The Hawaii Comedy Blog

The official blog of the gang at Hawaii Comedy Theater

Archive for May, 2010

“I Can’t Lip Read That Stupid Dummy”

The synergy was unintentional. One particular week we had on the Honolulu Comedy Club show both Kathy Buckley and David Strassman. To the untrained eye, no big deal. But it was a big deal. Let’s go behind the Waikiki comedy scene for a moment.

Strassman is a ventriloquist. Kathy’s deaf. Ponder that, but please don’t get ahead of me.

Although Kathy is hearing-impaired, the “experts” didn’t discover the specific nature of her hearing problem until she was well into adulthood at which time they fixed her up with a latest and greatest micro-device. So Kathy is not only one of the most funny, talented and insightful comics to have worked Hawaii, but one of the best darned lip readers, too. She’s deaf, but she can hear. Yes, a tad confusing. Which brings us to David Strassman.

Kathy had worked with David many times before at comedy clubs in Los Angeles, but had never been able to experience his full act. Only half of his act. David’s half. Because David is a ventriloquist. Which brings us to Chuck.

Chuck is Strassman’s dummy. Chuck Wood. And Chuck is nasty. Nasty, nasty, nasty. This is in stark contrast to David who is truly one of the sweetest guys on earth. Kathy knew this because could lip read David. Yes, she knew what David was saying and that he was sweet. Before she was fitted for the hearing aid that would allow her to hear sounds for the first time ever, all she could ever do was watch Chuck’s mouth bob up and down. “I can’t lip read that stupid dummy,”Kathy would say.

Until that one night at the Honolulu Comedy Club in Waikiki. Which brings us to The Signer.

We had a large group at the club that night – like a big chunk of Honolulu’s hearing-impaired community. Half the crowd. They came to see Kathy Buckley. And they asked if they could bring a signer. I had to check with Strassman first. “You okay with that David?”

Okay with that? You’ve got to be kidding! This was music to a ventriloquist’s ears. “You mean there’s gonna be a guy on stage standing next to me for my entire show?” I could see him literally salivating, like handing candy to a baby. Chuck had a field day. A fart joke. How’s he going to sign that? You get the idea. But back to Kathy.

You see, this was the first time Kathy got to “hear” the other half of Strassman’s act. Now she finally knew what Chuck had been saying all those years. She finally understood why a steady stream of people would approach David after his shows saying, “David, we really liked you. You were wonderful. But we didn’t like Chuck. Chuck wasn’t nice.”

Hello folks. David is Chuck. Chuck is David. Ah, they just don’t get it. Dummies. And David would just smile and say thank you. Because David, you see, is nice.

You’ll want to watch these. Helps bring my pathetic words to life.

David Strassman

Kathy Buckley

Two Types of Comedy

“You can’t say the F-word in Honolulu’s only stand-up comedy club.”

That is how the article began in a September 2008 Honolulu Weekly about comedy on Oahu for which we and several others were interviewed.

Now you might see “No F-Bombs Allowed” as quite a feather in our cap. We certainly do. Ironically, the writer didn’t. Let me explain.

Many moons ago, Jim Samuels, a comedian’s comedian and friend, said to our Native Hawaiian headliner Bo Irvine (on Christmas day at Bo’s house in Kailua as I recall), “Bo, there are two types of comedy: Funny and Not Funny.”

Jim’s greater point was that the game is not about Clean vs. Dirty. You can be Clean and Not Funny. You can be Dirty and Not Funny. It still amounts to Not Funny. Jim, you see, could work Clean or Dirty. Depended on his mood. But either way, Clean or Dirty, Jim Samuels was FUNNY.

This is quite in contrast to the Honolulu Weekly writer article who asserted, as though it was Newton’s 4th Law, “Stand-up comedy is supposed to be raw, uncensored, surprising, even shocking.”

Really? Stand up is supposed to be “raw” and “shocking?” If we put that question to Honolulu Comedy Club alum Jeff Foxworthy, Brad Garrett, George Wallace, George Lopez, etc., what might their opinions be? I humbly suggest their worldviews are different.

The point? If you’re looking for a Waikiki show or comedy in Hawaii that will make you feel good about Hawaii, about yourself, and about life come enjoy an evening at the Comedy Polynesia show or Sharkey’s Comedy Club and we guarantee that you won’t feel assaulted, shocked, like you’ve been run through a food processor, or tasted anything raw. To the contrary, you will likely exit the Hawaii Comedy Theater feeling, well… feeling good!

Comedy Polynesia and Sharkey’s Comedy Club are Funny. PG-13-Funny. Jim Samuels, thanks for your wisdom and rest in peace.

P.S. Let me share some quotes from the article we agreed with:

Bo Irvine, who tells jokes with a bleach-bright smile and a head bob that calls Jay Leno to mind, has been a regular on local stages for more than 20 years. He performed at the Honolulu Comedy Club in its heyday, and helped found Hawai’i Comedy Theater.

[Yes, I liked that]

“The only guy who really made it work here was Eddie Sax,” said [name suppressed to protect the innocent], whose own attempts at starting a local club failed. Sax and his wife, Charlotte, founded the Honolulu Comedy Club and ran it so well that businesses still emulate it today. “…He was a really smart businessman.”

[Really liked that, but I’m biased – I’m Eddie Sax!]

