You might know Michael Yo from Chelsea Lately and his radio show on Miami’s Y100. The rising TV/radio personality, stand-up comedian, and new host of The Yo Show on Yahoo! has always made an impression with his goofy humor and effervescent smile, making him a lethal combination for attracting ladies and securing hilarious celebrity interviews. (On a side note, he is single and looking to settle down!)
We sat down with Michael to talk about his radio beginnings, working with Chelsea Handler, his mother’s influence on his comedy work, and his memorable interview with Katy Perry.
Judge for yourself how this self-proclaimed “half-black brother with a Korean mother” makes the art of interviewing a comedy act in itself!
Before you became a TV personality and stand-up comedian, you got your first big break as a host for a popular radio station in Austin. How did you get into radio?
I was in high school and met a good friend of mine, Paul Cubby Bryant. He was the big nighttime DJ in Houston, Texas at 104 KRBE and hooked me up with an internship. I worked for free for almost 6 months but loved every minute of it. My radio career took off from there.
What was the transition like moving from radio to TV? Which do you prefer?
I love both, but for different reasons. I love radio because it’s one of the only outlets that people can still reach out and interact with you. If they disagree with you, they can call you and tell you. Radio helps you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on. On the flip side, I like TV because you get more opportunities to interview people that are relevant to pop culture. Interviewing people, that’s my favorite thing to do.
Michael with actor Hugh Jackman
You’ve been a correspondent for E! since 2008 and make frequent appearances on Chelsea Lately. How do you handle the craziness that undoubtedly happens on set? And what’s it like working with Chelsea?
Chelsea is AMAZING!!! She is one of the most loyal and caring people I know. She has done so much for my career. On the show, she gives me a hard time, but I know she loves me :) She always f—ks with me before I go on set. She’ll come backstage and say “Hi” to everyone but me. She’s trying to get into my head, but that’s when I know it’s going to be a great round table.
How does it feel to host your very on show on Yahoo!? What can viewers expect from The Yo Show on Yahoo!that will distinguish it from other entertainment news outlets?
Having my own show is a dream come true. It’s a lot of fun to see your ideas come to life in a piece, and without my amazing staff, this wouldn’t be possible. My show is different than other shows because it has my voice and personality and really shows my love for everything pop culture. I really enjoy interviewing people, but I like making it more of a hang-out than an interview. In our first week, we already broke over 8 million views! We only were expected to do a couple of million the first month. I can’t say thank you enough to people that watch the Yo Show on Yahoo! You guys mean the world.
You have been performing shows for your Hot Mess Tour all across the country. What attracted you to stand-up, and how would you characterize your style of comedy? Does coming from a mixed background influence your comedy?
I never wanted to do stand up, but Jo Koy and Josh Wolf (who are regulars on Chelsea) always told me I should try it. I tweeted one day that I was working on my act, and the next day on Chelsea, she called me out and told me I have one week to do it. My first show was at the Miami Improv. After I got off stage, I called my mom and told her “I LOVE Stand Up!” By the time my second show came around, I was opening up for the Wayans Brothers.
My stand up is usually about me growing up with a black father and Korean mother in Houston, Texas. It’s more of story telling rather than rapid-fire jokes. My mom’s name is “Kum” so we definitely have fun with that. I talk about all the weird situations I was put in introducing my mom to people. When I was young, my mom didn’t know what cum meant, so she would add her name to things she shouldn’t. Like wanting to open her own burger shop and call it Kum Burger. Not Good!
You frequently call your mother on your radio show for Y-100. What kind of role has she played throughout your life? And how does “Mama Yo” feel about your career path in entertainment?
My mom is my rock. If I need a honest opinion, I go to her. There is no filter when you ask an Asian woman their opinion. Like every typical Korean mom, she wanted me to excel in school… and that didn’t happen! She definitely couldn’t brag to the other Korean mothers about my grades. I think she was upset that she never had a bumper sticker that said “My Kid is a Straight A Student” but now she can have one that says “My Kid is on TV, screw your Straight As!”
My mom loves what’s going on with my career and is always asking tons of questions. My dad and I think she should be on TV because she can ask questions for hours without a break or silence. (Just kidding, mom!) One thing great about my parents is that they have been together 38 years (whoop whoop)! And they have never put pressure on me in anyway about my career. They always have just wanted me to be happy.
Being at the frontline of some of Hollywood’s biggest events, you must notice the lack of Asian American actors, entertainers and musicians in mainstream media. From the four years you’ve been working at E!, do you feel like Hollywood is recognizing and becoming more supportive of Asian American talents?
I think the landscape in Hollywood is always open to new ideas and culture. Yes, Asians do not have a huge presence in Hollywood as of now, but that could change with the right script, TV show or movie. Hollywood goes with what is hot no matter what that ethnicity may be.
Any words of advice for people trying to make a name for themselves as a TV/radio personality?
Yes! Always be yourself and be confident in who you are. That’s one thing stand-up comedy has done for me… it let me find my own voice. I used to go to auditions trying to be what they wanted me to be. Now in auditions, I never lose my sense of myself. I think that’s the key to standing out and becoming successful: being true to yourself.
Lastly, can you share with us your most hilariously embarrassing celebrity encounter?
Sure! I interviewed Katy Perry on the set of Sesame Street a while back. After the interview she got up and ripped the loudest fart! It was funny, but awkward! I was speechless for the first time.