Comedian Henry Cho’s 32-year career has included appearances at venues as varied as NBC’s “The Tonight Show” and The Grand Ole Opry, but he doesn’t really do festivals.
”This is a different kind of event for me,” said Cho, who will be the featured speaker at the Mayberry Days Buffet Dinner and Entertainment at Cross Creek Country Club on Thursday.
As would be expected of a Mayberry Days performer, Cho is a fan of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“I watched it growing up,” he said. “It’s brilliant TV and still relevant today. I wish there were more shows like it.”
Though hesitant at first to admit it, Cho at last confessed, “If it’s in color, I don’t watch it,” a fact that puts him right in line with most die-hard fans of the classic show.
Cho garnered his initial success by being the Korean-American comic with a Southern accent, something that set him apart at the beginning of his career in the mid-’80s, as it still does today. Audiences ate it up, but what they were also being served was a full helping of Cho’s solid jokes and faultless timing, and if he skewered a few stereotypes along the way, they laughed at that also. His one-hour Comedy Central Special, “What’s That Clickin Noise?” which had a recent Netflix run, is a good example of his work: solidly constructed, flawlessly performed, and laugh-out-loud funny.
His stand-up act is also as wholesome as it is hilarious, earning Cho the nickname Mr. Clean, making him equally at home headlining Vegas or a Mayberry Days dinner.
Cho was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and currently lives in Nashville, after alternating residences between Los Angeles and Nashville since beginning his entertainment career. Watching Cho perform on television — finessing New York and LA audiences with his folksy manner and rock-solid Tennessee accent which has remained unchanged throughout his 32 years in show business — begs the question of whether his act will play as well to a Mayberry audience where jokes about his accent could fall flat, as that accent will be shared by virtually the entire audience.
“I do the same act coast to coast,” he said, adding that audiences in other parts of the country may not get all of the sayings and expressions, “but in the South, they get everything.”
Cho said the South is his go-to region for performing. “I understand it so well. I can relate to how most folks live their lives. I know the things they talk about. I understand the culture. I get NASCAR.”
Back when he was a University of Tennessee student, Cho first decided to try stand-up by entering a competition at a comedy club. “It was crazy successful,” he said. “I entered the competition on Monday night, was offered a job by Funny Bones (the comedy club) on Wednesday, and dropped out of college on Friday.
He has never looked back.
Cho’s TV credits include appearances on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” CBS’s “The Late, Late, Show,” and NBC’s “Young Comedians Special.” He served two years as host of NBC’s “Friday Night Videos” and had many guest roles on numerous network sitcoms. He was co-creator, co-producer and co-writer of “The Henry Cho Show” on GAC (Great American Country) and can also be heard daily on Sirrus, XM, Blue Collar Radio and Pandora. He’s also a regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry.
Some of Cho’s film credits include Universal’s “McHale’s Navy” with Tom Arnold and David Allen Greer; “Say It Isn’t So” with Heather Graham and Sally Field; and “Material Girls” with Hilary Duff and Angelica Houston, which was produced by Madonna.
Cho was the keynote entertainer for The 59th Annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner and has worked extensively with Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire and many others.
As far as Cho’s recent work, the faith-based Indy film “Saving Faith,” in which he co-starred and also co-produced, will be released by Lions Gate this Fall and he has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Feature Film by the International Christian Film Festival.
“It was my first time working in the faith-based genre, and everybody was so nice,” he said. It was low budget, but we made it work.”
Cho used his Nashville connections to pull in favors from Vince Gill, Amy Grant and Scott Hamilton, all of whom make cameo appearances in the film.
The movie played in a handful of theaters 18 months ago and did nominal business, according to Cho. The Lions Gate release will make the film available for streaming, and DVDs will be for sale at Walmarts all across America.
In discussing the highlight of his career so far, at first he says it was his initial appearance on “The Tonight Show,” the holy grail for all comedians, but then he reconsiders, and says, “the fact that I’m still doing it.”
“I saw Paula Poundstone in an airport — I’ve known Paula for 30 years — and she asked me, ‘Did you ever think we’d get to do this for this long’? No, I didn’t. I haven’t had any big TV deals, my own sitcom or anything like that, but I still get to do standup.”
“Thirty-two years later, I still get to do standup.” The amazement at his good fortune was apparent in his voice.
The Mayberry Days Buffet Dinner and Entertainment featuring Henry Cho will be at Cross Creek Country Club on Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are $50 which includes tax. The evening includes country buffet dinner, golf awards presentation and entertainment from special guests, tribute artists and family-friendly laughs from comedian Henry Cho.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.