“Comedy was so hot at the time,” (Sax) said. “…We were the only game in town because we gave it everything we had. The Improv had come in looking to try to open. I could give you an entire list of all the major chains who came in looking to open another club but when they took a look at the market, how we handled it, where we were positioned and how we did, they said, ‘no.’”

[This final quote illustrates what a comic wants vs. what the audience wants; it’s presented in the article as trying to prove why comedy should be dirty but in fact proves the opposite, which is our approach]

Daniel, a mechanic by day and relative newcomer to the scene, first took the stage four years ago, and said he’s already alienated crowds for making fun of the Special Olympics and for a joke he tells that involves a Rodney King piata…. “I can do a clean act, but I prefer dirty,” Daniel said. “Forty hours a week I’m at my day job where I can’t say s— and I want to be allowed to.”

Comedy Therapy for Hawaii

Kevin Hughes

Kevin Hughes

“All of it,” I replied.

I had asked Kevin Hughes if he was available in February to work at the Honolulu Comedy Club in Waikiki. “When in February?” he asked.

You see, I wanted him for the entire month.

In our five years of producing comedy shows in Waikiki to that point, Charlotte and I had never done this before. One headliner, no opening act. The full 90 to Kevin Hughes. And frankly, no month in the history of the Honolulu Comedy Club has ever better. In the history of comedy in Hawaii, if I may.

Relationship humor. Better communication. Sex therapy.

No one with a pulse left our comedy show the way they came in that month. Marriages on the rocks were saved. Couples would get engaged. Strangers would be strangers no longer. Nobody ended the evening alone.

Sample a few clips of Kevin Hughes for yourself. You will understand why it’s this way.

Waves of laughter emanating from our comedy club at the Ilikai so strong you could feel it next door at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Roberta Paulette, our comedy club manager, told me of one young lady who came each night for Kevin’s first two weeks. By the fourth night Roberta recognized her and welcomed her back. Mistaken identity, said the girl. She told Roberta she hadn’t been there before… at which point Roberta realized she had made a humongous mistake. This fine customer was bringing a different guy with her each evening. Uh… oops!

If you’re lucky enough to be at Sharkey’s Comedy Club in Waikiki when Kevin Hughes is on the show, don’t waste it on Boys Night Out.

Four straight weeks of sellouts, two leading up to Valentine’s Day followed by a word of mouth surge for the two weeks following. The first week of March we sent Kevin on our Hawaiian Islands Comedy Tour with stops at the Kauai Comedy Club at the Kauai Hilton, Maui Comedy Club at the Maui Marriott and Sports Page in Kihai, and Kona Comedy Club at the then-Kona Surf Resort. And then, if you can believe it, two more weeks at the Honolulu Comedy Club. All sellouts.

To the good Roberta Paulette Regalado who we haven’t heard from in years – if you’re reading this, an extremely fond hello to you from Charlotte and Eddie Sax. You were the greatest manager Hawaii comedy has ever seen.

Chief Sielu Avea

All of us come from very different backgrounds.

Chief Sielu Avea

Chief Sielu Avea

Although these differences sometimes can make things awkward in life, they can also be used in comedy to lighten the mood and bridge gaps between different people.  Malietoa Tauasa Folo Sielu Avea, better known as Chief Sielu Avea is one of the people.   Chief Sielu Avea is well known for comedy that has helped people understand each other.

Chief Sielu Avea was born on August 20, 1962 in the village of Lelepa, on the island of Savaii, Samoa and was the youngest of eight children.

From a young age Chief Sielu Avea knew that he was good at being an entertainer. He began to juggle knives as a child and eventually moved onto knives on fire by the time he graduated from high school. Eventually, Chief Sielu moved to Hawaii to attend BYU-Hawaii in 1981 and started to perform at the Polynesian Cultural Center as a backup fire knife juggler. This experience soon led to renown and recognition. Eventually, In 1993, Chief Sielu Avea won 1st place in the first annual World Knife Fire Dance Competition.

He was awarded the title of chief in 1986 by the Samoan Government for his work towards spreading Polynesian culture around for everyone to have a chance to experience. For the past few years Chief Sielu Avea has been doing the “Fia Fia Show” which is his way of making his art easily accessible to the public at large. When you spend a night watching his show, not only will you be entertained, you will also be educated.

It is Chief Sielu Avea’s mission to showcase his skills at juggling fire knives while also teaching the world about his own culture. He does this through his wit and humor and all someone needs to do is pay attention to what he has to say so that they will have a better understanding of the beauty that is Polynesian culture. For those who want an even more in-depth experience they can go on the Ali’i Tour and visit the area that Chief Sielu Avea has decided to call home.

While there people will have the opportunity to hear traditional music and watch traditional dances that date back numerous generations, all in an effort to help people actually experience real Polynesian culture. Something like this is good, because all too often people go to the islands and consider it just a playground. It’s important to recognize that these islands are called home by many people and that it’s very important to learn about the various cultures and gain a deeper understanding and respect so that they can come back from the islands with more than just sunburn.

And of course, who can forget the Chief’s comedy routine at one of Waikiki’s major shows, Comedy Polynesia? You have to see him and his antics to fully appreciate his love of the Polynesian culture as a whole.

That is the message that Chief Sielu Avea is trying to get across to people. It’s perfectly okay to have fun, but one should also understand the place that they are currently at. Without that, its for naught.