Archive for February, 2011
So this 20-something girl gets in Myk Powell’s face after the show and starts ripping a new orifice into his body. “How could you?” “Subhuman!” “You’re perpetuating animal cruelty!” I don’t know what else she said because I was so stunned standing next to him.
After she moved on I asked, “Myk, what the heck is she talking about?”
This happened when all comedy in Hawaii emanated exclusively from the Top of the Ilikai Hotel in Waikiki, the early days of the Honolulu Comedy Club. Call Wacky-98 for reservations. Right, so…
Myk Powell was one of our top Oahu-based comedians. His regular gig, though, was sharing the coveted morning drive slot at 93.1 FM KQMQ along with Cliff “The Voice From God” Richards.
“Oh,” Myk replied, “you haven’t seen our new TV commercial yet?”
“Nope.” So he explained.
Myk was standing over a large barrel of water trying to control, a wildly flapping fin. There was a fish flailing for all it was worth in the barrel and Myk was barely hanging on. Cliff, standing next to Myk, explained to the viewer, “If you don’t listen to Cliff & Myk in the Morning on 93Q, then we’re going to drown this fish!”
It was a grave threat indeed, and one that our Honolulu Comedy Club patron apparently did not appreciate. She’s gonna call the ASPCA. Greenpeace. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Department. The madness must come to an end!
After recovering from fits of laughter I asked Myk, “Why didn’t you tell her?”
“Oh, she’ll eventually figure it out on her own.”
Poor fish. I never did ask what became of the little helpless fella.
My wife Charlotte can be confused for a local. Until she opens her mouth.
But she looks like a local. Honestly, the first time I went to the Ala Moana Center by myself – an unusual occurrence, me shopping – my eyes were playing tricks. Half of the girls I saw at a semi-distance looked like Charlotte, the long dark brown hair, the high cheekbones (thank you Cherokee blood), seductive eyes… I, I need to get home.
But her distinctive Mississippi-bred accent is the reason Charlotte and Jeff Foxworthy become fast friends on his first visit to the Honolulu Comedy Club in Waikiki. Charlotte was the only comedy industry person within a multi-thousand mile radius Jeff could truly relate to at that moment. Looks Hawaiian, sounds like she should be barefoot and pregnant in a kitchen somewhere.
The year was 1990, plus or minus one, and Foxworthy had been honing a new bit in his act informally called You Might Be a Redneck. “How far should I take this?” Jeff was wondering to himself. “Should I really let this Redneck thing define me?”
He was itching to run the question by someone who really might know the answer, to help him. And, lo, cometh prancing into his life a comedy club owner from the South living amongst Yankees. (Southerners consider anyone from a state not in the South a Yankee, even if that state happens to be 12 degrees further south in latitude than their beloved South.)
As Charlotte recalls:
“Hey Charlotte, I, I have a question for you,” Jeff asked. “You know my You Might Be a Redneck routine? Well, I, I was thinking of turning that into a book. Do you, do you think that would be a good idea?”
Charlotte thought about it and replied, “Yeah.”
Four letters for the ages, y-e-a-h. Thus, my friends, I deservedly give my good wife partial, if not single-handed credit for the entire Foxworthy Redneck craze. I mean, think about it folks. What if she had responded with something like, say, for instance… What if she had said, “Nah” ?
What then? No book? No Blue Collar? No Engvall? No Cable Guy? This appears to have been Jeff’s most vulnerable and defining moment in his life, and he received, no, not negativism but encouragement.
It’s the Butterfly Effect of Comedy. The flap of a butterfly’s wing in Waikiki could spawn a hurricane off the coast of Atlanta. Remember what happened when Marty McFly tried to save his peeping tom of a father from being hit by a car? Changed the course of human history.
No sir. Give credit where it’s due. Charlotte Sax, co-founder of the Honolulu Comedy Club, the largest and most successful comedy club ever in the South Pacific, now partnered with Wanda Shipp and Bo Namolokama Irvine operating under the name Hawaii Comedy Theater featuring Comedy Polynesia and Sharkey’s Comedy Club at the Sheraton Princess Ka’iulani Hotel in Waikiki.
The Butterfly Wing Who Propelled Jeff Foxworthy to Stardom.
Foxworthy Audio: Clampetts Go To Maui (very funny!)
