Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow

Henry Cho: Asian with a Southern accent

- BY BARRY COURTER STAFF WRITER Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@ timesfreep­ress.com or 423-757-6354.

Henry Cho has dealt with stereotype­s his whole life. Born to Korean parents in Knoxville, he looks like his parents and sounds like, well, a guy who was raised his whole life in East Tennessee.

That has been part of his act as a profession­al comedian since he started in the late ’80s.

“I’m an Asian with a Southern accent,” Cho said in a previous interview. “To a lot of people, that right there is funny.”

And being f unny is what it’s all about for Cho. And clean. His material is always clean.

Which either makes it strange, or perfectly logical, that one of his favorite comedians ever is the “The Merchant of Venom.”

“I was onstage t he other day and somebody asked me what comedian I missed the most and I said Don Rickles,” Cho says.

“You gotta toughen up your skin, people.

“Each of the 10 or 12 times I would see him, he’d see me, and he did the same thing. He’d say, ‘Hey Hank,’ and then he’d pull out his collar and say, ‘Too much starch.’

“The first time he did it, I laughed so hard. It was real laughter. You just laughed, and you should have. It was just funny. It wasn’t racist; it was just funny.

“He knew everyone in my family was a doctor but me, so he’d call me ‘ Ah, Dr. Cho.’ I loved it. It was just funny.”

He mentions this as Henry Cho part of a discussion on the changing political climate in this country. Cho doesn’t do a lot of political humor, but when he does, he usually picks on all sides. He has noted a troubling trend in today’s audiences.

“People are unwilling to listen because they have already made up their minds on some things.

“This past election was unbelievab­le. I did a joke where I said, ‘ Do you realize how close we were to having Bill Clinton being our first lady, and he was going to have to decorate the White House? Of course, it would be different because he’d have a bowling alley and a stripper pole.’

“People got offended, which is weird because when I did t hat same joke eight years ago with Obama getting elected, it was hilarious. So many people are just looking for something to complain about. It’s amazing we get anything done these days.”

Much of Cho’s comedy is about dealing with everyday life, which for him means being a Christian family man. Family is so important for him, in fact, he has always tailored his career to be able to be at home with his wife and two kids. That has meant not taking jobs such as movies or extended show tours because it would take him away for long periods of time.

“Everything I do fits my life and my family schedule,” he says.

“I didn’t have kids to be a comedian who had kids. It’s hard, because films can take months and weeks to do. It’s not like Spielberg calls me every day to offer roles, but I can’t imagine being away from my wife and kids.”

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