HC: My decision to pursue a career in comedy was surprising to say the least to my parents. I was supposed to snap out of my baseball/girl faze and buckle down and study hard one day. When I told my dad I was dropping out of school to go into comedy it was the hardest thing I had done at that point in my life. It wasn't easy in many ways, but the most difficult thing was also having to explain what a standup comic actually does. I told him, "You know they tell jokes like on Johnny Carson". He replied, "You're on Johnny Carson?" I said no, and he responded, "Didn't think so, you're wasting your time and also mine."
So to say he wasn't too happy with my decision is an understatement. My dad would always say, "With your brain, that came from me and your mom... you could have done anything." I would answer that comedians are very intelligent people, you can stack our IQ's with any profession and we'd hold up quite well. But it didn't have the same clout as Dr or Professor to my dad and his peers. He wouldn't talk about what I did for the first year and a half. I was moving through the comedy ranks really fast. Using the good work ethic my parents had instilled in me to its full potential, finally. After that time, my dad told me to pursue what I was going after because he'd never seen me try as hard at anything since baseball. So with that stamp of approval, I was bulletproof.
GS: You've said that you didn't want to build your comedy around being a Corean with a Southern accent. Has that decision helped or hurt your career?
HC: I never wanted to be the Asian comic or the Southern Corean comic. That's what I am, that's how I'm described to people who don't make the connection with just my name. I just wanted to be a comedian. A really good comedian. I used my background when I started, heck that's all I knew. I did a show in Vegas in 1989, been doing comedy less than 3 years. Steve Allen (creator, first host of The Tonight Show), came up to me and said, "Henry, I'm Steve Allen, you know the old saying that there's no such thing as a new joke, well, Kid, you've got about 12. No one has ever come from your angle, no one, ever. They'll show up down the road now that you've established yourself, but you are an original."
Among my peers, who are some of the greatest standup comics living today, I am just a comic, not the Asian, southern , Corean comic. I've always
wanted people to leave my show saying that I was funny, not that I was funny
but all I did was that one theme. Just this week I was told by some TV
producers that they keep trying to find another Henry Cho, but all the Asian comics
they see are all one joke wonders and that I don't even mention being Asian half
the time. Has it helped me more than hurt me by sticking to my guns? I can't
answer that, all I know is that I do things my way and that's the only way.
I've never cussed on stage..EVER! That's me, that's who I am and if that helps
or hurts I don't really care, as long as I get to stay in my own skin. I'm