Courtesy of Metro PR
I know that when I see a comedian, as an audience member I'm hoping that I'm about to see a real story that has comedic ironies at which I can laugh at and relate to.
That's where my friend Michael Yo comes in.
Michael has not one label, but many -- actor, TV host, Hollywood expert and stand-up comedian.
Best known for his work as a regular on the hit late night show, Chelsea Lately where he proclaimed himself to be the "Half Black Brother with a Korean Mother." Michael has appeared on E! News, Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami and his own show, Yo on E!. Currently, Michael can be seen on omg! Insider, and as a regular guest on The Talk. Michael also has his own show, The Yo Show on Yahoo.
After seeing one of the kickoff performances on his nationwide comedy tour, it served as a reminder that being biracial is still an issue in the eyes of many -- which made for that real story for the comedic irony that Michael delivered to the audience so masterfully.
It was at the Improv in San Jose, California where Michael and I sat down for a conversation about life as a multi-talented personality that is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable faces in the entertainment landscape.
Michael, it's awesome to meet you! The show was fantastic, you and your opening acts were outstanding. Thanks for inviting me to your show and thanks even more for hanging out with me to chat after.
You're welcome, it's great to meet you, Bryan. I'm glad you enjoyed the show.
So, here you are -- you're the best thing to come onto the scene since sliced bread when it comes to the celebrity interview scene. You're likeable, you're successful and people want to talk to you. Congratulations on all of your success!
To me we have the best jobs in the world; all I ever wanted to do was interview people. I did radio for 12 years in Florida. I wasn't on TV and I landed a TV job because they liked my radio show and liked the way I interviewed people - that's what I love. I love sitting down with a person, getting inside their head and having them say great stuff. That's why we do what we do.
It's this phenomenal high that you get from the art of conversation -- or sometimes we get to talk to people we think are fascinating and then you meet them and they turn out not to be so fascinating.
That kind of thing happens all the time. When I used to be on the radio, I would interview these artists -- now mind you, it takes a lot of talent to even get to the point where they'll play you on the radio; I would talk to these artists when they are just starting out, then 6 months later everyone knows their name. It's the biggest thrill to be a part of that because when that happens you're ahead of the curve. I was one of the first people to play Maroon 5.
It's fascinating to talk to someone that you know one day is going to blow up and be larger than life. It's kind of like talking to someone whose heyday might have passed, there's a humility factor that's there. That quality isn't always with people who are currently big.
I interview a lot of people like you do, but when I interview Will Smith he is exactly the same guy from way back in the day. It can be tough when you get these reality TV stars that are not even on the same level of success that Tom Cruise or Will Smith are, but when you get them one-on-one they are there for you. I've always kept this mentality of trying to make it as fun as possible.
So, I have to ask you what is it that made you gravitate towards stand-up comedy? It's a hard medium.
I never expressed any interest in doing stand-up comedy, never. I was on Chelsea Lately, I was a reporter so basically my shtick on that show was to interview celebrities and get the facts. I never wanted to do it, but Chelsea opened the door for me -- and you always have to be ready when you see that door opening. She told me I should give it a try.
What a comedian is all about is an ever changing thing. In your experience of being a comedian today, what do you think comedy is all about?
Being a comedian today is not about one-liners anymore. People want to hear your story and they want to grow with you. It's real. My mentor Jo Coy told me that if I was about to sit down and write a joke, then don't. If you ever sit down to write a true story and heighten it then that's comedy. He encouraged me to tell my real story.
So, the first time I did comedy -- I just went up there and had fun. You're only supposed to do three to five minutes, but I had no sense of that. The owner of that Improv Club in Miami had asked me if that was my first time and told me that he had never seen anything like that before. The next night, he put me on the big stage and had me open for the Wayans brothers -- in front of 700 people! I did 17 minutes. They had told me backstage, "You're going to be big!" To become a headliner, it takes 10 years. I've learned from these great comics.
How long have you done stand-up now?
Two years and two months.