I went up to Craig Shoemaker after his opening night set at our Honolulu Comedy Club and asked, “What happened to the Lovemaster?”
We were located at the top of the Ilikai Hotel in Waikiki in those days. I’d known Craig since, well, since the beginning. I was a rookie comic on Long Island working with the likes of Eddie Murphy, Rosie O’Donnell, and Jackie The Jokeman Martling. Craig was just starting out in Philadelphia. I met him on his first ever road gig, which was less impressive than it sounds. From one nighters in Philly to one nighters on Long Island.
All I remember is that he was funny. I didn’t care much for impressionists having never been entertained by comedy legends like Rich Little. Craig Shoemaker was billed as an impressionist and he was the first one whoever made me laugh. That he was only 3 months old as a comedian made the feat even that much more impressive (pun intended).
In addition to developing his act, Craig booked a small every-Wednesday one nighter, the Tap Room in Ambler, PA, just outside of Philly. I played it a few times while attending Lafayette College about an hour north of there. Ancient history in comedy lore; wouldn’t even show up in obscure comedy trivia questions. Who out there remembers the Tap Room? See? My point exactly.
Years later Craig moved to Los Angeles and was one of the first headliners we brought over after Brad Garrett when our comedy club in Waikiki opened. One of the featured segments in Craig’s show was this (morally speaking: awful) character called The Lovemaster. It lasted about 5 minutes and was one of the many bits which had the crowd rolling in the aisles. Morals aside, I really liked the Lovemaster.
But two years and three visits to Hawaii later, the Lovemaster was gone. I was waiting and waiting, but his nasty words never channeled through Craig’s lips. “What happened to the Lovemaster?” I asked Craig after the show on Tuesday night.
“Oh, I got rid of him,” he replied, surprised that I noticed. Hey, I noticed. “I’m wanting to get on TV and I’ve been told they’re looking for good, clean acts.”
“But it was one of your funniest bits!”
This discussion wasn’t club owner talking to his 1099’d comedian. It was friend to friend. Craig was still far funnier than most comics we flew over from L.A., Lovemaster or not. I was being selfish. It’s about what I wanted to see. Entertain Eddie.
Clearly, the Lovemaster didn’t fit the new TV criteria – a fact that made it even all the more curious the following year when Craig returned to our club. Not only had the Lovemaster been resurrected, he channeled through Craig for about 50 of his 60 minutes on stage.
“So Craig,” I said with a huge smile pasted across my face, “what happened to Getting-Rid-of-The-Lovemaster-to-Get-on-TV?”
I don’t quite remember his answer as I was at that moment completely engrossed in myself. But it’s nice to see that so many years later Craig remains one of the top drawing comedy club acts in the country. He is advertised as Craig Shoemaker in small font, The Lovemaster in large font.
And in my twisted, oft disconnected-from-reality mind, I quietly take credit for the resurrection.
(In a future blog I will try to explain how my wife attempts to take credit for Jeff Foxworthy’s You Might Be a Redneck.)
Bo was performing for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves in New Orleans, national headquarters for all reserve bases in the U.S. He was doing comedy-slash-risk management motivational lectures. Five of them over three days. I drove in from Memphis to hang with my buddy for a few days. There was only one catch. Parking.
Think it’s a challenge to park in Waikiki? (Except at the Sheraton Princess Ka’iulani where there’s plenty of parking for $2 with a validation stamp from the Hawaii Comedy Theater.) Apologies for that shameless plug. Where was I… Hard to park in Waikiki? Try parking in the French Quarter! That’s where was staying.
So as long as we’re staying in the highest rent district on the Gulf Coast, why the heck not stay at the most expensive hotel in the highest rent district? Mr. Bo “Why Settle For Less” Irvine was settled in, as usual, at the (pardon my Grey Poupon) JW Marriott where any hotel guest, or any friend of any hotel guest like me, can park a car in their garage for the bargain basement rate of $35 per day.
$35 per day? You’ve got to be kidding me! Does this include a wax and oil change?
It was at this point I had a life-changing epiphany, the point of this blog, which I’d like to share. Get ready. And I owe it all to my good friend Bo.
If you’re gonna pay $35 per day for a parking space, sleep in the stinkin’ car. Get your dang’s money’s worth.
Cooler heads prevailed. I didn’t sleep in the car. I crashed in the other bed. But the thought did cross my mind.
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