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Joe Hernandez-Kolski

Actor / Writer / Spoken Word Poet


Two-time HBO Def Poet Joe Hernandez-Kolski blends spoken word poetry and comedy to create an experience that is hard-hitting, truthful, and incredibly funny. Having rarely left an audience without a standing ovation, he is fervently committed to both entertaining and challenging people with his intimate, cutting-edge performances. World-renowned Professor Cornel West says, “Joe’s work offers a fresh perspective that is both honest and insightful.” A graduate of Princeton University, Hernandez-Kolski is helping shape the dialogue and minds of today’s youth.

As a spoken word poet, Hernandez-Kolski recently opened for John Mellencamp in his hometown of Chicago. He has performed at over fifty colleges and universities around the country. He recently opened the “Say Word” Hip-Hop Theater Festival at Lehigh University with his hip-hop solo show—“You Wanna Piece of Me?”—which includes DJ Jedi (Digable Planets, Def Poetry Jam Tour).

He's performed his show all over the country, including Ars Nova NYC and the San Francisco Hip-Hop Theater Festival. He appeared in “The Bomb-itty of Errors,” a rollicking hip-hop version of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” and received thunderous applause for both of his performances on HBO's Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry.

With remarkable energy and searing commentary, Hernandez-Kolski draws audiences in, evoking both laughter and personal reflection. Unafraid to reveal all truths, he takes chances and cleverly engages audiences in what proves to be an unforgettable experience.

Based in Los Angeles, Hernandez-Kolski’s credits as an actor include the summer blockbuster Hancock, starring Will Smith, and he recently shot a scene with Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx in The Soloist, directed by Joe Wright (Atonement). He continues to host Downbeat 720, an open-mic for high school youth that he co-founded. The televised version, Downbeat Showdown, which he hosted and produced, received the LA Emmy for “Outstanding Youth Programming.” He says: “All I can do is tell my own story and if that helps lead a person toward their true passion, that’s the beauty of art.”

“Joe Hernandez-Kolski is one of the most brilliant, courageous and gifted artists on the globe. He tells difficult truths with unsparing honesty leavened with glorious wit and humor. Joe is also one of the most humane and compassionate visionaries working today, and if you are fortunate enough to stand beneath the fountain of his irrepressible wisdom and his relentless eloquence, you are blessed indeed.”
--Prof. Michael Eric Dyson, Georgetown University

“Joe’s work offers a fresh perspective that is both honest and insightful.”
--Dr. Cornel West, Princeton University

"Joe ain’t afraid to be entertaining, in fact highly entertaining is what he is. Joe, I’ve noticed, likes to take chances and push the audience close to the edge."
--Marc (So What!) Smith, Founder of the Slam Movement and Poetry Slam, Inc.

“Joe is an inspiring voice and talent. His work is insightful, humorous and powerful. His commitment to his work is undeniable.”
--Saul Williams

“Joe is a refreshing and seldom heard voice of the hip-hop generation that deserves listening and watching.”
--Danny Hoch

“Joe captivates the crowd with his melodic poetry that is beautiful, comical, timely and necessarily political.”
--Dr. Barbee Myers Oakes, Wake Forest University


Refried Latino Pride

In his speech Refried Latino Pride, Hernandez-Kolski presents an exploration of his ethnic identity as he travels from an urban Black high school to an Ivy League university. Somewhere along the way, Hernandez-Kolski learns to not only accept his ethnicity as a Mexican-Polish-American but to embrace it. Through comedy, music, dancing and storytelling, Hernandez-Kolski uses his art to create a common bond between all audience members.

Cultural Collisions: Commentary for a Changing America

Hernandez-Kolski's nickname, "Pocho Joe," comes from his mixed background as a Mexican-Polish-American. Considered rude by some, "Pocho" is a term that Mexicans sometimes use to describe an "Americanized" Mexican. Hernandez-Kolski embraces the term and believes that "Todos Somos Pochos" (We are all Pochos). There is no way to grow up in America without being influenced by a variety of cultures on a daily basis. With this show, Hernandez-Kolski delves deeply into the many hybrids he deals with on a daily basis, ranging from economic to ethnic and cultural mixtures.

Rockin’ the Mic: A Hip-Hop Headbanger’s Story

As music is so important to Hernandez-Kolski, this show is dedicated to fully exploring its influence on his life. Growing up a heavy metal head banger, Hernandez-Kolski never liked hip hop, even though he attended a majority black high school in Chicago where hip hop and house music were prevalent. Ironically, it wasn't until he went to Princeton University that he truly began to appreciate the message and beats of hip hop. Now a hip hop culture instructor at several afterschool programs throughout Los Angeles, Hernandez-Kolski has learned how to use his spoken word poetry to communicate the importance of diversity in one's musical collection and how this affects one's view of the world around them. This show includes a screening of Hernandez-Kolski's award-winning short film, Afterschool'd, about an afterschool hip hop program gone wrong.

Power Chords: Striking Harmony Through Sex, Identity & Rock n’ Roll

Hernandez-Kolski has never been afraid to reveal himself in front of an audience. With Power Chords, he delves deeply into his relationships with women and his relationship with himself. He deals with dating, break ups, and first love, supported by a great music soundtrack. Hernandez-Kolski even considers himself a feminist and he can talk about it for hours upon hours. This show, thank goodness, only lasts an hour.

You Wanna Piece of Me? (with DJ Jedi)

So Fresh & So Clean (with beatboxer Joshua Silverstein)

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