Henry Cho isn’t your average comedian. For starters, he’s of South Korean descent, and other than his stints spent in Los Angeles accumulating credits leading to a big breakthrough, he’s continued to call Tennessee home.
That alone would seem to set him apart, but in truth, it’s the tack he takes in conveying his comedy that distinguishes him from others of his ilk. Cho makes it a point to refrain from using profanity, making him something of a rarity in an entertainment industry that seems dependent on dishing out the dirt. He is, by definition, a clean comedian.
Part of the impetus for pursuing that principal is the fact that Cho is an avowed Christian.
“I try to walk that walk as much as I can,” the 56 year-old entertainer said by phone during a break from his recent tour. “It’s helped me, because I have to be true to myself. Otherwise it just doesn’t work. I’ve never billed myself as a Christian comedian. I’m a comedian who happens to be a Christian. I’ve worked mainstream my entire career.”
By mainstream, Cho means those audiences that like humor of the X-rated variety. However that doesn’t necessarily categorize him as family friendly. He said that although he tends to avoid vulgarity, it doesn’t make him any different in the way he approaches his material.
“I still do Vegas every year,” Cho said. “I just do clean, adult humor. I don’t call it a niche because I don’t aim for a niche. I’m just as mainstream as you can be.”
Indeed, Cho said that the inspiration for his material is filtered through everyday experiences and observations.
“Anything that is capable of inspiring me,” he explained. “I just go through the day and things happen, or I see things or think of things, and I write them down and work them into my act. I love riffing on anything.”
That can include his perspectives on family, American food, his childhood and what it was like being in a rare minority here in East Tennessee. It’s especially interesting to watch a Korean-American comedian speaking with a Southern accent.
Clearly, the desire to keep things clean hasn’t hindered his career. In fact, he’s accumulated an impressive list of credits that includes work in radio, television and film. He’s made a number of appearances on late night television and guested on several sitcoms as well as various comedy specials on MTV and VH1. He’s also become a familiar fixture on satellite radio where he can be heard daily on Sirius XM, Blue Collar Radio and Pandora. A regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry, he currently has a one-hour Comedy Central special, “What’s That Clickin’ Noise?,” that can be seen on Netflix.
He also claims three feature films credits — “McHale’s Navy,” which also starred Tom Arnold and David Alan Grier, “Say It Isn’t So” and “Material Girls.” His faith-based indie film “Saving Faith,” which he co-produced and costarred in, garnered him honors as Best Supporting Actor in a Feature Film by the International Christian Film Festival.
Cho is such a master of the media in fact that he was chosen to be the keynote speaker for the 59th Annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner.
Nevertheless, he did put his career on hold when he chose to relocate back to Tennessee to provide what he believed would be a stable environment for his children. Born and raised in Knoxville and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, he originally moved to Los Angeles in 1989 to further his career, even while insisting that he always intended to return home.
“We moved from L.A. to raise our family here in Tennessee,” Cho said. “I didn’t want to raise my kids in Los Angeles, so I kind of took a 10-year hiatus from film and television until my kids got more mobile, which they are now. Recently I’ve gotten back in the game a bit and I’ve done some low-budget films that allowed me to work three to five days a week. Our family does not work if I’m not home. However, I’m gone enough. I still love my day job of 33 plus years, doing standup coast to coast.”
Indeed, these days Cho seems busier than ever. He recently completed filming a Hallmark Channel movie “The Farmer and the Belle — Saving Santaland” that’s scheduled for the 2020 holiday season. He also has a pair of television pilots currently in production. In addition, he performs some 90 to 95 concert dates a year, and when he’s not performing, he enjoys playing golf.
Cho currently makes his home outside of Nashville, citing its convenience when it comes to work-related travel.
“I’ve always said that if Knoxville had an airport with a better selection of flights, I would move back home,” he said.
Nevertheless, it’s evident that Cho still retains a special fondness for East Tennessee.
“I was born and raised in Knoxville, so I obviously have great ties there,” Cho said. “I perform annually at the Bijou, and it’s a great homecoming. I get to see my mom and my oldest pals from my childhood and college. It’s a great time for me, and also a great time for my family.”