What Chelsea has created with me I think naturally puts me in a position of likability with most folks before they meet me. Let's face it, when I go on her show, I get picked on. That's pretty much my role there (laughs), so it's not as if I'm walking around cocksure and full of false confidence. I'm not on that show to be super funny, if anything when people come to my standup show their expectations are lower (laughs), which makes my job easier. The point is I am incredibly grateful to have found this new passion, and I don't think anyone begrudges me for that fact. Not that I have seen anyway."

And it's not as if Michael fell off the turnip truck yesterday, he has spent plenty of time paying dues, and he still is. One of his points of pride is in helping other undiscovered comics gain exposure, he even takes them, expenses paid, to gigs to open up for him. "I'm not going to take anything for granted; I understand that Jo Koy worked 20 years to get where he is now. I would never disrespect the craft and that's also why I'm in the clubs 4 to 5 days a week. I'm lucky that I'm on 'Chelsea Lately' and I know that she could pull the plug any time. I just want to show my appreciation by giving back to the craft, not being one of those guys who just half-asses it or hoards the success they've gained."

Picture of Michael Yo holding a microphoneMichael's comedy is something that so many can enjoy. With his experience in radio and TV, he caters to a general audience and can play a clean show. And with subject matter pertaining largely to family, his stories are something anyone can relate to. "My comedy revolves around my family, and how I see things being biracial in America. My mom and dad, as an Asian and an African-American, see things so differently. I talk about dating... about why I am 35 and still single. It's generally material that any audience can appreciate and catering that to the college market is certainly right up my alley."

That's probably a gross understatement. As a regular correspondent on E! and someone frequently seen at red carpet events, Michael has his finger on the pulse of exactly what college students are plugged in to. "I love how I get a lot of my stand up material from my different jobs, I have like 15...well actually 5, but I love them all. Chelsea Lately is an incredible show to be on and got my foot in the door in this crazy world of stand up. EXTRA is awesome because there is nothing like being on a red carpet and seeing these stars up close and personal. You see pop culture as it happens///I am also a big believer that the web shows are the future. That's why I'm so happy Yahoo gave me the opportunity to create the Yo Show on Yahoo...Celeb interviews, roundtables--if it's pop culture, we talk about it.

"You know what I love about the college market? At every show I go to I get an incredible reception and reaction. Look, college kids love Chelsea. There's no doubt about that. All young adults love that show and what I love to provide to them is something even more substantive and deeper than just a few laughs. It's an experience they will remember forever. They love learning. College students are in that state of mind, so given that, I feel they absorb much more from the material I do. The energy I put out is the energy they give back ten fold and it makes just as much of an impact on me as it does them. That is why I love big college crowds.

"Within my second or third month of doing stand-up, Theo Von, who I love, suggested I do a gig in Madison, Wisconsin at the University there. There is a comedy club on campus, and that was my first experience doing dates on campus. We sold out all five shows and many people showed me much love. That was the moment when I gained a lot of confidence. You hear many comedians talk about how certain material works with certain crowds, but I've found that my material is so family oriented it translates just about anywhere, and those initial campus dates confirmed that."

Michael is taking dates for the 2012-'13 school year, so get in touch with Gina at KP Comedy to find out how to bring a little bit of "Chelsea Lately" to your campus with Michael Yo.

Contact her at 866.769.9037 or