Why family comes first for comedian Henry Cho

Meet Henry Cho, the ‘Asian with a southern accent,’ who’s built a 37-year comedy career around clean jokes and remaining focused on his family

Henry Cho, the self-labeled “Asian with a southern accent,” sat down with RootsTech 2024 emcee Kirby Heyborne in a Q&A session after performing a comedy set. He was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was part of the only Asian family in the area.

Cho grew up not knowing much about his heritage but had a dedication to never use low level comedy to make fun of Asian people using stereotypes. “I never want to do anything derogatory toward the Korean community, and Asians as a whole. There’s some easy laughs I could get, but I’ve always steered away from them.”

Before he came onstage, his detailed family history was presented to him by representatives from FamilySearch. The documents they presented to Cho included the name of the ship that his father immigrated to the United States of America on and the naturalization records for his parents. Included on the record is the name of the witness, Dr. Henry Jensen, who was the namesake for Henry Cho.

Kirby Heyborne, RootsTech emcee, and comedian Henry Cho talk at RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

A family-centered individual, Cho set a rule that his comedy schedule would work around his family schedule. After the event Cho was asked about these tour habits.

“If I didn’t want to be a father or husband, I’d have never gotten married. I knew once I made that commitment — I had kids — [I decided], I’m trying to do this right. There were many times I did a show on a Friday night, and drove home for hours, coached the game or saw my daughter’s horse show in the morning, Saturday. And then I drove back for hours to do two more shows, and then drove back to go to church on Sunday, to make sure they were there — that kind of stuff.”

Cho didn’t grow up going to church, but as he became involved in his youth, the impact of church was lasting, he said.

When asked about why he started and still continues as a clean comedian Cho said, “I was a Young Life leader when I was in college, when I started doing stand up. So it was very easy to me just to kind of stick to my guns. And then I got great advice early on. Six months into my career, I worked with Jerry Seinfeld [who said], ‘I don’t know why you’re clean, but just stay clean; you’ll get more work,’ so I just continued to do that.”

Being 62 years old and a 37-year comic veteran, Cho intends to continue comedy for a long time and to remain clean and funny while doing so.

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