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Henry Cho at Grand Ole Opry

Henry Cho is seen performing at the Grand Ole Opry, where he makes frequent appearances.

Comedian Henry Cho has been performing for so long, his resume includes an appearance with the late Bob Hope.

Now that’s longevity!

And it’s especially remarkable for a performer who “isn’t a superstar,” as he explained in a phone conversation Monday.

Cho — who’s done TV, radio and movies in addition to his live shows — is enjoying what he calls “a great, great career. If I never do anything else, I’ll look back and go ‘wow.’

“Paula Poundstone saw me in the Minneapolis airport last year and she said to me, ‘did you ever think we’d get to do this for so long’? We’re talking about doing stand-up comedy, but not with super stardom, and I said ‘no way; who knew?’”

“I have friends who started out when I did who are crazy famous because they had different priorities,” Cho said.

“I had to turn down opportunities in the last decade because I didn’t want to uproot my family and move to Los Angeles. My priorities are faith, family, fame.”

Cho, whose parents moved to the U.S. from Seoul, South Korea, was born and raised in Knoxville, Tenn., where he recalls being the only Asian family.

“I had no idea I was supposed to be smart,” he jokes, adding that because he was born in Knoxville, he’s “south Korean. I’m the only guy on the planet who can do that joke.”

During college, he tried stand-up comedy on a whim and was shocked to win a comedy contest on his first try.

“My friends told me I wasn’t funny, but I said I just wanted to try it. The owner of the Funny Bone chain of comedy clubs happened to be there and hired me as an emcee,” he said.

“The next week, I dropped out of college and have been doing comedy ever since.”

(His leaving college was a blow to his “brilliant academic parents,” he said. His mom “was supportive from day one and my dad came around after about 18 months.”)

Seinfeld’s advice

Cho is a “clean comic,” meaning he doesn’t swear or get vulgar on stage.

It was a conscious decision as he was starting out in comedy, where he “was lucky to get to open for Jerry Seinfeld, about six months into my career.”

Seinfeld, he said, “told me he never understood why comedians would work so hard on a joke you can’t use on TV.”

That advice has worked out well for the busy Cho, who not only appears on TV but performs a lot of corporate events.

“I’m not a prude,” he said, “but my advice to aspiring comics is to work clean. It opens up more doors for you. A lot of my jobs are corporate events, and these big companies have big budgets. They know I won’t offend the CEO’s wife.”

His other advice is “when you think of something funny, write it down and then try it out on stage. Stand-up comedy is the only art form you can just try. You can’t just show up as a musician or an actor somewhere, but the guy who just passed you on the road in that other car can find a club and just try comedy.”

Life on stage

Even though he’s worn several different hats over his long career, his favorite form of performing is still stand-up comedy.

“I’m the director, writer and producer,” he explained. “No one tells me what to say or tries to tweak what I’m doing. Even after all these years, when I write a joke that I like, I can’t wait to try it out on stage.”

Local audience members will get to see Cho try out new material at the Kenosha Comedy Club, a gig he worked into a Wisconsin golfing trip.

As part of his live shows, Cho “will stop the show and take out my notes on stage. I try out new jokes on the audience; it’s so much fun, and the audience gets to feel like part of the writing process. I’m not a ‘sit down and write at a desk’ guy; I’m an idea guy. I use comedy clubs as my studio to work on new material.”

For all his joking around — mining material from his family, his wife’s family and life in general — Cho is serious about his golf game, saying that when asked if he only had four hours left to live, would he spend it golfing or with his family, he responds: “I’d spend it playing golf with my family.”

That’s a passion he shares with comedy legend (and golf fanatic) Bob Hope, he of that early TV credit. Cho appeared with Hope on the 1992 special “Bob Hope and Other Young Comedians.”

Maybe they shared golf tips.

As for his inaugural trip to Kenosha, Cho said he is “looking forward to performing and hoping for big crowds.”

If you go: Performances at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23 and 7 and 9 Saturday, Aug. 24

The Kenosha Comedy Club is at the Wyndham Garden Hotel downtown 

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