A Cup Of Coffee with Henry Cho (Interview)

By Dave Parsons

In the world of comedy, where humor often knows no boundaries, Henry Cho stands out as a pioneer of cultural fusion, using his unique perspective to bridge divides and bring people together through laughter. Born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, with a mix of Southern charm and Korean heritage, Cho has carved out a niche for himself in the comedy landscape.  Whether he’s performing in comedy clubs, theaters, or the Grand Ole Opry, he brings people together reminding us all that laughter is the universal language of humanity.

In a slight diversion to the usual cup of coffee chat, this interview took place in a dressing room at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.  With the photos of Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Jim Reeves, Bill Anderson and Hank Willians, Sr. a few inches behind us we talked comedy and the Opry. 

Me:  How long have you been doing comedy as a career?

Henry Cho:  This is my 38th year doing stand-up. 

Me: You started in the clubs?

Henry Cho: Started in Comedy Club in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was a student at UT Knoxville and I tried it on a Monday night and it worked. They hired me. I started working on Wednesday.  I dropped out of college on Friday and that was 38 years ago. It was just the local clubs in Knoxville at the time and then you branched out. Yeah, I got lucky because it was a big competition.  I thought it was 12 guys like me just trying it, but it was a real competition. So, it was 11 comedians and me and I ended up winning the thing. And the guy who owned the Funny Bone Comedy Club chain, his name is Jerry Kubak, G -E -R -R -Y……He was there and he said, how long you been doing this? I said, that was it. He goes, no, really, that was it. He hired me right then and I’d still go do guest spots for the next couple months and then I hit the road. 

He had 12 Funny Bones at the time. St. Louis, Kansas City, Texas. I went and did all those. And then I just started touring, met other comedians, met other club owners, and just hit the circuit big time. My first two years doing stand-up, I worked 50 weeks a year.  I got to where I was headlining real fast. And I got to where I would work every other week. Because we used to work Tuesday through Sundays. 

It wasn’t this Thursday, Friday, Friday, Saturday stuff that you see nowadays, we worked all week. So, Monday was always travel day. If you timed it right, you’d have Tuesday off too. I put 100 ,000 miles on my truck first year I did comedy.

Me:  It seems like when you started out, you had the I’m the Korean born comedian, as your brand so to speak. Has that changed as far as what you do in your act over the years?  

Henry Cho:  There are many shows, that I don’t even make one Asian reference at all. This is the Opry, I  have one job here and I have a very little time, and my job is to crush it.  I can’t mess around. If I am doing my own show, I got an hour and a half. If I lose them on a joke, it ain’t that big a deal. And 99 .9% of the people bought a ticket to see me anyway. 

But when you’re on the Opry, you just got to crush it. So, I come out and I don’t mess around. I learned that a long time ago. You know, I used to try to do different things here, different things there. Vince Gill told me, Hey, you got one job, crush it.  I know you want to do all kinds of stuff, but you don’t have time. Just crush it. You got 10 minutes. 

So, that’s what I do. I’ll do full shows and you know, Jerry Seinfeld said in like 1986 or 1987 that I had the second best hook since Ronnie Dangerfield.  But, I never wanted to be just known as the Asian Southern comic, I just wanted to be a comedian who happened to be Asian who happened to be from Tennessee, 

Me:  I know you did some acting but have you branched out into some other areas? 

Henry Cho:  Some.  You know once I got married and had kids, my window was very short.  So, I had my last TV deal was CBS from 2007 to 2009, and when that did not get on the air I just pulled out for 10 years.  I coached my boy’s baseball and basketball teams.  I coached my daughter’s softball teams.  I went to her horse shows. I missed one high school football game in four years. So, I was here and I did not even tour very far. I stuck close to home in case I had to be home. 

And, so now the kids are older, and I’m getting ready to be an empty nester. So, this year I’m going coast to coast. I’m going back to Seattle, Oregon, Sacramento, Wyoming….Idaho. I’m doing Connecticut and Rhode Island, places I haven’t been in 20 years. 

Me: You were in Florida last month, wasn’t it? 

Henry Cho: Well, yes. See, everything I do is around golf.  So, if I can play golf, I’ll show up. The PGA Tour has their Florida swing, and that’s what I have. Mine starts in January in Jacksonville and it goes through the end of February, and it’s all Florida. I only do like six comedy clubs a year, and one of them is in Tampa and one of them is in Naples. 

Me:  So, what does being a member of the Opry mean? I’ve seen the video with you and Gary Mule Deer and they asked you to be a member of the Opry. And I think you were the one that said I was never on my radar. 

Henry Cho: Never, I mean, why would it be?  You start doing stand-up, that’s all you think about.   Then you get asked to come do some shows at the Opry, and you meet folks like Bill Anderson and Jeannie Seely and all these icon veterans and they’re so supportive.  And, then it just happened. They had not asked a comedian to be a member in 50 years. So, it was something bigger than I could have ever dreamed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top
New Fury Media