The Real Reason Jo Koy Changed His Name

Changing one's name is pretty commonplace in Hollywood. Celebrities change their names all the time and for a variety of reasons. Some do it because of privacy, some switch it up because their actual names are more complex than others, and some have made an effort to come up with creative monikers for better name recall.

Take Bruno Mars, for example. The Grammy Award-winning singer's actual name is Peter Gene Hernandez, but he went with a more recognizable stage name for his music career. Meanwhile, Jamie Foxx's birth name is Eric Marlon Bishop because he noticed female stand-up comedians would always score slots since they came few and far between. "So I went to the list and wrote down unisex names. Stacy Green, Tracy Brown ... Jamie Foxx!" he shared during an appearance on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert." "So the dude is like ... 'Jamie Foxx, is she here?' and I'm like, 'Hey!'" he recalled with a wave. "And then I went on stage, I got a standing ovation."

And then there's Jo Koy, who credits his aunt for helping him come up with a stage name. But Koy would have probably stuck with his actual birth name if people didn't find it funny.

Jo Koy said people used to laugh at his actual name

Jo Koy's birth name isn't as catchy as his stage name. The stand-up comic revealed he often got made fun of early on in his career because of his unusual name.

"I started stand-up 30 years ago in 1989. I used to go with my real name, you guys — Joseph Glenn Herbert," he told the audience in his "Jo Koy: In His Elements" Netflix special. When the crowd erupted with laughter, he said, "F*** you! That's why I changed my name!" Apparently, when he was going to open mics and small gigs, his sets often had his name as the subject because people found it funny.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Weekly, Koy shared how he would always get heckled about his name, and that barely anyone could get it right. "Every time I went onstage it was so annoying. People would heckle. Something with 'Herbert.' The MC would do five minutes on 'Herbert,' and they would never get it right — 'A-bear.'" He eventually got sick of all the mockery and decided to change it.

Koy then enlisted his cousin's help to come up with a different name, and they first tried to play with different permutations of his birth name. "Yeah, cause your name sucks," his cousin quipped. Luckily, his aunt came to the rescue and helped him create a stage name he liked.

Jo Koy credits his aunt for his stage name

It wasn't until Jo Koy's aunt summoned him to eat at a family gathering that he came up with his stage name. "Jo Koy, eat! Jo Koy, eat!" he remembered his Aunt Evelyn calling him.

"I swear to God, I was like 'That's my name!' She's been calling me that my whole life, but it wasn't until that moment when I knew I had to change my name," he shared on the "Jo Koy: In His Elements" special. Interestingly, he never knew why his aunt called him that until much later. "It's just a silly nickname that means nothing. She'd just call me 'Jo Koy.' I don't know why," he told The Virginian-Pilot in 2010.

Koy only found out when he took her out to eat and asked her directly. "I just looked at her, and I go, 'Look, Auntie, a lot of reporters would ask me where I got my nickname and I don't have a story. So can you just tell me the story of why you came up with the nickname Jo Koy?'" Evidently, his aunt wasn't even calling him Jo Koy. "She looked at me ... she goes, 'I don't call you Jo Koy ... I call you Jo Ko.' And for all of you at home who don't know what that means, in Tagalog, 'ko' means 'my.' My nickname is My Jo. Jo Ko. How f****** sweet is that?"

Koy choosing his nickname seems like it's one happy accident. His only gripe? All his merchandise is misspelled.