Wow, I couldn't even tell. You did a phenomenal job.
It's all about the energy that you give out. I want people to be able to leave one of my shows, saying that it was a great show. I don't want everyone saying "Michael was good, but everybody else was eh..." I want everyone to crush because that just raises the game of everyone on the stage and everyone has a good time. I want everyone to have a good time, I learned that from Chelsea. Her roundtable is one of the most important aspects of her show. It's the part where she allows everyone to shine. Every comic goes through twice with their comment and then she wraps it up. Being on that show is where I learned if they shine, then you shine. That's how Hot Mess Comedy started; it's all about great comedians. When I first started, I put myself in between comedians to build up time. If you're around great comedians, like Nick or Justine then you learn how to build time and the show is still great.
You mentioned earlier that being a comedian is about telling your story; obviously your story gives you this rich canvas to work with -- just from being biracial. Your performance was outstanding and the audience could really relate to you. I can too, personally, being biracial. I can remember being about 8 years old and having kids ask me why my grandmother is white and why I'm black. I realized at that age that I was witty. So, because I got tired of being asked in this offensive and teasing way -- I told them I had gotten a great suntan.
I know exactly what you mean. You sort of develop this defense mechanism because you don't look like everybody else -- you've got to have jokes and things to help you get through that. Luckily, I was good at sports, but it was tough for me growing up. I didn't really get into all of the racial things I was called as a child because it was too aggressive, but they used to call me nigga-chink in school. As a kid at like 8-years old, they didn't know and I didn't know better. It made me ask, why do I have to be different?
You only had the instincts and that gut feeling that it was something bad that they were calling you. I went through that, and it's sad.
Even growing up, it's still weird the way that people act. I could be at a table and the people there will say something racist about one side of me because they're not entirely sure what I am.
That's ridiculous. It's not like they can just be like, "Wait a minute, before I use some racially charged and offensive words, what are your ethnicities?"
It's crazy, whoever I'm hanging out with figures that whoever they're talking about can't possibly be me. I've heard the most racist stuff about Asians and black people while I'm sitting right there. I was like, "Wow, this is amazing!" They turn around and say to me, "What? You're Latin!" No I'm not!
Unbelievable, but in all actuality totally believable. With everything that you do, your stand-up and your enormous success as an interviewer -- when you first started, did you ever think that it was going to come to all of this right here?
I did radio, and from radio I got hired at E! I was very hesitant to move to LA, I was very happy doing radio. I worked four hours a day and it was good. It was a big chance but my thing is if you go for something, you go 100 percent. I'm very realistic with myself, I don't paint unrealistic goals. My thing was I going to try stand-up three times. It would've been like trying to play golf, I'm terrible at it.
Never even tried it.
The only reason I like going to the golf course is because when I put on a Nike cap, everybody thinks I'm Tiger Woods. They'll all stop and look at me, and then they see me hit and they get disappointed and say, "Ah damn, that ain't Tiger Woods!"
The only reason I like to go is to drive the golf carts, my friends will be like, "Damn, nice driving. You drive like Mario Andretti; you got us out of the rough." I'll feel superior, especially in one of those golf carts that look like a Cadillac Escalade. That gives me my kicks through my temporary false sense of superiority and bigger visions of grandiosity. So, what's in store for the future? You have all of these outlets and you're huge on twitter -- it seems to me like you do your own tweets.
Yes, I do my own tweets. My goals are to continue to grow at CBS and Yahoo; they've really done a lot of positive for me. Also, I want to continue to grow in stand-up because I love it as an outlet. There aren't a lot of hosts that can do stand-up; it puts me on a different playing field. Let me tell you how Hollywood looks at it. When I used to go to auditions, they'd say, "Oh, you're a host." Now, that I also do stand-up, those doors of opportunity have been opened up for me even further. Everyone respects a good comedian. My goal is to eventually have this become a one man show so that I can get even deeper with my story.
Visit Michael Yo's website to see when his tour hits a city near you. You've got to see his show!