Upcoming comedian gets in ‘Yo’ business

By ADAM WILSON, staff reporter

Michael Yo isn’t the kind of comedian who writes jokes.  Instead, he talks about his life stories—and hippos.

“I tell real facts about hippos,” Yo said.  “I like to educate the audience.”

Stand-up comedian and entertainment news correspondent Michael Yo will be performing in the SURC Theatre on Saturday May 18 at 7:30 p.m. He is best known for his work on “Chelsea Lately” as one of the original correspondents on the talk show.

“I’ve been on the show every two to three weeks since it aired,” Yo said.  “It’s amazing that people who didn’t want to do it are not doing it.  I’m just lucky that I was there from the beginning.”

Working with Chelsea Handler, the host of “Chelsea Lately,” has been a great experience for Yo.  The two have formed a strong bond with each other since the show premiered in July 2007.

“Here’s the thing, if she doesn’t make fun of you on the show, she doesn’t like you,” Yo said. “Chelsea gives me a hard time, but if she really didn’t like me then I wouldn’t be on the show.”

Yo has also appeared as a news correspondent on “Showbiz Tonight” and “The Today Show.”

Campus Activities student programmer Maddie Schlesinger recognized Yo from “Chelsea Lately,” but first heard his stand-up routine at a National Association of Campus Activities National Convention last November.  She thought Yo would be a great way to begin Student Appreciation Week.

“He isn’t G-rated,” Schlesinger said. “It’s like what you see on MTV all the time, it’s very relatable to this generation.”

Fellow student programmer Ashley Stubbs felt the same way after seeing his performance at the conference.

“Right away, after seeing him on “Chelsea Lately” and seeing him in person, I knew he was the right person for Central,” Stubbs said.

Yo said the inspiration for his stand-up material comes largely from his life growing up in Houston as a half-black, half-Korean child.

“Even minorities would make fun of me because I was both,” Yo said. “You were black, white, Asian but not mixed.  I had to be real strong and I found a lot of comedy from my childhood.”

Yo also jokes about his favorite stories from the red carpet, his marital status and his parents’ relationship.  Yo believes talking about his life stories, rather than just telling jokes, will keep people interested in him after the performance.

“A lot of people tell jokes, but after the laughs you don’t connect with them,” Yo said.  “If I talk about my family, people are like, ‘okay, I’ve gone through that,’ and they’ll grow with you.”

Through “Chelsea Lately,” Yo met Jo Koy, a stand-up comedian whom Yo describes as both his mentor and his idol.

“He’s really taken me in and shown me this business, and how to do it,” Yo said.

In addition to stand-up comedy, Yo is an aspiring actor.  He wants his career to follow the pattern of comedic actors such as Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill, who he describes as actors who play themselves on screen.  Yo said doing stand-up comedy has helped him be more confident in himself as an actor.

“With stand-up it’s you, a mic, and it’s live,” Yo said.  “Once you start stand-up you kinda feel like you can do anything.”

Yo recently shot a scene for Sofia Coppola’s upcoming movie “The Bling Ring,” which stars Emma Watson.  He described the experience as a moment he will never forget.

“I didn’t even know I was going to be in the scene with Emma Watson,” Yo said. “It was such a surprise.  I am such a Harry Potter fan.”

Yo also hosts an original webshow called “The Yo Show,” which airs on Yahoo.com.  The show focuses on entertainment news, but not the typical A-list celebrities, Yo said.

The show, which was recently renewed for its second year of broadcast, allows Yo to show who he is as a person, he believes.

“They let me show my full personality, as opposed to other shows were I get a few questions and that’s it,” Yo said. “It’s not just a sound clip of the most gossipy question you can ask.”